SpellForce: Shadow of the Phoenix
|a game by
|Phaenomic Game Development
|8.0/10 - 2 votes
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Barely a year has passed since the original game breezed across our monitors and we're already up to this, the second expansion pack, allegedly the final episode in the SpellForce saga. As seasonally mistimed as the last (which introduced a wintry world of ice and frosty goblins when we were enjoying a temperate Euro 2004), Shadow Of The Phoenix takes us from the depths of a British winter into the desert lands of Empyria, hot on the heels of your old mucker Darius (famous for his appearance on Wizard Idol').
Unlike the Breath Of Winter add-on, which was a kind of gigantic side-quest away from the original game, Phoenix picks up the story with you putting your feet up after a long and arduous campaign, only to find that greater dangers await you in the form of a Shadow Sword and an evil necromancer. It's typical sequel-driven fantasy fare basically, which in the vein of the series so far features a plot bursting with cliche and dialogue that would have even old Tolksy spinning in his grave.
Same As It Ever Was
The phrase more of the same' could not be more apt, for it's difficult to find any evidence of anything being improved: the graphics, though colourful and vibrant, lack definition close up, maps are as linear as ever and although there are plenty of new monsters and enemy characters to take on, they still react only when you appear within a certain sphere, and their strategy is simply to make a beeline and starting hitting. Not that Phoenix is entirely desolate; the campaign has more than 40 hours of singleplayer gameplay, with a smattering of new multiplayer maps and an improved co-operative mode. Of course, characters can be imported from the first adventures and you can now reach level 50. It goes without saying there are new hero characters and dozens of spells to make use of.
The Hours Pass
However, oodles of new content does not a great expansion make (stick that in your book of quotations). If you've already invested 60-80 hours in the first two adventures, it would be churlish to dissuade you from completing the trilogy. In fact, in spite of the done-to-death plot and naff characters, the underlying gameplay remains fresh and invigorating, moving effortlessly from arcade roleplaying and exploration to epic real-time strategy - almost as if Diablo and Warcraft had been fused together. If such a hybrid appeals, you'd do well to seek out the original game and come to this at a later date. SpellForce dogmatists of course will have much to enjoy, but if you found your interest waning through previous episodes, it's very unlikely you'll find anything here to get you back in the mood.