Let’s be clear, this is branded as a standalone expansion to the series but I highly recommend that if you want to get the most out of Demons of the Past, that you purchase a copy of Spellforce 2 Gold and Faith in Destiny beforehand. I say this as an opener because the story and gameplay will confuse or at least have you pausing to rifle through a wiki to find out what the hell is going on.
That aside, welcome to the world of Spellforce 2, a fantasy world of swords, sorcery, dragons and demons all wrapped up in an RPG/RTS hybrid style and offers absolute hours of time forgetting gameplay.
If you’ve played the previous titles, you’ll know from Shadow Wars that you are a Shaikan, a human with dragon’s blood running through your veins. You’ve already encountered a battle with Dark Elves, defended Dwarves from a massive invasion and battled demons called The Nameless…
The final game of the series begins with you defending a fortress from the undead, gathering a companion and learning the basics. Unfortunately, if you haven’t played any of the previous games, you’ll have to sit and watch some video tutorials supplied on the title screen… Not exactly the most interesting or interactive way to take in the many nuances of the mixed gameplay elements and this can be confusing.
It does however give you an insight to the scope that the developers, Phenomic, had in mind when the series began roughly eight years ago. In theory, it sounds magnificent. RPG storylines and loot/equipment system with a dash of RTS army building and a garnishing of MMO style character build management. Yes, it sounds fantastic, but the engine is getting a bit long in the tooth and the devs haven’t really bothered to fix the existing bugs that have been present throughout the series.
I had the exact same issue with DotP as I did with Faith in Destiny. At certain points of the game, autosave will kick in and will basically crash the game, making you return to your last working save game and replay everything again. Seeing as there’s no information online about how to sort this out, I ended up replaying a good 5 hours worth and when you have to do that, games begin to grate.
However, the story of Demons of the Past is quite entertaining, the ability to gather a party of adventurers with different skills and tool them up is still fun. The RTS-lite portions of the game are a little less epic and tend to resort to creating the biggest capture box and ‘zerging’ the enemy until they lie in a pile of detritus while you loot the corpses. Just remember to save before you head into battle as there are points when every minion of Zazhut will be attracted to your aftershave and pile on like a particularly amorous rugby team, resulting in game over.
Being eight years old, it looks and sounds the part. As an older gamer and one who enjoys a good story over flashy graphics, that’s fine. If, however, you can’t bear to play Morrowind or even Oblivion next to the mighty graphical wonder of Skyrim (modded of course), then you’ll probably lose interest and search elsewhere for your role-playing jollies. I played at a mostly zoomed out view as the closer you get, the more you feel as if you’ve somehow been transported back to a time when even Call of Duty was quite good.
Countering the issues and discrepancies of this ambitious title are the many modes that can be played. There’s the fiddly but well written campaign, an online co-operative mode, skirmish and a few others to scratch your beards at. I can’t complain at just how much there is to choose from, although there’s still the problems involved of the twitchy gameplay and bugs.
I also loved the fact that I can still create my original, King Leonidas character from previous games and scream, ‘This is Sparta!’, as I demolish a small army of winged ballbags to see if I’ll get a new helmet. There’s a picture here, just to prove it!
For all that it is, I enjoyed my journey through Eo and if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll want to see the epic adventure to it’s conclusion. If not, I’d probably stay away and pick up something that’s at least a little more playable in it’s current form or has plenty of patch content.
You can pick up Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past on Steam for £17.99 right now if you so wish, although if you want the whole experience, the entire series, from the original Spellforce all the way to DotP is available for £49.99.