Rangers are my favorite class, fluffwise. In the crunch however, at least in context of IE games, they seem to be subpar to a simple true class fighter. Yes, fixed Archer is a solid kit, and of course nerfed Cleric/Ranger is still one of the more powerful classes, but even devs felt the need to give special boosting equipment to a Stalker, who is arguably almost strictly better than pure Rangers. What's worse, unlike Bards and Druids (other non-power classes), they don't bring anything particularly useful and unique to the party. They play just as a fighter, just with worse fighting skills and a couple of weak prebuffs.
* Of their Druidic spells, only AoF makes any difference and that only at really high levels.
* Sneaking is a good skill, but not really dependable until the end of BG1 and much less useful in the sequels.
* Charm animal doesn't deserve a mention;
* Free dual wielding is indeed a real advantage over vanilla fighters in BG1, but after that goes away.
* I guess racial enemy is authentically useful, but, thankfully, enemies are varied, so it's a bit of a one-trick pony and most difficult fights are generally against humans and similar.
And for those minor, mostly flavour boons, they are nerfed with;
* Slower progression
* Capped proficiences to specialization
* Silly alignment restriction
* Real danger of falling and losing powers - even accidently due to a failed charm and AI.
I don't believe that all classes should or can be equally powerful, but Rangers don't play any different to regular fighters and seem like their weak country cousins. Paladins offer more for the same restrictions and have even better kits to boot.
Do I miss something crucial about them? Are there mods which make them more distinct? Something giving a tactical advantage justifying sacrificing the penalty to their main role of killing things?