Spellforce 2 is a mashup of both the Role Playing Game (RPG) and Real Time Strategy (RTS) genres of game. Following Spellforce, originally released in 2003, Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars was released in 2006 and has since been followed up by the expansions Dragon Storm in 2007 and Faith in Destiny in 2012. Faith in Destiny was the first of this series to be published by Nordic Games GmbH, who also own titles such as Darksiders as well as published the Alan Wake titles. The third and final expansion to Spellforce 2 is Demons of the Past and can be found on steam as well as https://www.facebook.com/SpellForceOfficial as directed from spellforce.com and releases on Thursday January 16, 2014.
As this expansion is piggybacking off of a game released 8 years ago and as it spans two different genres, I have to look at this subjectively and will be scoring the game based on three major aspects: Gameplay, Usability, Graphics and a final point for if this game is judged to be a pass or a fail based on first impressions only.
The Gameplay is as expected with the grand majority of the RTS genre of game. You click units, add them to groups, move them around the map. Easy peasy. But there is a lot more to it than that, your hero units have a large breadth of abilities and passive skills they can learn from leveling up as well as a gear system that seems a lot closer to Diablo II than DOTA. The game seems to expect that you’ve played previous expansions or at least have prior knowledge of other RTS genre titles and is very difficult to step into as the tutorials are not interactive – rather they are videos which can not be skipped through or replayed without completely restarting. The mini map works as expected and traversing it works nearly the same as in most every RTS.
There are many gameplay modes based on the style of gameplay you wish to undertake, ranging from singleplayer story-driven gameplay all the way to multiplayer games. There are 5 different singleplayer settings, from very RPG such as the campaign all the way to a skirmish match with NPC opponents where you are thrown right into the core RTS gameplay. Multiplayer supports online capabilities to meet up with friends anywhere in the world as well as LAN play for the possibilities of large tournaments and low latency gameplay.
As for the campaign, I found it to be extremely difficult even at the lowest difficulty, not because of anything but the lack of understanding of the intended vision and direction of the campaign starting out. All enemy units are spawned immediately when a map is loaded and no roadblocks are made to stop you from taking one wrong step and walking into a later part of the story, effectively walking blindly through the fog of war and into an enemy two times your level. I felt the strength of your “avatar” and other hero character was far too low, normal units can out match a hero unit of the same level in one to one combat but the game will end if your hero dies and, at least in the beginning stages of the game, you can not resurrect them.
In singleplayer quick RTS games, I was able to delve deeper into the RTS aspect. The units react as I would normally expect from any RTS, resources were gathered with ease and units were added to create through constructing additional buildings. The only downfall with this is that it seems that there were very few units that could be created, seemingly 5 units per race. Though some would say this is poor development, after a bit of thinking on this subject I can see how this would be easier to control and balance in the long run.
Final Word: “The gameplay is novel in some points but falls too often to common RPG and RTS gameplay, nothing new to either genre. Left me very underwhelmed.”
The usability of this game boils down to two major aspects: in-game user interface/controls and the out-of-game system options and settings. Starting with in-game controls and user interface, this game is extremely polished. The UI is very friendly to anyone and harkens back to the setup expected from old Blizzard RTS titles such as Starcraft or Warcraft 3. The RPG elements of your character development are easy to understand and are simple to control, at the same time, the way the RPG elements of the game are controlled are quick and easy to enter and exit from without being intrusive on gameplay or being too clunky.
Out-of-game system options are very up to date as well, most work as expected but a few are not as polished as the in-game controls. Also, there are both sound and video options that do not work or are missing. Sound options do not control the sound level of most cutscenes. Unfortunately, as most gamers in this day and age know, livestreams are rising in popularity and a major way for games to cater to this growing market is to allow for in game streaming (which isn’t expected) or at least allowing for the user to choose a windowed option. A failure of many RTS titles is to not allow windowed due to falling to the trope of using your mouse on the edge of the screen to scroll along your map, unfortunately Spellforce 2 is one of these games.
Final Word: “I’d give it a 3 if this were just about in game UI, but I’d give it a 1 if I were to alternatively judge only the system options.”
As said before, this game is not expected to be compared to the likes of Crysis or Skyrim as it’s being built as an expansion for a game released in 2006. Spellforce 2 is also a RTS, a genre given much slack in its graphics due to the nature of the game. Often gamers can expect dozens, if not hundreds, of units on the map at one time and this lends to the expectation of units to not have much to their models to try and keep the game light even when under the stress of rendering an army of units.
This being said I can only say that I was shocked at how beautiful this game looks. Every aspect of this game’s graphics were well made and at no time was I anything less than pleased at any model I came across. Trees, dragons, Skeletons, and more all caught my eye and I often found myself just admiring the models in the game. I was not expecting a game of this genre to have such detailed models, but that isn’t all. The intro sequence was both beautiful and dazzling with seemingly painted art as it told the story leading up to Spellforce 2 – Demons of the Past.
Final Word: “The art in this game is done right, some models are not perfect close up, but even then this game vastly outshines nearly any other RTS ever made.”
Should you get this game?
As a long time gamer, I’ve come across many games of many playstyles. I played Warcraft 3 for a very long time as well as Starcraft 2 for a bit when it first released. I’m not a professional RTS player of any sort but I do enjoy them from time to time. Spellforce 2 absolutely scratched that itch and brought back fond memories of a gameplay style I believed long gone and replaced by MOBAs. The gameplay isn’t over complicated but it is very challenging and as much as I thought I would hate the more robust RPG-style leveling and gearing system, I found that in practice, it fit well and I enjoyed it. I would absolutely recommend this game to anyone who enjoys isometric gameplay and RTS’.
Final Word “If you enjoy classic RTS games or want a new take on RPGs you should try this game.”
Overall score: 7/10
- Seamless melding of RTS and RPG styles of games
- Gameplay styles for a range of different styles of play
- Excellent UI which is very easy to manage and navigate
- Very easy to control units and assign units to groups
- Stunning models, landscape, and all around art used in the game
- Beautiful cut scenes and on-par with in game conversations
- Gameplay can be as challenging or as simple as you make it to be
- Less units to not over-complicate gameplay
- Tutorials are not helpful and poorly made
- Too few working options in settings
- Too few options in settings, especially those expected in today’s RTS games.
- Very few units, possibly too few to keep players interested
- Campaign mode seems very unbalanced and would not be advisable for newcomers to RTS titles
- Gameplay as a whole is very stale and does not change very much from nearly every other RTS