Spellforce 2: Faith in Destiny is the latest in the Spellforce series, which is a hybrid RPG/RTS. It’s a long-running series too, with the first Spellforce 2 game having been released in 2005. The graphics are definitely showing their age, but I’m a firm believer that visuals aren’t very important if the gameplay is there. (Dwar Fortress and Minecraft? So many hours.) This is also the first Spellforce game I’ve played too, so it was a new experience for me. The player takes the role of a Shaikan, a human with dragon blood in their ancestry, on a mission to unite the peoples of Eo against an invasion of unknown origin, dubbed the Nameless.
The game started out with a tutorial area which (exhaustively) explains the game’s mechanics and interface, and then you’re set loose in the first level. It starts off being pretty fun: the interface works very well for small engagements between heroes and a few monsters, your character gains new abilities as they level, and you get new gear to equip them with as well. Unfortunately, it’s possible to reach the top level abilities quite quickly in at least one area, which means that you plateu very early on. Your hero can also only equip a few spells and abilities at a time, and leveling generally just gives you more, weaker options in other parts of the skill tree which you haven’t maxed out yet. So your character isn’t really growing in power anymore when the level.
And then there’s the RTS aspect of the game. The interface which works very well for small engagements doesn’t for larger ones. You can try to select targets for your troops, but doing this generally makes them mill around not fighting while the enemies give them a thorough stabbing/magicing. Unit types aren’t very well differentiated either. Sure, they have various unique abilities, but when it comes down to mob-on-mob combat, it’s mostly irrelevant. Except flying creatures, which are far better than anything else. They move faster, they don’t get in each other’s way (as much) in combat, and half the enemies can’t even attack them. Why use anything else? So combat boils down to maxing out your unit cap with flying stuff, rampaging through their base for a while, and then reinforcing and doing it all over again.
It also felt like there was a lot of waiting in the game. Admittedly, the developers tried to cut down on time spent walking by adding teleports in the levels, but there’s still lots of walking in between, and your regular army units can’t use them. Then there’s waiting to rebuild your army so you can throw another ball of units at the enemy.
Spellforce 2: Faith in Destiny also has puzzles! But not really fun ones. So I do a quest for this guy, who gives you a signet ring to open a chest, and tells you the combination. (It’s not overly complex, but it’s not trivial either. It’s closer to the Konami Code.) I don’t pay too much attention, and go try to open the chest, only to find that it wants me to manually input it. Ooooh great. I don’t remember, usually games take care of this kind of trivia for you. The guy I helped is still standing right next to the chest too, but he will no longer talk to me. Really great. Reload, write down combination, input, and get 2 set rings that I can’t use yet.
The next puzzle was a lengthy level puzzle. 7 levers, each one switches the state of several torches, and you need to turn them all off. There’s no pattern to what torches each lever will control, so out came the paper again! A few minutes later, I have the answer, and the gate opens. But there are swarms of demons blocking the path. So I try to find a way around, thinking I missed something. Nope. Turns out you need to fiddle with the levers some more, which makes the demons disappear. I found that this kind of counter-intuitive quest objective came up all too commonly in the game.
The whole game gives off a kind of goofy vibe. It’s a high fantasy setting, and so it of course includes both light and dark elves, dwarves, dragons, and humans. All very generic. Weapons and armour have that high fantasy look too, where everything is covered with blades, spikes and flanges sticking out at all sorts of unsafe angles. I think the main problem is that the game really doesn’t have its own style, it just seems to borrow bits from everywhere else, and then mashes them together. In the first level, I fought dinosaurs, lions, bears, and a host of other more standard fantasy fare.
Dialogue in the cutscenes generally gets the point across, but not in an especially interesting way. Usually you’re just watching in-engine shots of the character’s heads talking. (Some of the heads aren’t even animated, there’s just a voice with a shot of the model’s head.) Much of it is quite long-winded too, and better yet, unskippable.
In all, I found that the game wasn’t very challenging, puzzles aside. The RPG aspect quickly becomes that MMORPG grind, and the RTS involves very little strategy or thrill either. Sadly, this makes the whole game feel pretty tedious. Like the old bottle of Bailey’s I found on top of the fridge: initially appealing, but lumpy and unenjoyable only a short way in.