GAME
SpellForce 2
Shadow Wars

Format: PC
JoWooD
£29.99

9 006113 134015
Age Restrictions: 12+
Available
20 April 2006


War has come to the land of Eo, the once proud races are falling to the might of the alliance between the Dark Elves and the Shadow. Can you rouse the realms of man in time to defend against the oncoming storm? Is it me or is this the plot to Lord of the Rings and Babylon 5 and why name the planet after a by-line in old MacDonald had a farm...

Now I don't want to do a disservice to this game, but as a reviewer we get this stuff often in its last beta stage with little or no documentation. This can be a blessing in disguise as it gives a realistic idea of just how intuitive the interface is. I'm please to report that I was able to pick the game right up and start playing. If you have ever played a RTS or RPG game you should have no problems in getting up and running.

Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars opens up with a number of options, you can play over the Internet, as a single player or over a LAN. You can also set various in-game options. I had only a pre-release copy from JoWooD so checking out the LAN was out, as was the Internet option. The game's initial screen boast a very beautiful Elvin babe in what can only be described as "barely dressed in a battle bikini." I can see that from its premise that this could be fun over the Internet, an arena which is becoming increasingly popular. The growth of Internet games is phenomenal; some guy paid 135,000, real cash, for a virtual island in an online game last year.

So on to the single player mode. Here you can choose between a Campaign, Skirmish or a free game. I had a bang around on all these option and it's nice to see that the developer hasn't presumed that everyone on the planet has a fast broadband connection. The various game options make a good stand alone game. Once into the game you can choose the attributes of your character, it's the usual stuff, male or female; you can change their looks ala The Sims and choose the difficulty level.

So, we're into the game and a pretty impressive CGI sequence that set the scene of the overrun of the elfish lands by the Shadow alliance. Once into the game you're in familiar territory. Your mission, should you accept it, is to travel the length and breath of the land as a Shiakan, a half man half dragon, forming alliances and doing favours so that you can eventually lead an army of prodigious proportions back to your ravaged homeland and kick some dark Elvin butt.

One of the outstanding features of the game is the music which at points is truly beautiful, but that could just be my Celtic blood getting the best of me. As for the game play it's a delightful synergy between a RPG and a RTS. The game area is huge and should give many many hours of pleasurable gameplay. Graphically, the game is almost faultless, my only concern would be that to get the best out of the game you will need a fairly powerful machine to run it on - sometimes the frame rate dropped to give the game a very jerky feel. That said, I notice that the first patch has been released so maybe some of these issues have already been addressed.

Charles Packer

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£17.99 (Amazon.co.uk)

   
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All prices correct at time of going to press.