Spellforce: Conquest of Eo Test – p.1
The latest part of the Spellforce series relies on leisurely turn-based strategy instead of real-time battles – and is based more on Age of Wonders or Master of Magic than on StarCraft and the like.
I’m going to approach this test report a little differently than usual today and try to write a field report rather than the usual excessive discussion of the candidate’s rules and regulations. This one is called Spellforce – Conquest of Eo and comes from the studio Owned by Gravity, which last with Fantasy General 2 Proven expertise in the turn-based strategy genre. The current offshoot has nothing to do with the real-time predecessors in terms of gameplay. Conquest of Eo is just set in the same fantasy universe as the main series and apparently tells the prequel to the third part from 2017, which I skipped myself.
Nevertheless, I was excited when Gamersglobal editor-in-chief Jörg Langer offered me the test, because at first glance Spellforce – Conquest of Eo fits exactly into my loot scheme: global strategy with hex field battles and clear borrowings from Heroes of Might & Magic, Age of Wonders and Masters of Magic? Yes, please! Supplied with three liters of Pepsi Max and a bag of nacho chips, I threw myself into the battle highly motivated last weekend.
imbalance in the realm of fantasy
Before we start, Spellforce – Conquest of Eo lets me choose from three player classes, five scenarios and five challenge levels. After a short study of the descriptive texts, I decide on the “inventor” as an alter ego; he can strengthen his armies with home-made rune amulets. The other two heroes available are the ‘Alchemist’, who brews potions, and the ‘Necromancer’, who raises the fallen as undead and actually encourages their own play style, as I’ll learn on a later playthrough.
Unfortunately, none of the five levels is really neatly balanced. The lower two levels play at a pleasantly fast pace, but are far too simple for genre veterans. There I can win almost every battle in four or five moves without making a great effort, or leave the calculation to the automatic system. In the medium mode, the hex battles are more demanding and sometimes even too difficult, but I have to take a forced break after every major fight so that my battered troops can recover. In addition, the AI constantly annoys me from level 3 with raids and pinprick attacks – but more on that later. According to the description, the choice of scenario should also affect the level of difficulty, but in my experience it has less of an impact. The story is essentially the same across all five campaigns anyway. The main changes are the environment, enemy types and quests.
The wonderfully detailed and varied scenarios are one of the great highlights of the game. You won’t find such beautiful cards anywhere else in the genre!
Rising from the Ruins
The story is initially told to me through a few sparse texts. I am a young witch whose former master called him to his aid: the old codger reported a breakthrough in his studies of the Allfire, a mysterious force that binds the world of Eo together at its core. But when my hero reaches his former teacher’s quarters, he finds only smoking ruins. It quickly becomes clear that the old master has been at odds with other great magicians in the realm for access to the Allfire – and the vengeful magicians will soon see me as an up-and-coming rival.
Even if the story has no sound and is only told in English in the test version, it develops in an exciting enough way over the course of the next few hours. My sorcerer’s apprentice slowly rises to the rank of archmage himself, hires trainees in turn (who then act as army leaders), and gets deeper and deeper into conflict with the competition. Automatic events ensure that my relations with the neighbors regularly deteriorate and the cold war between the various mage domains soon turns hot.
What I don’t like as much are all the little quests and side stories that Conquest of Eo seems to randomly distribute from a preselection. Because there is no real quest log, I have to make notes in the old days of who wants what from me and where. Because I’m also far from being able to solve all the tasks at first, my scrap paper soon overflows with clues – and the map quickly becomes confusing with all the markings.
The highlight: the tactical battles
The hex skirmishes are one of the biggest assets of Spellforce: Conquest of Eo for me. If my armies meet opponents, I can either calculate the result automatically. But I would only recommend that if the prediction is certain of victory. Otherwise, unnecessary losses are inevitable. The alternative is to take command yourself. Then the camera switches from the world map to an enlarged detailed view. The design of the battlefield is based on the actual environment, i.e. it also depicts forests, meadows, villages or fortifications, but there is a limited selection of maps for each type of terrain, which is repeated quite quickly. In any case, the armies clash in an arena divided into hexes. Each side initially sends three or four, later up to ten detachments into battle, which can be roughly divided into close-ranged and long-range combatants and supporters.
Without dissecting the combat mechanics now: The different types of opponents, special abilities, subtleties of the rules and last but not least the competent AI ensure challenging battles with some tactical depth. Only on my own side there is a lack of variety: It takes some time until I unlock new troop types, for example by hiring mercenaries (for which I first have to improve my reputation with the respective factions via quests), building appropriate training camps in my tower or such conquer facilities. Of course, don’t dismiss my veterans even then. This means that at some point the recurring encounters become a bit monotonous.
|The tactical battles are exciting, demanding and varied. Only in their own armed forces there is a lack of variety.|