PC | SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny Review
Five years is a span of time normally reserved for the development cycles of products like meaty sequels to sprawling role-playing games. Fans of 2006′s SpellForce 2, however, have spent that many years waiting not for its sequel, but for the game’s next expansion. Finally, you can once again experience the unique mix of RPG mechanics and real-time strategy that made SpellForce 2′s initial release such a success. And that’s part of the problem. After so long a wait, Faith in Destiny feels like more of the same despite a handful of tweaks.
Faith in Destiny is a stand-alone expansion, fortunately, which means you won’t have to spend hours looking through old hard drives if you want to pick up where you left off after Dragon Storm, SpellForce 2′s only other expansion. At the same time, it’s also a little surprising to discover that the story unfolds as if this were 2007 and you still had fresh memories of the struggle with the Shaper in your head. As a result, important names drop without background, characters mention key concepts without much context, and it takes some time or some digging for new players to realize the importance of the portals everyone keeps talking about.
The perfunctory explanations are a shame, because the plot revolves around those very portals. In the four in-game years since the Shaper’s defeat, the portals that link the islands of the world have broken down, and the best minds of the other races have no idea how to fix them. If that’s not bad enough, a troublesome race of demons known as the Nameless terrorize the countryside with impunity. Naturally, the task of fixing all this falls on your shoulders. You play as a Shaikan who must also find out why he’s plagued with horrible dreams.
It’s not a bad story, but it hinges on forgettable fantasy cliches about destiny that never attain the comparative heights of Shadow Wars and Dragon Storm. When the story is at its worst, poor voice acting and animations in the cinematics–a step down for the franchise in almost every way–season the heavily accented interactions with dwarves and dragons with unintended humor.
The good news is that SpellForce 2′s signature hybrid gameplay has aged well over the years, and it’s still fun to collect loot and earn skills like a hero in Diablo while gathering resources and sending out small battalions in the style of Age of Empires. There’s a learning curve for newcomers, but it’s a gentle climb thanks to a thorough if plodding introductory tutorial mission. You can’t customize the male Shaikan you play beyond giving him a name and choosing a visage from a preset collection of faces. Thankfully, the three skill trees allow a bit of versatility for players wanting to be lithe archers, armor-bound melee brutes, or lightning-slinging spellcasters. Loot yields substantial boosts, and there’s an appreciated option to outfit your two possible AI companions with the gear you can’t use.
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