SpellForce: The Order of Dawn
Although the fantasy setting is much like any other two-bit fantasy read, as real-time strategy games go, SpellForce is unique. It looks pretty, it's big and the interface is a dream, but it's the gameplay we're most impressed by. That's because it successfully blends standardissue RTS precepts with great chunks of role-playing adventuring to produce a game that offers some of the best of both worlds.
RPG or RTS?
Your central character is a Rune Warrior, who's been summoned by a great wizard to unite the fractured lands and empires. You begin, as is consistent with its RPG leanings, by choosing from a range of starting professions and balancing attribute points, as well as gaining and spending valuable experience. To succeed, you must collect the magical runes that will enable you to summon armies of humans, elves, dwarves, orcs and trolls - plus the odd kick-ass hero character - and send them into battle against the enemy in a big ol' twatting-frenzy.
Whereas most modern strategy games enable units to carry over experience from battle to battle, SpellForce takes this most standard of RPG features to an extreme, by enabling you to allocate your points to a bewildering array of combat skills and magical abilities. Sadly, only your main character can be bestowed with these riches, but to make up for it the linear mission structure includes a number of optional side-quests and trade items. These submissions are generally fairly mundane searches for objects or simple assassination missions, but they lend the game the illusion of non-linearity and freedom, which for an RTS is mildly revolutionary.
Kingdom For A Horse
For all it's role-playing distractions, however, SpellForce is a strategy game at heart - and a fairly decent one at that. The range of units is impressive: soldiers, archers and magic users are available to deploy for a range of races. You can also mix and match these into quite a fearsome force - just remember to keep your evil orcs and trolls away from your fluffy dwarves and elves. Despite the wide array of units and playable races, though, it's strange there are no mounted or artillery units.
Being a strategy game at heart, it's something of a minor tragedy that very little tactical wit is required to overcome the enemy. Even if you exhaust your resources on a balanced army, it's rare you'll lose a fight. What's more, without aspects like morale, weather and high ground to worry about, the outcome relies solely on the numbers involved - and perhaps the odd magic spell.
The storytelling in SpellForce is slightly suspect too. While some of the voice talent is decent enough, the script is banal and tedious. What's more, while there are plenty of cutscenes to look forward to. they're generally poorly composed and amateurish.
Although SpellForce is unlikely to offer much of a challenge for the most tactically astute RTS minds, it is unique, attractive and engaging enough to appeal to all but the most unforgiving fantasy fan.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode