PC REVIEW: SPACE RANGERS 2: RISE OF THE DOMINATORS

In space, no one can hear you make a pizza. by Jason Ru

April 20, 2006 - Space Rangers is not your typical space exploration game. It's filled with all kinds of interesting and somewhat bizarre things to do. It's totally unpredictable as you go from battling pirates to making pizzas. It's a little complicated to learn the control system but after a few hours it should be smooth sailing across the universe.

Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators is the sequel to Space Rangers. If you haven't played, or even heard of the original, not to worry. It wasn't officially released in North America - until now. If you purchase Space Rangers 2, you will get, at absolutely no extra charge, a free copy of the original Space Rangers. Act now. Operators are standing by.

That's a pretty good deal, you've got to admit. With casual play, an hour here and an hour there, this package could last you months - but it won't feel like it. There is so much to do that you won't want to close it for the night. I will warn you that there are some translation problems that you will run into and occasionally you will encounter some actual bugs in the game which is frustrating since you can't always be sure if the problem is with the translation or with the gameplay mechanics.

In the role of a Space Ranger, it's your duty to keep the universe safe of pirates and the dangerous robots known as Dominators. There are five different classes to choose from. Each will have slightly different attributes which can be increased throughout the game. The type of ship that you acquire and the amount of money that you receive will also be determined by your class. All of your paths and options available to you will be a result of the choices that you make.

Travelling through the universe is basically a point and click operation. Just map out your destination and let the computer take you there. You can stop anywhere just by pressing the space bar. There are many inhabited planets that you can land on but you should only land on planets where you are welcome. Your class and your reputation will affect your reception on a particular planet. Your reputation could be that of an exemplary law enforcer or a low-life pirate. The freedom of choice is yours.

The Ranger gig doesn't pay well very so you're going to have to find supplemental income to earn money for new upgrades on your ship and weapons. You can choose to land on hospitable planets and contact the appropriate government officials to see if there are any missions that you can carry out for them. Missions range from delivering pizza to another planet to defending an entire solar system from the threat of the Dominators. Other missions include interesting puzzle solving games to economic sims. As an example there is one mission in which you have to refurbish a decrepit alien ski resort and turn it back into a flourishing business. You are free to accept these missions or refuse them. You can even tell the computer to stop offering these kinds of missions to you.

For the entrepreneur that prefers to handle his or her own affairs, you can purchase merchandise on the various planets and transport it to other planets where you can sell it for a profit. For more exotic goods you can even attempt to land on less-than-friendly planets by offering the powers that be a bribe. But if commerce isn't your thing, and you're looking for some action, you might just decide to become a pirate. You can extort civilians or plunder freighters. This will have a different affect on your rep, allowing you to visit planets that would be inadvisable to visit as a do-gooder. Landing on the wrong planet can wind you up in the clinker. While in jail you will have different options available to you to help pass the time. Many of these play out like wacky mini-games and are not only unexpected but lots of fun.

There are three different forms of combat. The main one is turn-based but it's very quick and feels satisfying. You can attack your targets automatically or manually. At first you might want to try the automatic method because the manual one appears somewhat complex. If you want to attack the larger ships it's best to do it manually as the AI will tend to go off course. Destroyed ships are a good source of salvage so the less damage that you can do to a particular ship the better. When defeating Dominators they will drop Micromodules which are essentially power-ups that you can use to upgrade equipment and weapons. They will help increase the range of weapons or reduce the costs of some supplies.

If you want to do a little real-time shooting you can enter into a black hole and shoot at enemies while flying around a 2D sphere. You use the arrow keys to move around and the Ctrl to fire. There is an automatic targeting feature but if you're going to use that you might as well just avoid flying into a black hole in the first place. You will find plenty of power-ups in the black holes but thanks to the poorly translated manual I have no idea what they are or how to use them.

Ground combat is the third and final form of combat. It's based on real-time strategy but it's not as deep as a dedicated RTS game, which is fine because as it is it's a great diversion and we really don't need to rely on the manual for further clarification. The objective is to build an army of robots with lots of weaponry to take over as much territory as possible. There are enemy bases that you have to capture. You can take control of any individual unit but overall this portion of the game plays out at a much slower pace. If RTS isn't for you, you don't have to accept these missions either.

Each time that you load a new game a new galaxy will be randomly generated so that no two games are ever quite the same. Unlike some space exploration games you never feel lonely in this one. The universe is a busy place with hundreds of ships going about their daily business. The universe is alive. It's interesting to see how the various fleets of ships, planets, governments and individuals react to the choices that you make in the game. While you may be an unimportant, impotent little dweeb in real life, In Space Rangers 2, you can actually make a difference.

This isn't a great looking game but it gets the job done. It features a lot of 2D graphics with the occasional 3D background which will make this game compatible with a variety of PCs. The background music is really good but the voiceacting is awful. I wonder if these actors are the same people that wrote the manual?

Space Rangers 2: Rise of the Dominators is definitely a package that will give you great value for your dollar. There are some elements that will remind you of a budget title but for the most part the gameplay makes this title worth looking into.

Features:

  • One of the most critically acclaimed games of the year!
  • Turn-based RPG encompassing various gameplay genres in a vast and open-ended interstellar world
  • Unique, ambitious vision that delivers epic gameplay on a new scale!
  • Added bonus includes the original Space Rangers 1 and a collectible poster!

By Jason Ru
CCC Freelance Writer

Rating out of 5
Space Rangers 2: Rise Of The Dominators (PC)
4.3
Graphics
There are lots of planets to explore and to make sure this entire universe fits into everyone's computer, some compromises have been made, but it still looks good.
4.5
Control
How you play the game is up to you. There are lots of options and making them can be as simple and pointing and clicking.
3.5
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The voiceacting is terrible. The music is far more expressive than the actors. I'm giving the points for the music.
4.5
Play Value
It's a new game each and every time you play it. You also get the original Space Rangers game with this purchase.
4.2
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
System: PC
Dev: Elemental Games
Pub: Cinemaware
Release: Apr 2006
Players: 1
Review by Jason

Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best