When games like World of Warcraft, Oblivion and Neverwinter Nights 2 grab most of the RPG headlines, it’s worth remembering that JoWood’s hybrid RPG/RTS SpellForce series has been providing hours of entertaining orc-bashing for some years now and, even though it has its flaws, the latest add-on pack continues to deliver more of what the fans demand.
All is not well in the land of Eo, as the magic portals that allow transportation between the many islands are starting to lose their power. Islanders low in resources are now heading to fertile areas in the south of the country and their accompanying armies are starting to fight each other. You are a soldier of the Shaikan race (blood-linked to dragons) who’s trying to find the source of the problem, which revolves around a Shaper; an ancient being of immense power who was thought to be in perpetual sleep but is now awake and stirring up mischief.
You also find clues to what happened to the Soulbearer avatar who disappeared at the end of the original game and discover that the only worthy opponents of the Shaper have entered the fray; the Dragons. The single player campaign now has approximately 30 more hours of gameplay and the Free game mode has three more maps as well as a new Arena Quest where you gradually create the ultimate weapon to fight your foes in a showdown.
Familiar faces and places reappear but the cities have undergone radical changes and hundreds of new items have been added. A crafting skill has been introduced to allow you to enhance your powers and heroes who attend your avatar can now pursue their own side quests and build up their abilities, thus further tilting the scales towards the RPG rather than strategy side of the gameplay.
The Shaikan race only had a marginal role in the original game but here they are a stand-alone addition complete with Dragonkin and Dragon Titans and a separate section in the skill tree. Bloodmages have the power to heal and resurrect, Marksmen can fire several arrows at once and fighting animal companions can be summoned (as in Neverwinter Nights).
Unfortunately the pathfinding remains as wayward as before and frequently your units refuse to work as a team and wander off to their own devices. The graphics are still more comic strip than realistic but that doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of a kaleidoscope of colour and movement when you zoom in to a full-on battle, and the quick-click bars are a vital tool when directing individual commands in the thick of combat.