by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Hit the ground running
A few days ago I walked in on my roommates playing through the latest Tomb Raider in our living room. They were nearly finished and had some pretty impressive tricks to use that they had mastered over the course of the game. My roommates knew the story and could answer any question I had in regards to who was who and what was what with relative ease. Even though I had missed the vast majority of the game, I picked up on how to play it and managed to follow along, albeit with plenty of confusion.
You might be wondering what my watching of Tomb Raider has to do with Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past. Simply put, playing Demons of the Past is a lot like jumping into the middle of a game without any prior knowledge of what has happened before. Yes, you may be able to eventually get a grasp on what is unfolding around you, but you’ll never quite appreciate what you are accomplishing. If you are a long time fan of the series however, Demons of the Past will likely be an easy trip down memory lane.
the story ends here
Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past is the third and final expansion in the Spellforce 2 series. Originally released in 2006, the series is an RPG/RTS hybrid set in a fantasy landscape where the forces of good are fighting a desperate battle against the ever-growing forces of evil. You are an elder of Shaikan, who must work to stop the evil demon-lord-thing Zazhut from destroying the land.
Fantasy settings can be either hit or miss in how they are presented. Successful ones slowly ease the player into the world, carefully establishing the rules and norms within it. Unsuccessful settings throw the player headfirst into the world without rhyme or reason and expect them to accept it for what it is. Demons of the Past throws the player off a cliff, only to be hit by a big train full of expositions right off the bat. Name after name is thrown into your face from the very start of the game, and no help is provided to understand what exactly is going on.
For fans and enthusiasts...
Returning Spellforce veterans will most likely understand everything that is happening on-screen. For everyone else, including newcomers like me, searching up the series’ synopses is highly recommended. In each mission, the player has to build and operate an army in order to accomplish objectives. Standard RTS fare, including resource gathering, base building and micromanagement can all be found here. The problem is that Demons of the Past has little in the way of innovations to speak of. The UI is a bit cluttered and it took me quite a while to figure out how to properly use each of the functions. In addition to that, the general gameplay of moving units and organizing your army feels old. It lacks engagement and is possibly one of the blandest RTS’s I’ve played in some time.
The RPG elements function well with the RTS portion of the game and provide some depth with which to play with. The character you create at the beginning serves as your main hero unit throughout the game, with whom you level up and unlock different abilities the further you go. There’s an inventory where you can equip loot that drops from certain enemies and different spells which you can master and use. Experience is gained through fighting enemies and completing the various quests which are optional in each mission. Overall, your basic RPG elements, while not special or unique, work and function properly.
...but no one else
One element that does not work as well as the RPG elements lies in the technical department of the game. Demons of the Past looks like a game from last decade in that the textures look like they have not changed since the original Spellforce 2 was released nearly eight years ago. The same goes for the animations where some of the unit models look particularly stiff in their movement. Facial expressions are lacking on most of the characters and edges are rough no matter where you look. The engine is old, that I understand. That fact that it could have been worse than what it is ends up being Demons of the Past’s saving grace. The simple knowledge that it could have been far worse.
If you are a long time fan and follower of Spellforce 2, than I can imagine that Demons of the Past is right up your alley. Perhaps you’ll easily understand the events surrounding the main storyline, and you will have been used to the nuances of properly playing the game. For everyone else, Demons of the past is a mediocre game that is not particularly memorable, with nothing much going for it.
Functions well, RPG elements work
Bland gameplay, Confusing story, Looks Old