Space Rangers 2: Dominators

5_1Taking the Privateer mold to the next level.

Space Rangers 2 is the kind of obscure gem that can fly under the radar. It was the case with the first game, but the more successful sequel received some due recognition. And for good reason too, since this is a superb game. At face value, it’s a muscled up version of Wing Commander: Privateer, with a surprisingly complex take on strategy, trading and role-playing. They’ve packed in a lot of gameplay here, and it’s all chromed up to sheer perfection.

It isn’t the most robust RTS of all, but considering it’s just one aspect of this game, it’s more than enough. The other more complex parts are paced well, although there is a learning curve. Once you warm up to the game, however, you’ll probably be hooked.

First let’s get the story straight. Dominators, self-sustaining robots capable of open conflict with other races and conquering star systems, have begun a large-scale invasion across the galaxy. The main objective upon starting the game is to rid the galaxy of their presence. You assume the identity of a Ranger, a special breed of pilot tasked with this task. All of this takes place in a completely dynamic universe that changes regardless of your actions. Alliances are made in the background, battles are fought and warring factions exchange sectors back and forth.

Although on paper you’re tasked with taking out the Dominators, this is pretty much optional. You can follow the main storyline or not. You can work as a freelancer, exploring profitable trade routes and hoard riches. Or you can investigate different solar systems and perhaps other planetary conflicts to resolve. There’s literally a universe of freedom out there.

8_1Gameplay is a blend of real-time and turn-based modes. The interface always shows what is possible to do within a day. This mode serves as the central hub of activity, from which you land on planets, travel to other systems or engage in combat. Visiting planets provides you with a variety of other options. You can take on quests from the government, trade for items or parts to upgrade your ship, accept local quests, or engage in planetary combat. Planetary fights turn the game into a real-time strategy title, where you build and battle with robots against land-based enemies. Each mode works surprisingly well.

The depth and breadth of Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators is amazing. You start in the home solar system for your race, take on some quests there, and then extend to other systems. Each planet in each system has fully realized worlds with active markets, different political systems and interesting problems. While in space you meet up with interesting characters, each of whom seems to have a well-developed personality. You meet pirates, traders, and pilots.

Space Rangers 2 succeeds in many important areas. It might not be the most gorgeous or best-sounding game, but it is original and surprisingly playable. What’s more, the way it blends so many elements together into a cohesive whole makes it quite a unique catch.

System Requirements: Pentium IV 2 GHz, 256 MB RAM, 64 MB Video, WinXP

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