Monday, March 01, 2010

Spellforce: Probably the best tutorial I have ever played.

I like RPG games. I like RTS games. Spellforce offers an unusual combination of both so it was an easy call to buy the platinum edition of Spellforce  for less than €4 in Steam's weekend sale.

 
(spell force cover art copyright Phenomic / Jowood, Source Wikipedia)

The RTS phase of the game seems competently executed in the style of Age of Empires but I am not fully convinced that the RPG elements fit in though. Picture this: You hire workers to gather resources to build a town to recruit an army to hold off the dark hordes and finally march on their stronghold. Then after your mighty army has finally vanquished the Orcish threat you stumble across a odd looking chap with a question mark over his head who asks you to help him find his reading glasses. Its seems a bit incongruous to me but it is early days yet and I am only on the second map. Perhaps the wisdom of this marriage of styles will become clearer to me later.

Before I finish however I have to comment on the game's absolutely superb tutorial. In point of fact I think it may just be the best tutorial I have ever experienced in a game. It is a mini campaign  acting as  prelude to the game proper but it brings you step by step through all of the games key controls and commands. It manages to do this without losing your interest and allows just enough freedom to skip ahead or slow down so that you can absorb things at your own pace. It is quite lengthy, perhaps 2 hours in total but you can save and resume at any point. Even after the tutorial is finished you are given the choice of jumping straight into the game or continuing to explore the tutorial where some of the games finer points are explained.

Many otherwise excellent games get the tutorial wrong and RTS games being rather complicated are more prone to this than most. I believe I have yet to complete the tutorial for any Total War game without it breaking at some point. Well done to Phenomic for the terrific spellforce tutorial. 

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