Sunday, December 20, 2009

Great Stories in Spellforce 2: Dragon Storm

I recently finished playing Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars and the Dragon Storm expansion. It was for the most part standard fare, but there were a few really good subplots. These very short stories were told in bits throughout the main story arc. In this post and over the next few posts, I'll talk about some of these short but powerful stories.

One of these stories is the series of quests involving the DreamStalker.
A similar story appeared in the first Spellforce game, but the resolution was much simpler: Kill the Dream Thief. Except it was extremely difficult unless you also killed the innocent woman whose dreams it was stealing and giving him power.
In Dragon Storm, this sidestory has been re-written into a full quest.
In the city of SevenKeeps, we quickly find out that the dreams of children are being stolen, and as a result they wither away. As part of the ritual to this, four children were murdered and their dreams stolen. Each continues to linger on with painful memories, and this pain keeps the DreamStalker Sharad'Naine invincible.
One child had a toy sling, another a toy sword, but they did no good against the sorcerer. Others mentally withdrew, holding on to a doll or staring into a marble.
In order to defeat the Dream Thief Sharad'Naine, we are tasked to remove his power, which is fuelled by the suffering of the now ghostly children. We find each of them, ask for their help, and are in turn given their token -- the sling, the doll, the marble, the wooden sword.
During the confrontation with Sharad'Naine, he calls on the children for power. But having rallied them, we now raise these toys against the invincible sorcerer and the children pull away from his power. In the end weakened, he falls to the ground, merely a man now.
So far we have a simple story of evil versus innocence, the ultimate triumph of justice and good over power and wickedness, and also the powerful theme of how the weak can overcome the strong, and still have justice in the end. In life these children were helpless, but now are instrumental in the defeat of a great evil. In fact, the game reinforces these themes by making our powerful heroes impotent. They can keep Sharad'Naine at bay, but cannot defeat him. Only the children can, only their courage is required. To have allowed powerful heroes to short-cut the process by simply killing Sharad'Naine would have diminished the emotional impact of the story.
If the story ended here it would be a decent one with a stirring and powerful finale--but there's more!
Sharad'Naine, now merely the man Barubas, explains that it was not for him that all these deeds were done, but rather for his wife Hazibelah. She has grown old as time takes its course, but lives in denial. He had to hide all the mirrors lest she be upset at the truth, and made him steal the dreams of children so that she could, at least in her mind, have her youth by dreaming their dreams.
Do we let him live? Is he ultimately responsible? Here, the story is taken briefly out of our hands, and we are left to wrestle with it -- one of our companions, Caine, who is a judge and executioner of supernatural contracts, steps in and pronounces "judgment" on Barubas and executes him. (More on him in another post as we explore the side stories related to his background).
To finally end it, we confront Hazibelah. She is upset at the truth and attacks (and is a worthy mage in her own right, though behind a childish mindset), but if we have a mirror on hand and can show Hazibelah her true self, she retreats and is helpless. In the end, she must be slain, and finally the threat of the DreamStalker ends with her.

hazibelah 2

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