In the single player campaign, it’s best to leave the tutorial option on so that you get a few pointers as to what to do. You begin by choosing your avatar, either a male or female Shaikan, a race that resembles humans but they have dragon blood. The dragon blood allows you to resurrect people when they die, which is not a bad skill to have. The dark elves are attacking your village and it’s up to you to gather help. Other races seem to be wary of Shaikan, so you need to do a series of quests to gain their trust. You have a quest log that is constantly updated, and the game progresses at a decent pace so you never feel like you’re going around doing things that feel tedious.
With each level, you add points to your skill tree. The tree has two paths, one for combat and the other for magic. This allows a bit of customization if you feel like you want to balance out a warrior and magic user, or if you feel like going all out with combat instead. The menus are clearly laid out and everything is easy to access. Your heroes and companions that join you are neatly laid out across the top of your screen.
When the time comes to do some RTS management, your workers need to gather three types of resources, stone, silver and lenya. A nice feature that has been added is that you can create workers that automatically gather a certain type of resource. The less micromanaging you have to do, the better. In skirmish mode, it is like any other RTS game where you basically build up your army and try to take out your opponent and their buildings before they destroy yours. There is the option to play multiplayer as well as the ability to play online. You can play any of the three factions: the Realm, which includes humans, elves and dwarves or the Pact, which includes dark elves and shadows or the Clans, which consists of barbarians, trolls and orcs.
The “click & fight” system allows you to click on your enemy, and action symbols will appear underneath the avatars of your group. Likewise if you click on your own units, the actions that will appear will be support or healing actions. With two clicks you can tell your units what to do instead of having to find the right unit or selecting all of them. This saves time, energy and is much better in terms of making quick decisions and executing them which is what RTS games are about.
There is a Free Game mode that doesn’t get as involved as the single player campaign, but this mode allows you to play with up to two other players to do quests together. With 31 maps to explore, you can spend many hours on this game and take advantage of the multiplayer mode.
The visuals are stunning, and I am finally beginning to realize that I need a new video card. The characters and environment are bright and colorful, and the different terrains that you explore are all detailed, lush and nice to just sit back and gaze at. A lot of detail went into the design of weapon and armor so you can see your avatar change each time you acquire a fancy new item. The music fits the game well, even during the loading screens there will be a pleasant melody playing in the background. The voice acting is decent, not Oscar worthy but not over the top corny either. The camera angles I find a little frustrating at times, sometimes zooming in too close or rotating towards the back so I can’t see where I’m going.
Even though I’ve only recently jumped into the world of RTS, the combination of RTS and RPG in Spellforce 2 is fun and different, bringing two genres together in a great package. There is nothing too outstanding when it comes to the RTS portion of the game, but it does change it up a little when you get too tired of hack and slash. For anyone who is already familiar with RTS games, then Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars shouldn’t be difficult at all. There is a good balance of fighting and questing to keep you entertained, and plenty of options for you to explore either on your own or with a friend.