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SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars - PC - Review

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Posted by: jkdmedia

Gamezone Review Rating 8.1 Great

For those of who have never heard of SpellForce, here’s some quick background information. SpellForce is a real-time strategy game developed by Phenomic. Released in ’04, SpellForce: the Order of Dawn was welcomed by RTS fans around the globe, but problems such as linear missions and a less-than-amazing control scheme held it back from being a true staple in the genre. Here we are in 2006, and Phenomic has returned home to the drawing board. Shadow Wars attempts to fix its predecessors’ quirks while still leaving its rather impressive foundation intact. Does it succeed? Continue reading to find out.  

Beginning Your Quest

Prior to undertaking the main quest, you will be required to create a character. You’ll have the ability to select gender and randomly generate your face, but don’t expect a character creation system akin to that of Oblivion’s. After being satisfied with your appearance, you will be placed into a luscious world filled to the brim with evil warriors and dark menaces. The first objective will be to meet up with a few of your friends – because after all, there’s power in numbers! Shadow Wars’ entire gameplay revolves around this concept. You literally wouldn’t be able to finish a battle without your little tag-alongs. However, this idea is actually what makes this title so satisfying. Controlling your army of heroes is very enjoyable and rewarding, and not to mention made easy through a new control layout that enables you to perform spells and attacks right in the heat of the battle. There’s no more watching your characters brawl as you sit helpless and dumbfounded. You can toggle to a specific player, and depending on how far along your arsenal is developed, will able to select from a plethora of distinctive moves to take out your foes. After deciding on the action you wish to carry out, click once more for who you want to be on the receiving end. This stunning element is aptly titled the ‘’Click-‘n’-Fight" system.

 

Speaking of control aspects, SpellForce 2 allows you to seamlessly round up your squad with a simple click. This is an absolutely key facet as sometimes you’ll solely just want to manage your created character to explore the huge worlds. But when it comes time for a battle, gathering up everyone is essential, and that’s where this feature known as Hero Call comes into play. Another timesaver available is journeystones, which, once triggered, enable you to switch back from different locations by merely viewing your map. Those who have played the latest Elder Scrolls game will recognize this and feel right at home, as it’s very similar to IV’s quick travel attribute.          

By now, you’re probably wondering what the missions are like. For starters, the side-quests, as well as the central campaign, are home to exceedingly varied and well-done objectives. Shadow Wars’ expeditions sport everything from delivering items, putting out fires, and tearing it up in large-scale, good old-fashioned skirmishes.

 

The gameplay here is very comparable to an RPG, even though it still falls into the real-time strategy genre. Substantial role-playing components are still in attendance, though, from an open-ended path, the ability to build up both your magic and combat skills, multiple dialogue choices during conversations, and overall sense of character development made evident through an extraordinary leveling up system. 

Multiplayer is included with the package, but in my opinion, it doesn’t really offer anything out of the ordinary. You can either involve yourself in a skirmish mode or join in on some rather high-quality cooperative play. But in short, while I’m glad there’s at least some multiplayer offered, the single-player is where you’ll be spending most of your time.

Choosing the View That’s Right for You

There are a few camera options you will be faced with. One being a fundamental third-person perspective found in most action games. This view eliminates the point-and-click setup, which can sometimes be a bad thing because part of the fun in any RTS lies within scouting an environment and investigating its landscape and locales before sending off your troops. On the flipside, this isn’t a huge deal since all it takes is a scroll press to switch in and out of views.

Technically Speaking

One of the most significant problems I had with this game was its frame-rate issues. If your PC isn’t boasting a powerful graphics card, prepare to run into some frustration. The frame-rate will drop to obscure rates, namely during battles. Even with the settings placed on low, problems like this will occur. I suggest having at least the recommended specs before diving into this one, because bluntly, a rig that meets the minimum requirements may not cut it in every case. Be forewarned.  

 

Concerning visuals, SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars does a darned fine job in portraying a mammoth, mystical realm of imagination. Particle effects are top-notch, from fire to gore. Character models were also predominantly well done. In addition, the textures and animations, except during a frame-rate dip, are bursting with detail and life.   

Audio-wise, Shadow Wars, for the most part, strays clear of overtly cheesy dialogue. Heck, some of the conversation options are even fairly humorous. For example, early on you will embark on the ability to undertake a side-quest. The scenario happens to be a soldier asking if you can deliver a letter to his wife as he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to do so himself, due to the hellish conditions with his life being at stake and all. One of the reply options states, ‘’Do I look like a carrier pigeon? Deliver your ramblings yourself.’’ I laughed. The music score, on the other hand, won’t be bringing home any awards, but admittedly it does fit the atmosphere quite well. 

Review Scoring Details for SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars

Gameplay: 8.4
SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars serves up a nice blend of real-time strategy and role-playing goodness, all snuggled underneath a rock-solid engine. Additionally, Click-‘n’-Fight is a superb innovation that truly breathes life into this disc. Mingle this with an amazingly long campaign and online multiplayer, and you have yourself quite a title. 

Graphics: 8.1
Immense worlds and extremely well-done effects – just be sure your system can handle it.  

Sound: 7.2
Shadow Wars contains a smart, witty script. The voiceovers follow suit. On the flipside, the score is merely mediocre.

Difficulty: Medium
Here is a game that will provide hardcore gamers with a hearty challenge, yet will cater to the casual as well with wonderfully done pathfinding, easy-to-learn combat, and an incredibly informative tutorial to boot.

Concept: 7.8
The genre-mixing gameplay is commendable, and the story is unique and original. 

Multiplayer: 7.1
So-so. As stated, it’s a welcomed aspect, but it can get old, and you’re more than likely going to want to stick with the SP.

Overall: 8.1
SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars is a game pretty much anyone can get into. Its gameplay is genre-bending, its visuals are intense and demanding, and there’s enough content here to keep you returning for an obscene amount of time. RTS and RPG fans alike need to immediately put Shadow Wars on their ‘’To Get’’ list.

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