SpellForce 2: Shadow Wards is a creative blend of RTS & RPG gameplay that promises gamers a dual-gaming experience in a robust world of dark elves, humans, undead, and Orcs. The story takes you as the "Avatar" in the game to travel and battle your way through many races that are overrun by a new and sinister enemy. On the way you will solve quests much like popular RPG games, as well as command huge armies experienced in most RTS games. Through both, you overcome of the obstacles and kill off the armies while building up your Avatar and heroes, while unraveling the tale of the Shadow.
The list of features as supplied by the manufacturer:
* Innovative Role Playing Strategy Genre
* Over 100 Avatar skills for individual characters and game-play style development
* Highly detailed & living fantasy worlds which react to the actions of the player
* Click'n'Fight: revolutionary control system that guarantees new tactical possibilities in battle
* Players will lead different fractions to victory, with 12 very different units consisting of infantry, cavalry and flyers
* Single-player campaign with 50+ hours of game-play with a gripping storyline and a wealth of sub-quests
* Different multi-player modes in over 30 stunning multi-player maps for Player vs. Player & Player vs. AI/Monsters, including exciting online interaction with intelligent and adaptive enemy AI
The graphics of SpellForce 2 are fairly impressive and demonstrate some good modeling with the various units in the game, as well as your custom created Avatar (the central character in the game). The maps are detailed pretty well, and the special effects that are associated with the units and their spells/abilities are vibrantly displayed. For a blend of RTS & RPG gameplay, the camera control is nicely pulled off to enjoy both the regular "top down" view and "Chase Cam" which is much closer and almost a MMORPG angle. The graphics get a solid score for a nice blend of well created units and buildings, plus the nicely laid out and detailed maps.
The sounds of the game are very standard for an RPG title with your "middle earthy" soundtrack for music ad feaux-English accents for all the characters in the game. Fortunately all people you interact with are given a nice voiceover, which makes talking to people in the game a lot of fun (but this is something we're seeing in all games these days …). Nevertheless, the sound is standard for a title of this size and genre.
To blend both RTS & RPG games together in one title is a very ambitious task that Spellforce 2 actually pulled off pretty well. Playing the single player campaign, you create an Avatar that serves as the central character through the game, and pick up heroes, whom you can mold and shape. Pick up weapons, level up, and add skills in a robust skill tree (tons of them!) just like your favorite RPG game, such as Dungeon Siege. Experience points are picked up from killing boss monsters, or finishing secondary or primary quests. From there, you can control armies and bases just like an RTS title such as WarCraft III, building up particular structures, creating units, and conquering the map against the enemy. The missions are lengthy and the first player campaign will keep gamers entertained for 40 hours minimum.
Other gameplay types include a skirmish mode where you can play the traditional RTS type of gameplay against LAN members and/or computer opponents. One gripe against skirmish mode is a lack of a save game feature – or a feature to control the difficulty. There is simply a choice to select "computer" or "Human" and from there in the options tab, there appears to be "Difficulty Setting" that you can never toggle. Perhaps there's a way, but after an hour of reading the manual and playing around with it, the desire to do so wavered completely.
Finally, there is both an on-line and solo "Free Mode" which plays as your standard RPG game, where you build up a character (which you can bring into skirmish mode once you hit the max level of 30) and play through quests. The quests offer a unique experience from the single player campaign, so the longevity score, between the single player campaign, the skirmish mode, and the free mode, is perfect. Again, the same gripe comes up from before, there is no save feature in this mode, but is specifically addressed in the manual. Sadly, this decision is a poor one as even the first quest can take well over an hour to successfully complete.
ONLINE / MULTIPLAYER
As mentioned before the single player campaign is robust and lengthy with plenty to do if a gamer decides to take on both the side "secondary" quests along with the main objective quest. Between the skirmish mode, which you will most likely NOT be playing online due to a lack of player support, and the Free Mode (same problem as skirmish for on-line wannabes) there is plenty to do in the game for single players.
Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars is the best "hybrid" game that's attempted to blend both RPG and RTS in a long line of games that have come up woefully short. The gameplay is very seamless and fun to interact with, with the highlight of the game being the robust and fun single-player campaign that will definitely suck in both RTS and RPG gamers alike. The story of the dark elves and the shadow demons trying to take over the world and having the rest of the races (elves, dwarves, humans, etc) uniting against them is a nice (yet standard) storyline that serves the purpose of the title well enough.
Overall, SpellForce 2 is a nice title that might have flown under the radar – until now. PC gamers are highly encouraged to check out the demo to see if the game is for them, but based off this review it's a surprisingly fun title that offers decent graphics, a nice storyline, and fantastic gameplay that really pulls off the hybrid theory better than ever before.