SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny is the latest expansion to the latest sequel to the SpellForce franchise. Assuming you made it through that sentence, then you should also know that it was developed by DreamCatcher Interactive, released on 19th June and is definitely an RTS. If you choose to buy the game on Steam, you may notice a the “Strategy” tag is remarkably absent from its page. Don’t be fooled, as much as Steam and the game itself tries to hide its RTS upbringing, you’ll know that it is the moment you happen upon a conveniently placed base and are asked to begin mining generic, all-encompassing stone resources and I was incredibly annoyed by all of this!
I’ll start by saying this, if you are looking for a new and exciting take on the RTS genre, then you’ve come to the wrong place. Even though Faith in Destiny was released in 2012, the expansion offers little in the way of modern storytelling. As the game’s protagonist, you are a member of a long-standing bloodline called the Shaikan. As the latest member of this bloodline to come of age, it has been prophesied that you will save the world from a long dormant race of demons who were suppressed by the gods of a bygone age but are destined to return. On your journey, you will pick up a cast of allies to aid you in your quest to strike down anonymous evil foe number 4 while some giant flaming eyeball – that no one seems to notice – lurks in the background. Sound familiar? Aside from the eyeball, the story in Faith in Destiny may be accurately described as “Stock Fantasy Tale 1”, but despite its over-riding averageness, the game’s total package is still worth exploring.
The first mimics a top-down action RPG. Players click to move and attack while picking abilities from an action bar. Talents are allocated with each level gained as the player gains experience by defeating enemies, talents which can be split between a magical, melee DPS, and balanced style of play. Some enemies also drop loot, which the player can use to customize and increase the overall effectiveness of their character — the avatar — or their allies — heroes. Perhaps in another attempt to hide its RTS undergarments, the game also incorporates a “chase mode” which places the camera directly behind the main player controlled character, at which time they may control movement using the WASD keys, making it more like a typical RPG. All of these mechanics put me most in mind of Warcraft III, which is the last RTS of this type to hold my attention through the main campaign as SpellForce 2 was able to, but I’ll try to repeat their likeness as little as possible.
Most of the game you play just as any other RTS. Though many segments are spent guiding your avatar and supporting cast of heroes through the landscape, taking quests and troving for loot, the time will inevitably come when you wander upon a conveniently placed base. After that, the game settles in and set to mining the usual set of resources to begin your assault against enemy camps A, B, and C. From here, the RTS becomes very RTS like, you get enough steel and you can make X many soldiers to kill Y many demons etc. It’s all very standard.
There are, however, a few which make the game just a bit more friendly to those who may be new to the genre. For example, resources, when moused over, display a tooltip to show how many of them are left to be mined from a specific tile, and the build speed of constructs can be decreased by placing multiple workers on the job, curbing the waiting game typically associated with the genre that puts off many more casual players. Another, more interesting feature is SpellForce 2’s “click-and-fight” interface, which allows players to attack by simply clicking on an enemy, which then displays all of the unique actions each set of their units, heroes and avatars may perform upon said target. The feature provides a larger amount of personal control over a situation in battle than provided by other games of this type, and becomes incredibly instinctive after just a few encounters.
On a wider scope, combat returns to a style similar to that of Warcraft, DOTA and games like them, strategy boils down to who is best able to best use the abilities of their avatar and heroes while simultaneously using normal units to take pressure off of them. While the bulk of your forces will, of course, be made up of grunts and the like, victory will be determined by who is able to use the strength of their avatar and heroes to turn the tide of battle in their favour. The biggest problem, however, with Faith in Destiny as opposed to similar games is that it just is not difficult enough.
Though strategy as I’ve described does play in the larger battle sequences, a majority of the battles that take place can be won by setting the rally point for your troops in the midsts of the enemy while your base pumps them out as quickly as they can be killed off. By using them as tanks while your heroes stand back and take pot shots from safety while the fronts of each army collide, withdrawing should your forces thin out, just about any rival force may be easily overcome. Hard mode seemed only marginally more difficult than medium in my case, something that I rarely find frustrating but this lack of difficulty as well as the few definitive characteristics which can be found in Faith in Destiny, it seems like just another layer of blandness to the overall package.
Visually, Faith in Destiny is more comparable to games released around 2009, when SpellForce 2 was originally released. People are very cartoonish but overall average at best. Warcraft III – and I apologize for banging on about this – is of equal or greater graphical quality than this game, despite being released six years earlier. While everything in the game appears far from ugly, it’s hard to say that visuals are done well, just adequate. Spell effect detail is slightly improved over the quality of the rest of the game and textures in the world are smooth and pleasing to the eye, but as with other visuals, there is nothing to get too excited about. What saves the game’s visual non-shortcomings from jumping off of the screen is the sound, which is actually quite good. A bolt of lightning rumbles and quakes as it rains down on a group of enemies before disappearing and the clang of your armies as they fight is standard for the genre. All-in-all, it makes up a fairly immersive package, and even though they’re not amazing, DreamCatcher Interactive have brought these elements together into an immersive, well polished experience.
Despite the way it may sound, SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny really is an enjoyable experience. For £16.19/$17.99/ €17.99, you get a very competent, polished, well-written and fun RTS. In terms of story and gameplay, the game offers little if anything in the way of unique features; it’s simply an RTS with an RPG story. While gameplay offers some nice features to streamline the gameplay experience, it still does little in the way of providing a unique experience for players. Really then, the problem with the game is not that it’s bad, simply that it’s nothing special. For just two dollars in some cases, players could get an experience of equal or greater quality, but the latter half of that crowd are few in number. For fans of the franchise itself, or genre as a whole, SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny is a worthwhile endeavour, and great for killing a few hours at a time over the course of an otherwise dead weekend, and for that, it’s guaranteed to earn that space on your hard drive.
SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny is available now for PC.