Faith in Destiny is the long-awaited expansion to 2006's Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars.
Yes, you read that right. The base game was released way back in 2006.
Originally announced in 2009 and long thought to have disappeared into development hell, this second expansion for the real-time strategy and RPG hybrid wisely arrives as a standalone entity though it clearly uses Spellforce 2’s dated engine as well as many of its assets.
Is it dated? Yes. Is it still fun to play? Absolutely
However, the Spellforce 2 experience holds up better than you'd think. Back in 2006 it was one of the more impressive looking PC games so graphically it hasn't aged as badly as you'd expect. Sure, if you've played a tonne of Shadows Wars and its first expansion Dragon Storm you'll probably be disappointed that so little has changed or been improved (something that can probably be said about Faith in Destiny in general) but overall the graphics are adequate and don't hamper the experience.
In terms of story there's not much going on here. You play as the Shaikan once again, essentially a customisation hero unit (you can't be female this time around, for some reason), who must fight to save the land from the invading forces of the Nameless. It's your typical fantasy plot that lacks much character despite its attempts to build up the lore.
So what exactly is new in Faith in Destiny? In my experience, not much. Though I haven't played much of Shadow Wars and Dragon Storm, it's obvious that Mind Over Matter Studios (who presumably picked up the project after previous Spellforce developer Phenomic was purchased by EA) have added very little to the game play experience. The campaign is new although I was able to identify at least one map that has been recycled from the previous games. Your Shaikan avatar can now ride on a dragon hero unit if one is available and the new Nameless race is available to use in multiplayer... and that's pretty much all the tweaks and additions I could find.
While it's business as usual for the most part, the game play (much like the graphics) holds up adequately by today's standards. It probably helps that Spellforce's token blend of real-time strategy and RPG elements hasn't been attempted by many other games, even now.
Another niggle is that it can be pretty hard to see and select individual units in the larger confrontations
If you're not familiar with the basic mechanics, Spellforce 2 plays like the illegitimate love child of Warcraft and Diablo, taking the base building and resource gathering from the former and the levelling, loot and quests from the latter. It doesn't execute the RTS or the RPG aspects better than either of Blizzard's franchises (though not many games do) but they do add a fair bit of variety to the proceedings enabling the series to become better than the sum of its parts.
Multiplayer does strip out of all the RPG elements though which does take some of the shine away when playing with others. However, given that the matchmaking servers for the original Spellforce 2 have long been shut down the inclusion of online play may be enough of a reason for the fan community to pick this up.
Faith in Destiny doesn't innovate, nor does it fix some of the problems of its predecessors. A few issues linger that really should have been addressed, most notably the omission of the ability to restart your current campaign mission from the beginning. This might sound minor but when you have the capability to exhaust all resources on the map you can find yourself completely crippled and unable to start over. Even killing yourself doesn't present you with the option to restart the mission, instead only offering you the chance to load a previous save file.
The autosave system is pretty archaic and can sometimes do more harm then good. It tends to save when a quest or a story point is resolved but if you've gotten yourself in a predicament (exhausting all of your resources, again, is the big fail state) you’ll find yourself completely boned. If you haven't been making manual saves you can and probably will find yourself having to restart the entire campaign from the beginning. Again, this wouldn't be as big of a problem if you could simply restart from the beginning of the chapter.
If you're a fan of the series you'll probably want to check it out, either for the sake of closure or just to play some more Spellforce 2
The campaign's pacing is also pretty slow too. Even on easy mode most chapters expect you best sizeable enemy armies and it will often take a very long time to gather the necessary resources for a competitively sized force of your own. Combine that with some of the more laborious fetch quests in the game and you may end up getting a bit bored, even early on in the campaign. Thankfully, the RPG-free multiplayer tends to be a lot faster paced.
Even with those negative points and the fact that it doesn't add much to the series I still like Faith in Destiny. Despite showing its age at times the core game play is still entertaining and somewhat addictive. If you’re able to put up with the sometimes sluggish campaign and give the multiplayer a fair shake then there's dozens of hours of fun to be had here. For £17.99 on Steam it's a good value proposition.
SPELLFORCE 2: FAITH IN DESTINY VERDICT
Even with those negative points and the fact that it doesn’t add much to the series I still like Faith in Destiny. Despite showing its age at times the core game play is still entertaining and somewhat addictive. If you’re able to put up with the sometimes sluggish campaign and give the multiplayer a fair shake then there’s dozens of hours of fun to be had here. For £17.99 on Steam it’s a good value proposition.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Building up a large base and a massive army and decimating the enemy. Some things never get old.