User Rating: 8.3 | SpellForce: The Order of Dawn PC
Let's begin by saying that I really, really liked this game. Having played both Dungeon Siege and Warcraft 3, the blurb that this game blends these two games is pretty accurate. There is the typical RTS array of gathering resources, with each of the six races needing access to slightly different sets of them. A nice touch is that some races need resources only another race produces, such as the Elves need for iron used to summon some of their higher level units. The races themselves are pretty standard, divided equally into Light (Men, Elves, and Dwarfs) and Dark (Orc, Troll, and Dark Elf) races. Some units seem drawn straight from Warcraft, such as the Orc drummer, but others like the Elf Ice mage seem original. There's a strange thing with the elves though, as the Dark Elves are all male and the (Light) Elves are all female. You'll be limited to a maximum of 80 regular units, but this is more than enough for the scale of the maps. Buildings are fairly standard for RTS, such as the three stages in development being based on three levels of headquarters and the various buildings that will support either other buildings, or are needed to get better units (both in general availability and in upgrades). Rush gamers, who like to pump out many troops quickly might be in for a surprise, as the units are summoned rather than created in the regular ways and your avatar has only a limited amount of summoning power. Although this will regenerate with time, I've been stuck with waiting for more workers to appear due to my avatar being low on summoning power several times in various scenarios. Zooming in on your lead character, a (summoned) Rune Warrior that has been set free, will move the game to RPG perspective, with the camera hovering over the avatar's shoulder. Your character can be carefully tweaked with character points and skill points (gained per level and some 30+ levels to be made in the campaign). Of course, you will always have too few points to spent, so you'll have to focus on certain skills and characteristics. These in turn restrict the weapons and/or spells you can use. Apart from summoning regular units, you can also summon up to five heroes, whom you can equip with the spoils you find in various places. These heroes are fixed in skill and level, but you'll be finding more powerful rune stones, to summon more powerful heroes as the game progresses. Together with these heroes (who are not available in all scenarios) you can form a kind of adventuring party. So what is the game about? Well, as I said before you are a Rune Warrior, summoned by a mage to help save the world from it's current trouble. The game is set in a world shattered by a major magical conflict, breaking up the land in small islands. This is probably the best explanation I've ever seen to keep players on a single map. Various transport stones and portals connect the islands, allowing travel. From the start of the game you are running after people and things. First running after the mage who summoned you, then after an artifact needed to turn the tides of war. The story runs pretty smooth, if a touch linear, with plenty of side quests to keep you busy. As you progress in from one scenario to the next and in levels, you will face more powerful enemies, and occasionally need to go back to maps you've visited before, most often to the City of Greyfell, which is more or less your home base. And eventually you will reach the final scenario...and the game will be over. Of course, nothing is going to stop you from starting a new avatar, with different skills (as I've done once already now), or getting the expansion (which I hope to do soon). Technically the game is visually stunning, especially in the Third Person Perspective. Sounds are nice, with lots of background noises, although some of the voice acting is pretty bad. There are some strange translation errors, where characters are referred to in German on screen and in English in the sub-titles, but overall the story runs nicely and cleanly. The game does tend to be resource intensive, and on my computer occasionally requires me to reboot as the sounds and the screen become all jittery after an hour or so of play in a troop intense game. In summary, Spellforce is a great game that should keep you pleasantly occupied for hours, or if, like me, you play only a few hours per week, it's going to keep you busy for a couple months. I'm definitely going to by the expansion.