Space Rangers 2: Dominators Reader Review
Remember Oblivion? How that supposed Radiant AI would make the world seem dynamic and alive? NPCs going about their business, hunting or farming or whatever nonsense? Remember how Oblivion ended up feeling less immersive than the initial amazement we had with Morrowind?
Clearly, 'Radiant AI' didn't get to giving an immersive experience just yet. Especially in its goal of giving you a greater sense that the world around you wasn't static. Sadly, in combination of the game design where impending invasion from the forces of hell wasn't actually impending did a lot to do away with that nothing happens without the influence of one factor, you. You could play the game for however many gameyears and this impending doom would still be around the corner, so the npcs cry about. It was a potentially landmark feature hamstrung by older design.
So what's this got do with Space Rangers 2? Well, the simple fact that Space Rangers 2 does manage to create a dynamic and 'alive' universe. Planetary governments get overthrown. Space stations are built and destroyed. Pirates roam around attacking ships, launching from specific pirate bases. Victims of these raids will signal for help and should you happen to be in range, you could go in and help. If you aren't, there are other Rangers to police the systems. Ships can form brief alliances to help combat these pirates, don't be surprised to see a pirate ending up getting triple teamed. Traders will fly back and forth; and not necessarily to the same two planets over and over. Remember, the universe is dynamic, so supply and demand continues to change; even the legality of certain goods. Watch for smugglers too. You'll see luxury liners go about their spacey cruise. Battleships rendezvousing in preperation to liberate an entire star system from Dominator control. Join them if you want, or not. They'll launch, regardless, on the agreed date. Their success or failure isn't dependant on you but you may just be the one that manages to tip the balance in their favour. Distress beacons will be launched from systems under Dominator attack, some ships will answer the call, some will not. They may eventually just flee the scene if the odds are too far stacked.
That's quite a lot isn't. Not even the full story either. Let's take it one step at a time;
You start the game deciding your race and class. There are five races to choose from, all part of a coalition under attack from a cybernetic race known as the Dominators. Each race is at a different level of technological development. Humans being the middle bunch, as always. Having chosen your race you choose a class; Fighter, Mercenary, Merchant, Corsair, Pirate. The choice of race and class determines your starting ship, equipment, money and relations with the other races. 25 combinations here, juicy. As a pilot you get 6 attributes/skills to level up. Accuracy, Maneuverability (defensive skill), Technical (maintaining your vast equipment collection), Trading, Charisma (better rewards and reaction), and Leadership (the number of wingmen you can control). Several things provide you exp, blowing up ships, completing quests, liberating systems, planets etc. Finally, you pick your startingbonus equipment and you are on your way.
As mentioned, you initially have 25 ships to choose from; each of the 5race offers 5 ships. But with this there are hull types to consider, each with their own properties; defense, cargo space, slot configuration, etc. Alongside this are components you slot on your ship. Dozens of weapon choices, shield generators, engines, fuel tanks, salvage grippers, repair droids and micromodules, such as targetting computers or some other nifty boost. Each of these components are tied to a technology level. As time passes in the game so will technology. Afterall, the game is in constant research to provide better equipment to fight the Dominators. It might seem appealing to wait the game out for some later era weaponary, but remember the dynamic universe, the; Dominators won't be waiting for you, they will go about invading the galaxy regardless. Wait too long and it might be too late! The market will evolve to this new technology. Older equipment will become competitive in prices. There may be situations where it's much better to cash out on a slightly older but cheaper ship component than gunning straight for the brand spanking new laser cannon which may cost a small fortune. This level of customisation provides you to build many different types. From a super speedy hit-and-run ship to a big hulking warship capable of taking out several ships at once.
The game plays in a psuedo-realtime way. Each turn is day, in which you choose to move your ship and then you see it carried out in real time allowing you to watch you and every other ship going about their business. When combat comes, you again can choose your movement and then set targets for each specific weapon. This comes in handy when you want to use your lasers to shoot down missiles while you fire your own missiles at the enemy. Having the turn-based aspect makes sense given the dynamic nature and the AI of every ship, planet and god knows what else to have going.
There is a lot of things to do in this 200+ planet galaxy. The main focus and story, of course, is what threatens the five main races that make the coaliton living in the galaxy. The Dominators, as mentioned earlier, are a cybernetic race bent on, well, domination. Your task, as a ranger, is to assist coalition forces in this war. How much you wish to assist, of course, is up to you. Given the dynamic nature of game, it is hard to predict where the Dominators will attack. You, and other rangers, will be notified of what systems are under attack and you're able to choose to quickly rush there to fight the Dominators off or leave the poor people of Antares to their fate. Your galaxy map, in addition to letting you see what systems are under attack also let you see what systems are currently being liberated...attempting liberating, that is. Liberating the system, of course, isn't the end of it. You may find Dominators are still on the planet itself and you will be taken to an RTS-style game mode to clear the surface. It plays similar to Company of Heroes in which you move along taking designated points to increase your resources to build more mechs. The mechs you have can be customised for whatever purpose too. Create fast nippers or big slow hulking tanks. The Dominators themselves are split into three factions, whom also fight each other. This is one of the only advantages the coalition has and allows you directly to take advantage of it in the planet liberation modes.
The war is a collaborative effort. The entire coalition have pooled their efforts into fighting the Dominators. As such, all scientific bases work solely on anti-dominator technology which you can help assist in. Providing you and the coalition with a better chance of withstanding the seemingly neverending Dominator assaults. Ranger Bases collect nodes(salaved from destroyed Dominator ships) to manufacture micromodules, which can specifically help you against the Dominators. Military bases help co-ordinate large scale military operations. Pirate Bases provide you with illegal goods and the chance to repair relations with a certain race with fake documents. Medical bases can cure you from diseases and provide you with powerful stat boosting drugs. Business centers provide you loans and allow you to invest your own money into several projects which help the war effort. You can even help finance the construction of a military base or battlefleet and fund research into trade optimization.
In addition to the Dominator War effort, there are other things to do! Trading is something you can focus on to increase your wealth. Again, remember the universe is dynamic, so it is impossible to just milk one route over and over as is usually done in other games of this nature. The market fluctuates. Supply and demand changes depending on events. You can keep track of these events through the GNN(Galactic News Network). The GNN provides you with all tidbits of information and even rumours which may or may not be true. Up to you to follow them up. You can also talk to fellow ships and planetary governers to get other tidbits of information. You may find one day a planet enjoyed a great harvest, dramatically lowering prices. Or a planet has suffered a major pandemic, increasing the demand for medical prices. Some goods and even equipment is illegal so you'll have to go through the good ol' smugglin' channels.
You can even have a go at exploration. Landing down to uninhabitated planets and launching research probes. All planets have their own ratio of sea/plains/mountains and different probes work best over different terrain. After a few weeks (you will be notified) come back to collect the probe and any artifacts that may have been found. Asteroid mining is also an option, although not the most lucrative.
Quests. Feels odd to call them that for a sci-fi game but no matter. You get a whole range of quests and thanks to, again, the dynamic nature of the galaxy, even the simplest quest can have consequences. One example was to transport a 'rare animal' to another planet as an act of friendship from one race to another. That 'rare animal' turned out to an abused ambassador sent back to his homeworld in a cage. Clearly that didn't help relations. As you can see, relations with the races can change and with it the freedom, or lack of, to travel through their space. This also reveals the fragile nature of the relations between the races of the coalitions. The only binding force are the Dominators. Were it not for them, we'd most likely see inter-racial war too! You'll be sent to transport packages, hunt down criminals, escorting passage liners and even have some amazingly unique planetary quests.
Planetary quests play out like old school text adventures and each one is as bizarre and unique as the next. One example is when you're sent to prison. Depending on the severity of your crime you are sentenced a number of days. Each day you are presented with options. The range of options is amazing. You could end up escaping through a long tunnel you dug with a spoon you stole or become a boxing legend. Maybe you end up training a cockroach, you found at the library, to entertain the warden and his boys. You get killed a few times too. So prison life isn't all fun and games. Other quests have you entering a rock concert and require you to find and train your band members to be rock legends. These quests offer lots of options and are complex enough to be challenging.
You are put into a game where you are one of many rangers. You share the same goal and co-operation is a must. It's almost a breath of fresh air that, for once, you aren't necessarily playing that typical 'hero' character that has to save everyone and everything in it solo. Space Rangers 2 is a very unique game and so is hard to put it into one genre or the other. It may be from 2005, but it's still something that hasn't been matched yet.