SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars
If You're Going to meld two genres together, you might as well do it right. SpellForce was one of those experiments which, through stem cell research or something, managed to successfully meld role-playing and real-time strategy into one genetically-modified bunny-rabbit of a game.
SpellForce was definitely an accomplishment for developer Phenomic; it didn't dent the tills on the high street, but it made many Germans warm and contented. After two expansions however, it's high time Phenomic pulled its finger out and hopped on the train to sequel town - and that's just what it's doing, funnily enough, with SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars.
It's prettier, as you'd expect, with bloom effects and fancy trees, as well as more detailed wolves, spiders and skeletons than ever before. What's more, there are loads of new character abilities and skills, along with an improved RTS engine, three different factions, each with 12 different units including infantry, cavalry and flying troops, not to mention a special co-op campaign and long-winded, feature-listing sentences that never seem to come to an end. In short, SpellForce fans will lap this up like cheap German beer.
Moreover, this time around Spellforce is unashamedly introducing a buxom half-blood Dark Elf called Shadowsong. "We've always tried to be stylish with our Spellforce brand," states Phenomic's Amelie Clement. "It's similar to the early Roxy Music album covers from the 70s which involved glamorous women whose image projected desirability and wouldn't be out of place in Hollywood."
Well, we took a look at some Roxy Music covers and we reckon they're nothing but filth. If that's what Phenomic plans on peddling with SpellForce 2 (besides the role-playing strategy stuff), count us in. Expect ample, elven breasts to be adorning your monitor this April.
When Genres Get mashed together, you're told you're getting the best of both worlds. A text-only first-person shootery adventure will be billed as a thrilling retro triumph with racy hints of Mavis Beacon. Then an innocent child will say, "This game straw-sucks my dad's arse," and that's that. The SpellForce series, combining both role-playing and strategy, are actually well-balanced and playable games, even if the most hardcore edges of both genres are necessarily compromised.
The RPG element comes from your main character and assorted heroes; these are the dolls you'll be dressing up, levelling up and spending your skills points on. This side of things is deep enough to keep you satisfied, but not so Diciblo-deep that you'll be fretting over a massive collection of hats with barely different stats.
If you go both-toilets at the thought of open-ended Oblivion walkabouts, you've nothing to fear here. You're led along maps with a main route and regular tucked-away crannies with more enemies and a treasure chest. Once you get control of a headquarters, the other side of the game kicks in - mining resources, upgrading buildings, the usual RTS management stuff. It's all familiar, but immaculately designed.
Mix And Match
Once you've got your disposable troops, action can get a bit hectic, which isn't helped by a limited zoom. Occasionally, the heroes can feel unresponsive, but that's just the impatient old grumpy-puss speaking - it all comes together well, and is completely intuitive if you've got any experience. And for newcomers, the (optional) tutorial gives a right thorough grounding.
Shadow Wars is, essentially, more of the same. If you aren't a dedicated explorer of the deeper, damper crevices of RTS and RPG gaming, then there'll be enough of both styles to interest you, and not so much to scare you off. And it's an easy game to get into, if you can suffer the disgraceful English accents. Oh, and if you've just won a difficult battle, save the game. The whole thing is more difficult this time, and there aren't any continue points in-level. And you know how it is - the satisfaction of finally winning a battle doesn't even begin to outweigh the frustration of having to win it all over again.
Download SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode