Spellforce: The Order of Dawn
Starting the Game
24/4/04 by Qaj
At the start of the single-player campaign, you get to create your character. Select from male or female, and choose one of 32 heads for each that will also appear of the NPCs you meet. Next, pick up to two skills and talents, and allocate 30 points into your stats. Stats govern the usual - Strength for hand-to-hand damage, dexterity for ability to avoid getting hit etc. You can avoid all this by choosing to play a pre-made character, but there's so little you can modify at this stage that it doesn't really save you much time.
You can also choose to do the tutorial here, but once you do it once, you'll never do it again - it's a tedious romp with a special "tutorial character" that won't contribute to the campaign in any way. It is useful for learning the controls and game mechanics though.
You start the campaign proper having been resurrected by Rohen at a monument. He tells you you're free to do what you want, but then orders you to Greyfell, a nearby city, where you are to report to the Order of Dawn and help fight the dark menace. So much for freedom. On the way, you're beset by goblins and other monsters, which you have to defeat, either single handedly (which is possible if you don't mind dying a few times, or running away when you have to) or by employing the game's hybrid RTS system.
The RTS aspect is accessed through race monuments. There are six races in the game world: Humans (average at most things), Elves (scantily clad women warriors and spellcasters), Dwarves (short hand-to-hand masters), Orcs (surly hand-to-handers with adequate magical ability), Trolls (lumbering monsters with good ranged weapons but crap magical skills) and Dark Elves (who excel at magic). During your travels, you'll find runes which correspond to each race, and which can be used only at a corresponding monument. From the monument you're able to summon workers, who are assigned to resource collection and building construction. Once you have resources, you can further summon combat units. These can be sent off to wage war as per traditional RTS games.
On some maps you can find runes for other Rune Warriors, and have the ability to resurrect them at Hero monuments (using no resources beyond your innate "Rune Power" which is limited in supply but recharges automatically). These form a kind of "party" of slightly-better-than-the-RTS-units (but not as good as the avatar), but mostly amounts to a small number of free units. This can be a small benefit on maps where you have no race monuments, of which there are a few during the game.
Once you get to Greyfell you'll be told the initial parts of the main plot, which is completely linear and involves going from island to island completing tasks. There are, however, short side quests which are intended to spice up your role playing experience. Unfortunately, the solutions to the side quests are usually heavily entwined in the main plot, so to complete them you'll just follow the main plot anyway.
The main plot also has the drawback of being a tad uninteresting. Although the point is to stop the big bad guy, the plot doesn't really details exactly what he's trying to do, and doesn't increase in urgency as the game progresses, so the ending turns out to be a little anti-climactic.
There's also the usual RPG-style "kill stuff, get experience and items, sell items, level up, learn skills and become a more fearsome hero". There's plenty to kill in Spellforce, and plenty of items to boot, though most of them are totally generic. Leveling up is simple too - merely get enough experience for the next level, and up you go, where you'll be able to augment your stats and learn new skills (or improve old ones).