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SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars Review
developer: Phenomic Game Development
PIV 1500, 512MB RAM, 5GB HDD, 128MB RAM
|ESRB rating: M
release date: Apr 24, 06 (released)
|» All About SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars on ActionTrip|
Almost 90% of the gaming world was completely captivated by Elders Scrolls IV: Oblivion, from the moment it hit stores. (These are actual, scientifically proven figures mind you. - Ed) That's no coincidence either. Oblivion is just about the best looking RPG we've ever come across on the PC. Normally, the free-roam gameplay is the most enjoyable aspect of this title. If you discern snow-covered mountain peaks in the distance and you feel like talking a stroll all the way to that exact spot, you are welcomed to do so. In the long run, however, certain design flaws begin to surface, on top of several technical mishaps that can ruin the whole experience. Due to aforementioned slip-ups made by Bethesda, gamers may easily lose interest in Oblivion, which, naturally, leaves the path open for competing titles (as far as Oblivion goes, we hope the developers will be able to "patch things up" soon).
Always carry a mushroom or two in your pocket.
I keep waiting for the Balrog to show up, but...
Anyhow, after playing Oblivion for well over a month, I sort of got tired of running around random dungeons, closing Oblivion gates and fighting against Goblins and what have you. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't able to quench my thirst for RPGs. Things improved when I started playing SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars, which arrived just in time. If you had the opportunity to check out the demo, you'll have a rough idea of what I'm talking about. Still, playing the demo doesn't exactly convey the depth of the game.
SpellForce 2 kicks off with an epic intro sequence, explaining a little something about the realms you are about to enter and the characters you're gonna meet.
For many years a great shadow has surrounded the lands of the Dark Elves and is now finally closing in on one of their greatest strongholds. Craig Un'Shallach, the renowned Dark Elf General, falls gallantly in a final struggle against the menacing armies of darkness, but not before he managed to send his daughter, Nightsong, to seek aid and warn the human race of the impending threat. Unexpectedly, she runs into a valiant Shaikan warrior (i.e. you). The Shaikan are an ancient race blessed with dragon blood, which grants them long life and the ability to resurrect their brethren. Envied and feared by many, the Shaikan may now be the only hope for the ancient alliances.
As before, SpellForce treats players to an exceptional blend of classic RPG gameplay and standard RTS goodness. The game can be described as an engrossing cross between Dungeon Siege and Warcraft 3... just in terms of gameplay mechanics. Okay, so the boys at Phenomic Game Development may not be big on pioneering game concepts, but they sure as hell know how to generate a convincing enough fantasy setting. What's more, when compared to the original, SpellForce 2 takes a huge leap in almost every aspect. The RPG elements are considerably simplified this time around to suite average gamers. In the previous game, character development was a bit too intricate and the whole system was clogged with numerous redundant options. A great portion of the character development system seems glaringly similar to the system we've seen in Blizzard's WoW. On a positive note, this makes the whole game more fast-paced and easier to get into. Also, the interface and inventory system have received a welcomed makeover, making it far easer to navigate through numerous items collected along the way. Leveling is essentially a lot faster this way and far more straightforward than before.
The developers also managed to streamline the gameplay in general. I've played the first game quite extensively, but as I recall, it ended up being way too challenging. That's why I never got around to actually finishing the darn thing. SpellForce 2, on the other hand, feels different in many ways. First of all, key quests and side-quests are a bit more imaginative than earlier and they relate quite well to the storyline and the main character, which, of course, leaves a more lasting impression. Characterization has also seen improvement. I rather enjoyed the way friendly NPCs interact with your avatar and how it all intertwines with the plot.
I really have to commend Phenomic for incorporating some of the new features that make battles fairly clear-cut. Resurrecting fallen heroes and casting spells are, therefore, easily carried out through well-placed icons at the top of the screen. Similar icons make base construction a whole lot simpler. Workers (Craftsmen) can be assigned to specific tasks before they are even created, hence players are spared of any unwanted micromanagement. Selecting troops and giving out orders is equally intuitive.
SpellForce 2 does have some evident faults. The much dreaded RTS syndrome of confused AI behavior and poor pathfinding tends to kick in from time to time, but not to the extent of ruining the entire experience. Although, I was honestly annoyed when my troops started rushing foolishly into the fray even though they were ordered to stay put.
In terms of visuals, this game has everything to compete with modern-day RTS games. In addition, when players switch to 3rd person perspective, the game still looks quite pleasing to the eye. Still, occasional visual bugs have been noted, although such issues normally disappear when you restart the mission or exit and then run the game again.
8.6 Very Good
Design and gameplay improvements, huge single-player campaign, a fine blend of RTS and RPG mechanics, lovely visuals, sweet music;
AI and pathfinding quirks, sporadic visual bugs, terrible voice acting.