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Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars Interview
(Gef) 10:05 AM CET - Feb,21 2006

We got a chance to talk with Phenomic's Martin Löhlein as he talks about Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars, their upcoming real-time strategy/RPG hybrid. The game should be available in spring 2006.

Q: The Order of Dawn was a well-balanced mix of RPG and RTS. If you tried to confuse the reviewers, into which genre this game belongs, you definitely succeeded. How will (from this point of view) the sequel look like? Will it be once more such hardly definable mix, or will it lean more to one of these two genres?

A: This unique genre-mix worked very well and we will stick to it. For SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars we undertook great efforts to intensify both the RGP feeling as well as the RTS feeling and to blend them even more seamlessly. On the RPG part we greatly improved our skill system, making it smoother and more varied. On the RTS part we sped up the production part, offer more strategic options and an enemy AI who can also be testet in skirmish battles. For both parts we wanted to offer more meaningful choices, an easier, more accessible control system and improved multi-player experience.

Q: You did a great job by integrating tons of secondary quests into the first game. For example the poisoning of the giant was really original stuff. However both sequels did not continue in this trend. How about Shadow Wars? Can we look forward to many secondary quests or no?

A: Side quests play a big part in SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars. Apart from the side quests spread across the maps, there is even a map which shapes according to how you play the side quests. Still, consistency is maintained throughout the game.

Q: Although the story of the sequel should be connected to the first game only loosely, you already promised appearance of several known characters. How about McWinter, can we look forward to more his crazy actions?

A: Actually, yes, you can. But he is just one of several known characters who got a part in SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars. You might even meet your former self…

Q: How will the building part of the game look like? Will there be the same raw materials with different kinds of usage by each race, or do you plan some major changes? Will the unit production be again done via the summoning monuments, or will you take the "standard RTS way" with special training building for each type of unit? If the player will not be dependant on monument, will he have the opportunity to choose place for his base?

A: We are going more the "standard RTS way". The monuments of SpellForce - The Order of Dawn provided a nice magical explanation for everything but they had some disadvantages. Since you were not able to build monuments, your troops sometimes were produced far away from the actual battles. Now you can build production buildings wherever there is space, plus you can produce units at several different buildings.

Generally the build-up part is way faster, needs less micro management and is more focused on units and battle than on buildings and resources. In fact, you will need lesser resources than in SpellForce - The Order of Dawn. The units of each faction offer more variety and finally are more diverse, with cavalry, flying units and siege weapons.

Q: Order of Dawn and both sequels were quite linear (although several missions from Shadow of Phoenix proved that it doesn’t have to be strictly so). Are you planning to put more freedom into the sequel, or will you stick with linearity?

A: SpellForce - Shadow of the Phoenix actually offered quite some variety depending on which Avatar you chose (the one from Order of Dawn or the one from Breath of Winter). In SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars we allow the player a number of choices, especially in the sidequests. These choices -as said before- have an influence on you home map.

Q: Talking about freedom... how about stand-alone maps for singleplayer? There were none in The Order of Dawn and in datadisks it was necessary to play them in exact order due to neutral monsters with constant levels. Will it change somehow?

A: SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars allows some more freedom here due to the fact that you are no longer facing spawning monsters, but an AI. Thus the order in which you play the maps of the free game mode is less set, though there is a rough order suggested by the campaign.

Q: According to released info the Shadow Wars will have three playable factions. In first game we had forces of Good and Evil. Their races hated each other and it was not recommended to put them close to each other - even when both of them were serving to one person. Will this burning hatred be also part of this game?

A: No, this changed completely. This animosity between the races was a nice touch, but to be honest: it was more in the way of a varied mission design rather than offering new options. Especially in multiplayer it was quite a hustle. So in SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars, factions who are on the same team are always friendly, which allows more cooperation possibilities in multiplayer.

Q: According to released screenshots are the titans really monstrous bastards. Do you plan to give them more importance than in previous games? Will they have some active special abilities (similar to heroes)?

A: Absolutely. This time, titans will have a huge impact on battles. In particular because they own powerful spells or special abilities.

Q: There are mount animals mentioned on your web pages. In previous games were such units considered as one entity (with exception of mission with gathering of armor, weapons and griffon for Uthar). Will it be for instance possible to steal horses of slain enemies, use them for transport of material etc.?

A: It wont be possible to steal horses from slain mounted units. In Spellforce 2 all mounted units are considered as one unit. However the idea of stealing the horses from mounted units is great :-)

Q: How will the computer controlled races act like? In previous games they were not expanding, they were just generating (sometimes in nasty masses) at magical fountains. Will it stay the same?

A: As stated above, we have an AI now which takes control of resource gathering, build-up, unit production, attacks,... So no seemingly infinite unit spawning, but real RTS battles for resources are taking place.

Q: Are you planning to improve the control system, so it will be easier to use magic and skills in big fights effectively (e.g. pausing the game, automatically casted predefined spells even for avatar, simpler switching of weapons etc.)?

A: One should not confuse genres, even in a genre-mix like SpellForce. Pausing the game for giving orders is a feature for RTS games without build-up. If you allow pausing in a build-up RTS, you are messing with the most precious resource: player time. That is why the most successful RTS with build-up stay away from it.
Yet we are offering special tools to effectively manage you troops in combat, especially you avatar and your heroes. The optional click’n’fight system introduced in SpellForce 1 already proved superior to the classic control scenes, saving you one click per action you want to take. We optimised this further, supporting it through a stronger unit AI and allowing casts even without direct player commands. The inventory and item system was reworked completely making it smoother and more transparent.

Q: In previous games the spells were limited mostly for combat - strengthening, healing and destructive magic, plus some summoning. Will you broaden this scale somehow (e.g. teleporting spells, permanent enchantment of weapons, creating of items)? How about mental magic for non-combat quests? Learning of new spells was done via writing the scrolls into book that was not split into any separate parts. On higher levels it was quite confusing. Do you plan to improve this spellbook?

A: This was the core point we took on in the RPG part. Skills and spells in SpellForce - The Order of Dawn allowed some variety, but it was a bit of work to get hold of all the spells and getting them to your current level. This changed completely in SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars, but to explain that, I have to start with the skills: Instead of choosing a character class in the beginning and then just being able to take minor decisions in how to develop within the class, SpellForce 2 - Shadow Wars offers a skill-tree which contains all magical and combat skills. Whenever you level up, you choose a new skill in the tree, so that over time more and more choices open up. There are 138 skills and at the end of the game you will have learned 30 of these. Each skill offers a new spell or special ability or allows you to use a new type of weapon. Thus you are immediately rewarded when you reach a new level. You do not have to find a new spell on the right level, you get it automatically as soon as you learn the according skill. And all the spells from lower levels are automatically scaled up to your new level. Thus we got rid of a lot of needless micromanagement and gained more variety for the avatar and more interesting choices for the player.

Q: How about formations? According to the screenshots it seems that it will be again pretty scrum and not just a petty brawl. Advanced formations could be really helpful.

A: We have reworked the path-finding from SpellForce - The Order of Dawn completely to allow more compact group movements, as well as tactical commands like attack, patrol, guard etc.

Q: Finally, is there anything else you wish to say about Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars

A: we would like to thank our fans for the great feedback which we have always tried to integrate as much as possible.

--- thanks

genre: RPG/RTS hybrid
release: 2006/Q2
developer: Phenomic Game Development
publisher: JoWood

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