SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny is the standalone expansion to 2006’s Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars, by German developers Phenomic. It’s the second expansion to this particular entry in the series and a clear attempt to push as far forward with the RTS/RPG genre hybrid as they can, but is it a jack of all trades and a master of none?
As the game begins you’re put in control of a young hero you’ve just thrown together using some basic customisation options. Your appearance isn’t too important as you spend most of the game hovering above your avatar like an awkward fanboy rather than in a character-centric game like Mass Effect or Dragon Age, where picking the wrong nose can result in hours of oh-god-why-did-they-even-render-that-abomination-in-the-first-place every time Shepard’s nose enters a room before he does. You pick a head from a decent selection, name your hero, and proceed to the map.
At first it’s a standard click-to-fight crawler as you’re walked through the interface and the fundamentals of combat. Your character is a Shaikan, a mighty hero destined to save the world of Eo from a strange new evil that keeps popping out your typical shadow fiends all over the place. So it’s pretty basic fantasy fare from the outset and doesn’t really improve story-wise throughout, even with the addition of dragon mounts later on.
After learning to control your Avatar and his hero companion, the game abruptly introduces you to the RTS aspect of the game. It’s nothing new for veterans of the genre but it’s well built and harks back to the resource-spamming days of gaming. The units are also pretty standard, slightly limited in choice but this was probably a deliberate choice to prevent the game from becoming too daunting. The combat itself is a weightless, distant experience that somewhat lacks in smaller encounters. Many times I cast spells without even being aware of it and the effects seemed almost pointless sometimes. It’s still really satisfying to select all of your units and throw them headfirst into an enemy horde, though.
So the game succeeds in mechanics – it’s flawless control wise, the interface makes perfect sense, it might be accused of being a little simplistic but any cutbacks made definitely help streamline the gameplay. Managing your army is a beautifully ergonomic element of the game and a real success in RTS design, never becoming stressful or unbalanced. Where it falls down is presentation.
The story shudders along and sometimes feels like it was cut into lots of tiny bits and stuck back together with sellotape. It’s hard to build emotion towards your hero and whether the quest succeeds or not doesn’t really feel like it matters, not even in some of the more intense battles. If the game was going to be a bigger success it would need to seriously revamp the storytelling and make the world of Eo a place that we can care about rather than just mindlessly churn through until we reach the end and never think about it again.
Average fantasy fare. It could do with being a more prevalent part of the game, as even your cookie cutter fantasy story does well enough in a game given enough exposition. Sadly it’s not an appealing part of the game and takes a back seat in contrast to the story driven aspect of the earlier SpellForce titles.
Now this is interesting. The series’ trademark RTS/RPG fusion works extremely well, making good use of the best points of both genres and discarding some of the micro-management that just hampers the experience for people not accustomed to it. It’s easily Faith in Destiny’s strongest point and makes it a bit easier to forgive a story that doesn’t go anywhere particularly interesting.
Another slightly average part of the game, Faith In Destiny is visually in line with its predecessors, but for a standalone expansion they could have spent a little time making things look a little nicer. It runs well and is hardly demanding, and the crisp, colourful graphics bring the medieval world of Eo to life sufficiently. Some extra spell effects would have helped bring the slightly dull combat to life too.
Overall, it’s a well-built RTS that averages out on some of the finer points like graphics and story. If you liked previous SpellForce games it’ll be a welcome addition, but if you’ve already got a few great RTS titles in your collection, just go and play those instead for now.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game