Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past (DOTP) is the standalone expansion to the critically acclaimed Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars. The Spellforce series has always been known for being one of the only games to mix the RTS and RPG genres into a cohesive, enjoyable experience. Will DOTP uphold this reputation? Let’s find out.
DOTP pretty much replicates its predecessor’s formula. You’ll be fighting from a top-down isometric view, controlling your men and your characters. Spellforce has always had exceptional gameplay, and DOPT is no exception. It’s very enjoyable to command an army of men plus a few hero characters, which have special powers that they can use in battle. You unlock more powers as the game goes on, and you’ll have a wide variety of weapons and spells to choose from. Merchants feel balanced, and it’s neither too hard nor too easy to get the gold you need to get what you want. My main gripe with the gameplay is the terrible AI. Enemies rarely attack you unless you get very close, and sometimes don’t react at all to your presence. In some cases, they don’t even respond to swords hacking at their necks, but just stand there nonchalantly like nothing’s happening. This can make ‘clear area X of enemies’ missions frustrating as you hunt down the last remaining foes over the massive maps. Speaking of massive maps, the maps in DOPT are some of the biggest I’ve ever seen in an RTS. They are also very well designed, making exploring them a joy. However, the size of the maps makes traversing them a little tedious. You’ll spend a lot of time waiting for your men to go from A to B. This doesn’t stop the gameplay feeling balanced, diverse and fun though.
Spellforce 2 was released in 2006, and since then, developer Mind over Matter has made little attempt to improve the graphical fidelity of the game. In DOTP, character models are blocky, textures are blurred, and worse of all, the game runs terribly. I had to turn my settings down considerably before being able to play at a decent frame rate. My PC should be more than capable of running it, since it runs Bioshock Infinite at 60 frames on ultra. Performance like that is unacceptable for an eight year old game. The terrain is also boring, and the fog, fire and snow is terribly made. You can mostly forgive how ugly it is in heated battles, but zoom in close and you’ll wish you hadn’t. However, the deign of the characters, buildings, and the world around you is done really well. Each of the races have fantastic looking soldiers and structures which goes with the vibe that the game is giving you, and adds to the experience. Still, technically, this game looks like crud.
The story will be instantly recognizable to fans of Spellforce, building up off older characters. It follows an elder of the Shaikan race as he battles the evil demon lord Zazhut against all odds. It’s pretty good, featuring memorable characters and fantastic dialogue. The voice acting isn’t half-bad either. There are some clichés to deal with, but for the most part, its a comprehensive story that will keep you playing until the end. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget that this is a 25 hours+ game for $20. You’ll get truckloads of content, and plenty of room to develop your character. In summary, it’s a lengthy, gripping story with fantastic dialogue.
Spellforce 2: DOPT’s music is quiet, but turn it up a bit and you’ll be wowed by how great it is. Rolling violins and drums harmonise with a great guitar reversal that gives the game the vibe that it needs. A good soundtrack is key to emphasising an atmosphere to the player, and Mind over Matter does it fantastically. The voice acting is… pretty good. Nothing stellar, but the characters do feel relatable, even if they are dragons or demons. The voice acting has never been good in the Spellforce series, but here I feel like they stepped it up a notch, and it improves the game immensely. Sound-effects wise, it’s pretty much what you’ve come to expect from a top-down RTS. You can hear the clash of steel against steel, and the rush of a spell, the painful grunt of a guy shot by an arrow. While they’re diverse, the sound effects don’t really resonate with you as much as I think they should. Still, sound-wise, I’m pleasantly surprised with what we have in DOPT.
I’ve already mentioned the game has 25+ hours of content. The story alone will keep you hooked for ages, and all for just $20. Need I say more? Yes? Fine. Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past is an enjoyable single-player experience that’ll stay with you for a long time. It has a beautiful design, unfortunately marred by technical problems. I recommend it, especially for the Steam price of $20.