With the state of gaming today, it seems that there is less and less originality. Shooters devolve into the simple formula of ‘Country A attacks Country B...IN SPACE’ adventure games are ‘Indiana Jones... WITH A TWIST, and most well established series are rehashed over and over to appeal to their current audience. Everything seems to be either a remake or an homage or a rip off of something else, which is why the Spellforce series should be applauded.
From its humble beginnings back in 2006, the series has attempted something that is quite difficult to do successfully in this day and age, combining Real Time Strategy with actual working Role Playing Game elements into an enjoyable experience. It takes elements of both to try and create something with the strong points of both.
However what we are left with is something that is serviceable, but by no means groundbreaking.
The series has just released its final expansion to the Spellforce 2 trilogy, Demons Of The Past. The series is played from a top down view synonymous with most RTS games, a mouse and keyboard setup with which to direct and carry out your attacks. It has elements of Role Playing games in that you can upgrade your characters through skill trees and abilities to face kick everything in your way. To progress the story you are given tasks and missions to complete in any way you see fit.
For the uninitiated, both to the Spellforce story and RTS games in general, the game is not exactly welcoming. The opening cinematic had to be viewed twice in order to be understood, the game just expects you know everything about the backstory at once, and how the game is played without any kind of tutorial. When you are finally handed the reins of gameplay you are left to click around in the hopes that you may discover which button opens a menu and which activates your special attacks.
Alongside this character customisation is practically nonexistent, you are able to choose from male and female, a range of indiscernible ages and generic hairstyles, and all of them Caucasian. Ladies and gentlemen, this is 2014, you could easily add a skin shading slider in there, if you can’t, then do not bother offering us any customisation at all. To compliment the lack of customisation of characters it is also worth noting the out of touch graphics of this game. While I have been informed that this is still a step up from the original games graphics, it still seems like I am playing a World of Warcraft rip off when it comes to character design and movement. While this does allow for some throwbacks to those who grew up playing Warcraft, there are some much more visually pleasing RTS games out there.
When it comes to difficulty the game has a sharp curve, exacerbated by the lack of any kind of tutorial, and at some points keyboard breakingly so. Being an RTS you can expect the screen to be full of enemies at times, but being an RPG you can expect it to be able to individually choose a characters movements and skills. However as you have to click them to do so, it is difficult to highlight when character you want. It all comes together into something that no doubt would be loved by fans of the series, people who are already familiar with the lore and gameplay of the series, but to a newcomer to the Spellforce series it just feels incomplete and impenetrable. The games top down view and RPG elements remind us of Dragon Age 2, a game which had a much smaller unit handling larger number of enemies and was much more controllable. It may have not been an RTS but had a lot more strategy than this.
On another note the voice acting is above average aside from the opening pre rendered scene, and there is a wide range of characters and diverse conversation trees to see unfold. The RPG elements of the game are still there in effect with the addition of sidequests and the ability to level up your characters for new and more powerful attacks, however this is often left by the wayside as you just gather all of your units and go stomp on the face of whatever looks at you funny. He sound is brilliant, with atmospheric music that can build a scene, even if you have no idea what is going on within it.
Generally speaking the game can be enjoyable at places, though as a final statement I just didn’t find it as enjoyable as some other modern RTS games as Starcraft, and even more classic ones such as Warcraft III which bears a lot of resemblance. This is one for the fans, without having played the originals from 2006 we cannot give a buying recommendation at this point, we are coming in at the end of an eight year story. The combination of RPG and RTS is a brave effort, however there are some better ones out there.
Spellforce 2 is available now on PC.