I remember, as a kid, I would always enjoy playing checkers with my brother. Slapping those red and black plastic wafers around that checker board was the highlight of countless afternoons. Setting up the perfect multi-jump move that ended in a “king me” brought the widest smile to my face. I was so happy. After all, ignorance is bliss. Some years pass by and my mother introduces me to the game of chess and my world is changed forever.
SpellForce 2: Demons Of The Past is part real time strategy and part role playing game. Now before I continue there is one caveat. This is my first time with this series and if you have never played any of the previous SpellForce games, the story will be lost on you. There is a motion comic style intro movie that tries to setup and explain the events leading up to this story, but it’s impossible to cram so much content into a few minutes of video. Fortunately, this game has more to offer than a great narrative.
You start this journey as a Shaikan, a warrior with the blood of dragons flowing through your veins. Then, an Italian, a wizard, and a dragon show up and the story is thrown at you faster than a battalion of The Nameless across a beautiful green valley. Some name dropping and a few talking dragons later and the game play begins.
As mentioned before , this is a RTS/RPG. The RPG portion of this game is pretty standard.
Items range from weapons to armor and rings to amulets. There’s magic as well.You gain experience by killing enemies and get gold from chests strewn about the land. Like I said, standard. There is a skill tree of epicness, which is essential if not dying is your goal.
The RTS portion is where this game gets interesting. You are the “general” and have 5 slots for characters or “heroes" that you come across during your journey. And like your character, each hero can be tweaked to your wildest dreams, or what you can afford to buy from various merchants. You roam the land of Eo and converse with lieutenants and towns folk for quests. The camera is a 3/4 view that can be adjusted from 3 or 8 different zoom types, which is handy when there are 20 plus characters on screen at once. Character selection and viewing different areas of the map are as easy as one right click. You can also select multiple soldiers and form squads that can be place along the top of the screen next to your main heroes’ portraits.
There are 5 different modes of play. Campaign is the story mode that continues and ultimately concludes the saga of the SpellForce games. Skirmish offers up some straight PvE RTS action. This means resource gathering, building and crafting to defeat your opponent. There are 14 official maps plus community built maps to choose from. Domination pits you up against multiple factions in a race to collect 1000 points for victory. Free Game is just that, you pick you faction and map, and go to town. Each map indicates the character level recommended for enjoyable play.And last but not least, Survival. It’s a wave based combat that gives you a few craftsmen and resources at it’s start. It’s up to you to scramble and build up your troops and structures before the mobs start spawning. There is also a map editor. Now I am no map builder or claim to have any grasp of how to proceed in such an indeavor, but seems to have very robust tools for crafting custom maps for upload into the community maps section.
It’s very important for the sounds of a game to inform the scene, set the mood and create the world. Josef Altersberger’s score does just that. Although I would have like more variety in the tracks, the ones that are there do the job really well.
It’s been a while since I dove into a RTS and this game brought me back to why I enjoy the genre to begin with. I welcome the RPG elements and even though the difficulty seemed unbalanced at times, I’ll chalk that one up to my rustiness and inexperience with this series in particular. The graphics look dated in some parts, but that’s not a bad thing. The game play makes it up with a good balance of strategy and role playing that will tickle any fantasy geek’s happy place.
If you’re a fan of the series or are looking for a solid RTS/RPG you should give this game a try.