Sometimes I come out of the woodwork to review some things. This time around I’ve had the opportunity to play SpellForce 2 – Demons of the Past, another installment in a series of SpellForce games, a third expansion to SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars.
Let’s start with the disclaimer that I feel obligated to do. I did not finish the game. I simply did not have time before writing this review due to other complications in time. I did play a reasonable amount (on my laptop instead of my desktop because I was sick and getting out of bed seemed like too much of a chore) and enough to form an unbiased objective opinion on the came, which is what I think journalists do.
If you’re not a fan of the SpellForce series, this game is probably not for you. I just wanted to throw this out in front before continuing, saves me from referring to this point about 5-6 more times through the actual review process.
The story is confusing from the start. This is a third expansion that follows a very tight story line. The developers do give you a neat little video in the beginning so you can at least figure out which way is South. Unfortunately, it’s like trying to pack 3 LotR movies into a 5 minute trailer. It’s just impossible to grasp what’s going on and I just assumed I was a good guy. I really did attempt to figure out what was going on and I got that I was playing as a veteran warrior, who also happened to have Dragon Blood in him. Somehow that was useful. Unfortunately, I got the impression early on that the game was really falling back on the cameos and references from previous games, which left me more lost. While I do understand that this was an expansions, I would still very much like to be involved on the joke, especially if you’re making it a standalone expansion.
From an audio perspective, the tone is set fairly well and you get your standard arrangement of the fantasy setting sounds. From the soundtrack that’s supposed to inspire one to charge head-first into battle to the cling and clang of steel against steel. Voice actors seems to have shown up for the gig as well, but sometimes they get their emotions confused and what I was seeing became more or less a Shakespearean comedy.
Visually, we can definitely see the engine huffing and puffing to carry things alone. This is an expansion for a game released in 2006. I did not expect it to have mind-blowing graphics. To the developers’ credit, they did in fact try and improve the visuals as best they could. If you’ve been spoiled by next-gen in the last three months or so, you may be taken back by how dated the assets are. I really had no problem with the experience because the game visuals felt creative and unique, and it’s tough to judge someone for keeping a good thing going. It’s not mind blowing by any means, but it’s a testament to the developers and the amount of work they’ve put into making this title.
The gameplay is where this gets interesting. When I first read the description I wanted to play this game. The mix of RTS and RPG elements has always appealed to me and is a great way to add depth to a game, in my opinion. While the balance does in fact work, it works in theory. It goes back to the “hero” units in other RTS games, but adds a depth to the concept. It forces you to micro and macro manage at the same time. While your hero takes on quests and solves problems you must also not forget to take care of your camp and build additional units if you want to succeed. You will need to set up defenses and carefully plan your attacks and unit distribution. Unfortunately it all falls apart with improper balance.
The game basically divides itself into two parts. Early on, you will take on most quests with your hero characters. They are stronger and better equipped to overcome most difficulties. The first couple of hours I used my main characters to lay waste to any opposition that deemed itself strong enough. Early on, you forget about RTS elements as you dive purely into the RPG world. Eventually the game swings the other way. Once your main heroes die, it’s game over and you have to go back to a previous save, so once the stronger enemies come out, the incentive to use your main character becomes less and less. At some point I noticed that I became comfortable with just parking my main characters in the middle of the camp and letting everyone else do the killing. From that point on, it’s pure RTS and who has the bigger stick. Of course, occasionally I had to use my main characters, but only to pick up the next quest.
What makes it a frustrating experience is that neither element is flushed out to the fullest, with the idea that you will fall back on both to get things accomplished. The RTS isn’t deep enough for what I’m used to and the RPG is simply clunky, littered with interface issues and other un-intuitive decisions.
There are still moments when the game comes together, but those are few and far between. I’ve had trouble sticking it through games before, but this one made it increasingly difficult. I had no investment in the story (this is my first SpellForce game, I was not commitment to the characters and often even felt shut out because the game, justifiably so caters to an already established audience).
You may purchase SpellForce 2 – Demons of the Past on Steam here.
We received a review code for SpellForce 2: Demons of the Past . All opinions are honest and of the minds of the Paranerds.com staff.