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Spellforce 2: Faith in Destiny

"Faith in Destiny is not a good game, and I could not recommend it to anyone."

Spellforce 2's expansion Faith in Destiny is an odd one. The base game, Shadow Wars, was released all the way back in 2006 and the developers soon followed up with an expansion, Dragon Storm. Faith in Destiny, the newest entry, is a standalone installment that doesn't require either of the two previous titles to play. That said, it's certainly not one you'd want to give a try. Not only is it a backwards step in many areas, it also makes countless mistakes in its design. Frankly, in terms of quality, Faith in Destiny is an embarrassment.

The story follows a character you create on his destiny to, uh, well, it's never really clear. At first, it appears your task is to fight an unknown threat ("cleverly" called Nameless) and defend your home as a proud Shaikan. This is followed by saving some elves, fixing a portal and rescuing Shadow Empress Nightsong, all while being told by dragons that you cannot change your destiny, whatever that may be. There is no plot coherence whatsoever, the four characters who join you have zero personality or backstory, and the stilted, meaningless script features some of the worst writing I have ever seen. The Spellforce series has never been known for its compelling plot, but Faith in Destiny hits a new low.

Luckily, Faith in Destiny does retain the interesting gameplay that endeared me to the original game all those years ago. Just like most real-time strategy titles, Faith in Destiny is focused on locating resources, building a base and creating an army to destroy your enemies. A wide variety of races are at your disposal: Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Shadows and more, each with interesting and varied military units. There are gargoyles, dragons, necromancers, knights, warriors, orcs and nearly every other type of high fantasy creature you could name. The only real downside is that each race plays pretty much the same way as the others. The units may be different, but at the end of the day, if you build a big enough army then strategy is irrelevant. Some restriction on unit amounts or terrain type may have made for more interesting objectives.

It's absolutely mind-boggling as to why Faith in Destiny provides so much variety but so few opportunities for you to use it. The entire expansion contains only four maps and during three, you have no choice over which race you control. On the other map, you can only pick one, so additional playthroughs of the same linear game would be required to try a new army out. After rescuing Nightsong in the final map, it feels like the game is just getting started. Instead, the final cut-scene plays and it's suddenly over. Oh, and the story still doesn't make any sense. In its entirety, the whole expansion can be beaten in 5-10 hours, even if you complete the handful of side quests. At least there's a skirmish mode and online play, I guess.

True to its roots, Faith in Destiny is not just an RTS, but includes many strong RPG elements. You can equip each party member with a variety of gear, level them up and teach them new skills, or even train them in different roles such as healer, tank and so on. Customising and levelling up your heroes is the sole redeeming feature of the game, and there's a great variety of skills to learn. You're free to have characters specialise in either combat or magic, and there are healing, summoning, damaging and defensive skills to suit any role. Creating a balanced party is interesting and enjoyable.

Somewhat strangely, Faith in Destiny adds little of note to the series. In fact, this expansion feels more like DLC than a full-blown gameplay experience. It contains the same features as the base game, a handful of minor upgrades, plus the additions previously added by Dragon Storm. Chief among these is an ability that lets your hero mount and ride a dragon. It certainly looks impressive, but it's otherwise a completely superfluous mechanic that adds nothing useful to gameplay or strategy.

The engine may be six years old, but the developers have done a solid job with the graphics. The scenery is beautiful, particularly the trees, and the character models are relatively attractive, even on lower settings, though their design does lack creativity and suffer from some armour-clipping issues. Similarly, units have interested and detailed designs that uniquely distinguish each race. The most notable of these are a singular titan unit each race can produce that visually embodies their respective army fantastically.

It's a pity the same cannot be said for the sound. The music, though not bad, is bland across the board, and the sound effects suffer a similar fate. The voice acting is the only truly memorable aspect, and it's only remarkable as a complete disaster. Every single voiced line is acted woodenly and without feeling or any sense of realism, made worse by the awful script. The game would have benefitted from all voices being cut entirely.

I enjoyed Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars immensely when it was released, which is why I was so disappointed by Faith in Destiny. The gameplay has considerable depth, but little of it is accessible or on display in this expansion. The role-playing features are the strongest part, but they are not enough for redemption. Rather than waste their time on this subpar expansion, the developers should have simply moved on to Spellforce 3. Faith in Destiny is not a good game, and I could not recommend it to anyone.


© 2012 Nordic Games, Phenomic. All rights reserved.




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