Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars

SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars

It's not the best name ever, SpellForce. It sounds like some sort of educational spelling challenge, given a trendy edge to appeal to the kids. And indeed, when the original SpellForce was released, the name plus the concept - an RTS and RPG combination - left you with a sense of impending dread. But, as it turned out, this was misplaced. Surprisingly, the RPG element wasn't just tacked on as a gimmick, and the game was packed with sub-quests, proper character development and Diablo-style loot-hauling. It did have its problems, sure, but what's really impressive is that the developer seems to have listened to reviewers' and players' moans alike, and fixed most of these issues for the sequel. It sounds like a fairytale, doesn't it?

SpellForce 2 doesn't change too much - neither should it - but there are distinct differences. On an overall design level, there's been a slight shift in emphasis towards the RPG side. There are more maps which involve small skirmishes, or adventures into abandoned mines and the like with only your party members for company. Furthermore, the game's positively dripping with sub-quests, some of the more standard 'kill this' or 'get that' variety, and some which are pleasantly more involved, with riddles and puzzles to solve, or choices to be made.

Obviously it's not all questing - there are still large-scale RTS battles complete with base-building. However, these epic bun-of-demon-slaying-+3-fights have been streamlined considerably, meaning that you don't actually need a masters in engineering to be able to manage your settlements anymore. The seven resources of the original have been pared down to three, and gone are the complex base-construction trees, replaced by a much neater and compact system of core buildings. This means you can concentrate on the combat itself, rather than base micro-management.

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