SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny wants to be the true RPG-RTS hybrid. It wants to evoke a story that transcends its gameplay and rewards players for deeply exploring the world. These aspects that Nordic Games strived to achieve have been miserably executed. I wait patiently for the narrative to propel itself forward, for the characters to engage their world… but that time never arrives. It offers the same well-explained and refined RTS system with minimal additions in content, but the supposed crux of the expansion is the narrative, which does more to alienate than incorporate.
The opening sequence, laden with tutorials, inspires hope that my adventure with my trusted companions will be a fruitful expedition as I venture to understand my night terrors and possible link with the Nameless. Unfortunately, the banality of SF2: FID rears its head soon after the first hub areas. As a Shaikan, my duty rests in protecting the realm from the greater evil that threatened its livelihood; in other (very different) words, I am an errand boy. Have you lost an item? Do you need help finding an estranged family member? Are there wrongs that you would like righted? RPGs are prone to fetch quests, sure, but most of SF2: FID - including story components – is made up of fetch quests. The constant repetition quickly dulls interest, and the hollowness of the world only adds to my grief.
SF2: FID is an expansion from a six-year-old game, and it showed. The engine has been polished but the title still looks dated, and the dichotomy is jarring. Colors are muddled and everything looks two tones darker than it should. At times, it’s difficult to discern backgrounds from units. Even the protagonist, created from a customization suite, is prosaic. Certain armor choices blend the hero haplessly in with any mix of generic units. Aesthetic faults are enough to disrupt my connection with my characters even before they open their mouths.
The voice-acting is apt for the elve-age motif, and most important NPCs are grafted with generic, workmanlike voices. I can hear the same aloof townsman only so many times before I have to mute speech. More irritating than the townsfolk is the lack of musical atmosphere. When sound is present, it seems either bombastic or ill-placed. Rather than set the mood, it disrupts it and fails to appropriately match the different setting. The sound design may only add to the weaknesses of SF2: FID, but gameplay is its resounding strength.
The RTS-RPG hybrid gameplay serves as the pillar that holds SF2: FID upright. Mostly unchanged from previous entries, SF2: FID adds new accouterments to its RTS system in the form of spells, a new clan, and new skill tree abilities, but it is essentially the same as previous installments. In RTS fashion, workers collect resources, which are then used to construct buildings… to produce units… to refine resources further… or to fight the enemy. SF2: FID keeps the basic formula, which is fun but rigid. There’s nothing groundbreaking or revolutionary about the gameplay: follow the objective, defeat the enemy, and move on. It slowly becomes predictable, but nowhere as trite as the narrative.
Nordic Games’s SpellForce 2: Faith in Destiny wants to quench my thirst. It wants to provide a unique RTS-RPG hybrid experience. Instead, it only serves as a tease, disappointing when it really matters. Regardless of how enjoyable the RTS gameplay may be, it cannot cover up the deficiency in the narrative, and the flat atmosphere that accompanies it.