Spellforce: The Order of Dawn
An RTS with an RPG part that will be superior to Warcraft 3 and a strategy part which will blow away Command&Conquer: Generals. That were the words of Phenomic about their new game Spellforce. Strong words which I gladly put to the test…
At least, when turning off Full Screen Anti-Aliasing and Anistrophic Filtering because otherwise you’ll have a very long time watching the “Loading” screen. This is a problem with the graphics engine which up until now hasn’t been resolved.
Once in-game, you start off with making your avatar, the head character, your individual. First you select a class, which skills and attributes. These are just like with each RPG addressed with a certain amount of points which you allocate on parameters like Strength, Charisma, Stamina, Wisdom, etc. Then you can choose how your character will go through the world. Visually there isn’t much choice, you pick a face and that’s it. Once having finished this you get to see the prologue in a pretty cool intro movie. You’ll immediately get the urge to put your teeth in the game.
If you’ve chosen to play the tutorial you’ll have the RTS basic like movement and attack aswell as the RPG basics with using inventory and checking the one of your victims made clear to you.
Most of the time you’ll be watching the world from above like in most RTS games but in Spellforce there’s the option to play from a third person view where you’ll control your character with the arrowkeys instead of clicking somewhere on the map. Nice for a moment but the fun will soon wear off. What’s also very striking is the fact that the textures look really nice from far away but when you come closer they’ll be so blurry at times that you can hardly keep looking at them.
The mission progress isn’t like with most RTS’s where you start with building a base, looking for resources, and having units spawn like hell. Here you begin just a little bit different; there’s certain runes at your disposal (in fact there are two of them, worker- and hero-runes) which you can activate in the correct monuments. In the worker monuments you can train units going from normal workers to huge armies of swordsmen and archers, just as long as you’ve got the right buildings and resources. From the moment you’ve got such a worker monument you’re playing an ordinary RTS. Hero monuments give you an extra hero with whom you can clean up the map.
In many cases this is where it comes down to. Usually you’ll get a nice piece of spoken text along but once you’re ready no enemies will be standing up anymore. The thing that bothered me the most is that the maps are way too big or your units walk too slow. Fact remains that if you’re sending reinforcements to the other side of the map you’ll easily have to wait 10 minutes for them to arrive and this is very disturbing as winning a fight usually comes down to having the most units.
The story comes from the principle of RPG’s. There’s a big storyline that moves you through the game in the form of different quests and sub-quests, the latter not being obligatory but interesting as they’ll give you extra items or cash. Unfortuntely here you’ll also stumble upon the problem of a slow avatar. If you realise that there are lots of these quests where you have to go from point A to point B to kick some ass and steal item C to finally return to point A, I don’t have to tell you that there are several moments where you’re bored to death while watching the green blimp on the minimap. The motivation to do sub-quests will quickly disappear.
All in all, Spellforce isn’t a bad RTS/RPG, it’s just sad that in neither case it’s a topper nor will become one. Despite the technical problems and the slow gameplay it remains a nice timefiller but kicking WC3 or Generals’ ass is not really an item here.