From the get go SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars puts a cool new perspective on the typical RTS style of play. Not only will you control a player developed character, but heroes and armies are also at your fingertips to wage war and complete the countless quests that dot the landscape of Shadow Wars. Leveling up your character and completing missions is a pleasure, not a chore in SpellForce 2.
The world that encompasses SpellForce 2 is huge, and new players to this type of game will be lost in the vastness that Shadow Wars delivers. There are literally countless monsters, quests, level up abilities and evil enemies to fight. The game is so huge that trying to describe all you will be faced with in this review is an exercise in futility. Just realize that if you love action, magic, leveling up, RTS management, and fighting the forces of evil, then SpellForce 2 is definitely your kind of game.
As the Dark Elves advance across the lands of good, it is your task as a fighter of a human and dragon race to rally the troops from friendly nations and try to counter the destruction the Elves will bring down upon the land. From the beginning of the game this is your main quest: You must find the people and heroes willing to fight, and establish the economic and industrial infrastructure necessary to fend off the attacks. In addition you must develop and deploy soldiers for your hero units to control and fight with. This is basically the premise of the game.
You will meet and find Hero units that are controlled by you in the heat of battle, giving you a more personal presence on the battlefield. All of the actions of a normal RTS are present as you fight along side your hero units. No longer will they follow you around mindlessly, by they firmly under your control to ward off the Dark Elves. They may also be resurrected by dragon's blood if they ever fall in battle. The control scheme of the hero units is really straight forward and easy to use. Highlighted hero units have a pop up window that tells which spells and actions will affect enemy units and what options will help allied units. With a few clicks you can easily have your guys being healed, attacking, and out flanking your enemies.
As the story deepens and more quests are completed you may level up your character by choosing two different skill trees. One is based on magic, and the other one is focused on combat skills. This allows you to choose the warrior's path or the way of the shaman as you gain skills and advance throughout Shadow Wars. There are a vast number of armament options in SpellForce 2 that can be a nirvana for the point obsessed individuals that want those ten extra hit points, but a little redundant for the rest of us as each new weapon or upgrade really isn't that different from the previous, except for the hit points delivered.
There are a lot of adventures and quests to complete in Shadow Wars. The majority of them are fun and entirely engaging. One of my favorites was the Westguard set of quests. These quests allow you to rule over your own land and see it evolve and change over time as you improve it and as people try to invade it.
This brings me to the development of your economic resources. The usual RTS elements are present. You must have your workers harvest three types of resources that are necessary for army building. Structures must be built, military units put through training and defenses to fortify. If you've ever played an RTS before, this part of Shadow Wars will seem like all the rest, but proper management is entirely necessary to support your hero units and wage the war against the Dark Elves. It'll be fun for all you resource gathering and city building freaks out there though.
The voice acting in Shadow Wars was just above par. It really isn't extraordinary, but at times I had to chuckle to myself at some of the options given in the conversation menus. It's always nice to see the developers having some fun with a game and not making it over serious. The music also fit well with the whole atmosphere of the game but became redundant after the countless skirmishes and all out battles you will be waging. Another feature that made Shadow Wars entirely playable was the ability to travel from one Dragonstone to the next, allowing you to complete quests a lot faster than trying to run all over the maps of SpellForce 2.
I would readily recommend Shadow Wars to anyone out there. This hybrid of two different genres was engaging and a twist that sets SpellForce 2: Shadow Wars apart from the majority of RTS or role-playing games out there. The vastness of the world is both welcoming and overwhelming at times, but it adds much to the playability and length of SpellForce 2.