Privateer 2: The Darkening is an excellent sequel to Origin's classic Wing Commander: Privateer, although Origin made the unfortunate decision to sacrifice gameplay depth in favor of slick full-motion video sequences a la Wing Commander III. Which is not to say the The Darkening is a bad game. Far from it: it is fun, it has the best flight engine thus far in a Wing Commander game (held true until later releases like Prophecy anyway), it boasts excellent production values including an impressive cast (including Christopher Walken and John Hurt), it has an intriguing 'space opera' plot, and it offers dozens of challenging and lengthy missions. |
So why is The Darkening inferior to Privateer? The answer, I think, is that the game loses the carefree, go-anywhere-you-want feel of the original game. Since Origin went the FMV route, where most missions are introduced and the plot unfolded via movie clips, this means the gameworld is much smaller than in Privateer, and the game much more linear. This limited freedom makes the game feel much more like a Wing Commander game than a Privateer game. Which is not a bad thing, except that one would expect the game titled Privateer 2 to be a true sequel to Privateer and maintain its freelancing spirit. There are still enough profiteering opportunities (buying & selling cargo between planets, for example), but much less compared to the original.
There are also other oversights that will irk fans of Privateer. One big blow that significantly reduces the replayability of Privateer 2 is the absence of the RMG, Random Mission Generator. This feature is part of what makes the first Privateer so replayable. The game is also plagued with more than a few bugs, a sign that Origin rushed it out the door before it was 100% ready.
The Darkening does offer the expected technical overhauls. You will be treated with great-looking 3D graphics, and the aformentioned flight engine. Despite a smaller gameworld, there are more ships to pilot and destroy, and more planets you can land on. Overall, The Darkening is a great game with top-notch graphics and acting. If you regard the game as a plot-driven Wing Commander game than a true heir of Privateer's free-wheeling spirit, you will have a blast. Highly recommended.Reviewed by: Underdogs