When genres mashed together, you're told you're getting the best of both worlds. A text-only first-person shootery adventure will be billed as a thrilling retro triumph with racy hints of Mavis Beacon. Then an innocent child will say, "This game straw-sucks my dad's arse," and that's that. The SpellForce series, combining both role-playing and strategy, are actually well-balanced and playable games, even if the most hardcore edges of both genres are necessarily compromised.
The RPG element comes from your main character and assorted heroes; these are the dolls you'll be dressing up, leveling up and spending your skills points on. This side of things is deep enough to keep you satisfied, but not so Diablo-deep that you'll be fretting over a massive collection of hats with barely different stats.
If you go both-toilets at the thought of open-ended Oblivion walkabouts, you've nothing to fear here. You're led along maps with a main route and regular tucked-away crannies with more enemies and a treasure chest. Once you get control of a headquarters, the other side of the game kicks in - mining resources, upgrading buildings, the usual RTS management stuff. It's all familiar, but immaculately designed.
MIX AND MATCH
Once you've got your disposable troops, action can get a bit hectic, which isn't helped by a limited zoom. Occasionally, the heroes can feel unresponsive, but that's just the impatient old grumpy-puss speaking - it all comes together well, and is completely intuitive if you've got any experience. And for newcomers, the (optional) tutorial gives a right thorough grounding.
Shadow Wars is, essentially, more of the same. If you aren't a dedicated explorer of the deeper, damper crevices of RTS and RPG gaming, then there'll be enough of both styles to interest you, and not so much to scare you off. And it's an easy game to get into, if you can suffer the disgraceful English accents.
Oh, and if you've just won a difficult battle, save the game. The whole thing is more difficult this time, and there aren't any continue points in-level. And you know how it is - the satisfaction of finally winning a battle doesn't even begin to outweigh the frustration of having to win it all over again.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt
- Well balanced
- Involving but not overwhelming
- Multiplayer options
- Can make your eyes hurt
- Kill the actors