The problem though, is that these mechanics and references are just that – only references or fleeting influences. I don’t have the immersive storylines of a Baldur’s Gate, or the addicting combat and character progression of Diablo 2, or the intense and smartly crafted RTS mechanics of Warcraft II. That’s the issue with these types of hybrid game genres: you get to experience a truncated version of more than one genre, without ever getting to truly delve into what makes each great in their own respective ways.
One of the best examples of this is how the missions in the campaign mode function. Early on, you will rely very heavily on your hero characters as they are much more powerful than anyone else and can take on entire groups of enemies easily. Once you get further in the game and start developing bases and raising armies, you’ll be better off never even using your heroes at all as “zerging” the enemy is always the best option. If your hero happens to get killed, it’s game over, so the risk is never worth the reward.
At this point, it boils down to rudimentary RTS gameplay where you simply click & drag over all your units and send them to the enemy. Whoever has more guys attacking the other guys will usually win. When it gets to this point, I completely forget about the RPG mechanics as they become useless and impossible to micromanage with the clunky interface. You’re forced to click on so much at any given time to do things like inventory management, skill assignment and picking up loot that it becomes incredibly cumbersome to even just play the game.
All of the game modes suffer from the same problems as the campaign, just in different ways. Skirmish mode plays just like most other RTS games and is entirely devoid of the RPG mechanics that “set apart” the single player campaign. Trying out the different factions can be fun as a novelty and some of the map layouts are actually quite smart. Domination is similar, but instead plays like a King-of-the-Hill type mode as forces vie for control of a central location on the map. Free mode is sort of like Campaign-lite, as there are variations that offer questing, RPG gameplay and other nuances.
While Demons of the Past does support LAN and online multiplayer, I was only able to play a couple games since there was a severe lack of population. Granted, it’s the third expansion in a long-running series, is a standalone entry and just came out recently, but I still expected to have a bit more luck finding people to battle. No surprises as to how multiplayer functions though, it’s basically skirmish mode with a real life opponent.
If you’re a big Spellforce fan that’s been eagerly waiting to see the end of the story that started 8 years ago, you’re essentially the target audience. The game has a handful of redeeming qualities and it can be refreshing to play something so decidedly “old-school”, but the novelty wears off quickly. There is a lot of content in this game that could potentially occupy your gaming habits for dozens of hours, but it’s ultimately just not worth the time investment. With so many other great RTS, RPG and RTS-RPG hybrid games out there, I cannot in good conscious truly recommend playing Spellforce 2: Demons of the Past.
CONCLUSION: A Watered Down Mixture of Flavors
Final Score – 5/10