SpellForce 2: Demons Of The Past PC Review
Lately, many major game releases for the computer have been titles that are downloadable instead of hard copy games installed from a disc. Such is true of one of the latest titles available off of Steam, a Nordic Games release called SpellForce 2: Demons of the Past. It advertises itself as a unique blend of Role Playing Game and Real Time Strategy. However, the true question is not the unique experience that the game purports to offer, but whether the game is actually a fun experience.
The story of the game is basically that a denizen of a dark realm named Zazhut has risen and has begun to spread darkness across the realm. Horrible things are beginning to rise, and the darkness – and Zazhut himself – must be stopped if the world as it is known must survive. To that extent, the dragons of the realm provide guidance and support to its defenders. The main guardians that they support, those that have taken on dragon’s blood – the Shaikan – are apparently the chosen, and the last line of defense against the oncoming forces of Zazhut. You take on the role of one of the Shaikan, and are tasked with trying to do anything and everything to save the world.
The game play involved is true to its precepts. Your character and special heroes with your character level up as you complete quests and other combat missions. You can give your character and heroes special equipment. You also choose how to develop your characters, and which magic and skills they can use. Eventually, you even have the option to ride dragons. On the RPG element, you repeatedly take control of army headquarters, mine resources, build structures, and summon combat units. The controls are easy enough, the menus are intuitive, and for once, construction units do not take up unit slots. Unfortunately, this is all offset with the fact that even on easy, the actual missions sometimes require multiple attempts – even on the easiest setting. Side missions are never indicated on the map, which makes figuring out how to do them nearly impossible. Moreover, the AI always works faster than you do, certain things that should happen cease to function randomly, and you can not replicate the same results in a mission by repeating the same actions. Skirmish mode is even worse, since, due to the accelerated AI settings, it is almost impossible to enjoy it.
Although the game is tedious to play, it is at least not an eyesore. The graphics are decent, the character models are well-done, and the cut scenes are at least well put together. The problem is that the models are a little angular, and the graphics seem to under-utilize the graphics card that the game specifications seem to require. The animations in the game are a little sketchy, depending on how many units are on the screen at the same time. The subtitles on the cut scenes seem to be poorly done, with multiple grammar and spelling errors that distract from the actual story that is present. The environments, since they are rendered in 3D, sometimes get in the way of selecting and controlling units.
Of course, a poorly done job is still a finished job, and no game is complete without even a minor attempt at sound engineering. Part of the reason that the subtitles in the cut scenes are so jarring is that the voice acting sometimes does not match up with it, and a few times, the meanings actually change between the subtitles and the voice acting. The music would actually be decent, if it were orchestrated in something more than three separate pieces of music. Even worse is the fact that the music isn’t even instance related, so you wind up thinking that your units are being attacked when absolutely nothing is happening at all.
Ultimately, as good as the intentions were for this game, it is a weak installment in to both genres that it tries to fill. Between game play that is not enjoyable at all, an AI that is engineered to be difficult to defeat even at the easiest setting, a story that is forgettable, graphics that do not take advantage of the power that the game says it requires, and sound engineering that is at times confusing or lackluster, there is nothing present in the game that is worth recommending. Apologies to Nordic Games and Steam for this, but PC owners would be better-served finding another game besides SpellForce 2: Demons of the Past on which to spend their money.