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Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past – Review

SF2-ReviewHeader

I have a bit of a complicated relationship with Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past – I like it and at the same time I don’t; I’ll get this out of the way first and foremost.  I haven’t played the earlier games in the series and as such came into this review without preconceptions on story, gameplay or what to expect from the experience except a vague idea of what the game would play like.

Spellforce 2: DotP sets itself up well by establishing that things have happened in the past without feeling the need to drill it into the heads of long time fans every single event that occurred in the previous games.  I don’t know what happened, but more importantly – for good or ill – I didn’t MIND not knowing because the game lent itself to explaining just enough to get me invested in the current conflict through the use of an intro video and a reasonably presented opening cutscene – they told me enough to get me up to speed (at least mostly) on the current conflict the characters are facing.  Long story short-ish, an ancient evil has awakened and threatens life on the land of Eo and you are to lead the opposition.  Standard fare, really… but welcome territory from a story perspective as it felt both familiar and added its own twist to things.  I’ll give the storytelling a thumbs up.

From here things get a -little- more hit or miss as the game proper starts in earnest.

Gameplay:

DotP is an interesting blend of RTS elements with Baldur’s Gate/Diablo/Icewind Dale influences and a dash of Neverwinter Nights thrown in for good measure.  I WANTED to like the mechanic as they have presented it but found myself distracted by the slightly cluttered interface.  Accessing simple things like inventory or character options was fairly straightforward, a tap of the ‘I’ key brought up the inventory.  The interface as it stands isn’t terrible but the need to hunt down actions as I familiarized myself with the interface was not enjoyable.

SF2-Inv2

SF2-Skills

This is really where, for me at least, the game fell to its knees.  It plays decently but doesn’t live up to the standards of its genre contemporaries in ease of use.  I think the most frustrating aspect was that, early on, I got stuck with my small army unable to fight my way through some skeletons because there were too many of them for my small band to fight through… I died and died and died over and over, had gone everywhere else on the map to level up prior to attempting that and was still woefully underleveled as I attempted to face them.  And I was playing on easy to simply experience the game.

SF2-Army

There are more RTS specific conventions later in the game, unit building, resource collection, etc. – these function as expected and definitely add an extra degree of depth to the gameplay.  Not my personal cup of tea, so to speak… but for one who may be looking for RTS in the RPG, this is where you will find that.

Graphics:

Somewhat lacking, but not bad… the character models in close-ups and cutscenes feel very dated, although I’d understand if this were a stylistic choice.  Everything looks fine when you’re in the dedicated overhead view but is a ‘problem’ in cutscenes and closeups.  Visual fidelity was designed for the overhead view which you spend the majority of your time in anyway, so I can’t knock this too heavily but to say I wish they had come up with some methodology for close-ups that used higher resolution models.

Voices/Music:

I gotta say, for me these two things will absolutely make or break immersion for me… especially in an RPG setting.  If a character voice doesn’t match with their appearance, if a line is delivered badly, if the DIALOGUE writing doesn’t lend itself to being read aloud – if those are true then a game can suffer for it.  Thankfully, SF2:DotP doesn’t suffer too badly from this… the music is immersive, exciting and changes according to situation.  The voice acting is good.  Not great, but good.  Cringe-worthy instances were pretty inconsistent, which is a good thing.

6 out of 10,  I’ll recommend it, as the experience is generally fun but some of its technical and presentation foibles hold it back… which is unfortunate for the end of the saga, as the game is supposed to be.

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