I was caught in Spellforce 3’s web within seconds of watching the cinematic trailer. I’m a huge fan of the fantasy genre and Spellforce 3 ticked a fair few boxes. An enchanted world steeped in magical lore with your conventional races of Orcs, Dwarves, Elves, Goblins and Humans. A deep and rich back story involving the subjugation of mages, wizards, witches and sorcerers. A powerful religion bursts forth in the world spouting about the one true god and how magic should not be used unless for the religion, which is good. All other magic is bad. This storyline kind of sounds familiar, maybe a clever nod to inspirational games that have come before.
What is not to love about this already? Have you not been hooked enough yet? Ok, how about Geralt of Rivia as the cherry on top. Voice actor Doug Cockle takes command of the elite Wolf guard as General Sentenza Noria. A clever move by Grimlore Games and THQ Nordic, in my opinion it has worked very well to sell the game and add an established powerful symbol of fantasy games to their own world. Upon its release this game has been given mixed reviews and in some cases seen plenty of bugs that has seen some unnecessary backlash from gamers and critiques. Let’s see how the third official installment of Spellforce plays out.
The Spellforce series is a mix of role playing (RPG) and real time strategy (RTS). They have polished this cross genre so that it’s not some contrived amalgamation of the two but a symbiotic blend that lends itself to the story and keeps the player involved without stagnating play. This is the third full game in the series but ninth release. It’s been made as a prequel to all the other games so if you are new to land of Eo you can enjoy the story without feeling left behind. For the RPG part of the game you travel through the different areas as a team of 4 heroes (as you unlock them) fighting enemies and finding loot, a lot of loot in this game. For the RTS side you get to build up small outposts and develop them to recruit your troops. Each area has limited resources so you have to push forward and continue to build those outposts before the enemy armies come to attack. Build up your own army and together with your hero’s go and take on your mission or explore the beautiful map and all its hidden treasures.
You play as Tahar, the son/ daughter of the evil sorcerer who started the rebellion, the mage wars, against the crown. When in the main menu you get a second option on the campaign section that gives you a small opening story near the beginning of the mage wars that explains your character. As a standalone story you play as General Sentenza Noria who has been sent by the queen to kill Isamo Tahar and stop the rebellion. Along with his companions, siblings Anselm and Gwen and Wolf Guard Betrand your search leads you to Isamo who is about to sacrifice his son/ daughter but is saved at the cost of Gwen’s life. Fast forward 8 years and the mage wars are over, the rebellion defeated. You joined the wolf guard and helped bring you father down. Now a plague is slowly sweeping across the country, the Bloodburn, and you have to find out the cause. Something goes awry, the wrong blood is spilt and you are sentenced to death. You manage to escape with a mission from the purity of light’s leader to solve the Bloodburn. You begin your journey and allies join you in your journey.
The Storyline is really interesting in this game and allows you plenty of choices to guide your character along different paths. There is a large emphasis on the political workings of different races and your ability to forge bonds between them and bring them together under one cause. The companion storylines develop well along the story, often waiting for a mission to be completed before you can hear more of their story. They all seem to be in a similar situation to you, the typical outsider who has been rejected by the community and bands with you to fight the greater battle.
The soundtrack for Spellforce 3 is amazing. Powerful and epic orchestral pieces that really aid the atmosphere of the story and scope of the battles. Tense and paced well to match all aspects of the game and give you that true fantasy feel. The in game sound effects in the battles are great and along with the voice narration it really builds a good game. Now a minor thing with the narration is some of them just don’t feel right with the characters, the responses don’t feel like they capture the mood. Sometimes it doesn’t even match the written narration on screen. I know narration in game is difficult and takes a long time to get such huge scripts read but it does pull you out of the verisimilitude of the game.
The maps in this game look amazing, the detail of the buildings, farms, woods, forests, and caves just look fantastic. The fauna moves with the wind, the trees sway, the sea laps at the shore. With the isometric perspective giving you a beautiful angle of all that’s around you. It’s hard not to pick out similarities here with games like Divinity – Original Sin 2 and the likes of Age of Empires. It’s a nice blend of the two but doesn’t go anywhere near as deep in terms of game play.
Looking at characters in the equipment screen you can see you characters fully kitted out in all the gear and loot you have been picking up, these looks are transferred to in game, but I have found some problems with gear. Helmets in particular look stupid on some characters and personally its important part for me. If bad gear looks better I will probably keep it. I recently got a pretty powerful helmet but I won’t use it as it is hugely oversized on my character. It’s a small thing really but it’s popped up a few times. The range of gear you can get is huge and varied; depending on the sort of character you want to build you have a wide selection of weapons and armor each with added bonuses, abilities and tiers.
The ability trees you get aren’t as varied as weapons and can seem quite simple, with a choice of 4 on your main character you need to have a decent idea of what way you want to go or like me you may end up putting points in regrettable skills and stat points. Don’t worry though there is a potion that can change these stats and abilities but I just went with the flow and still haven’t encountered anything that a whole army can’t deal with. Well almost, I have found an attack, runaway, heal, attack tactic works 90% of the time.
Another little issue I have come across is that it’s not easy to see things on the map. You can highlight chests and characters etc but you really have to move the camera around a lot to see clearly in some maps. This is something I’ve seen pointed out online by quite a few people and something that has been solved well in DOS2 with the obstructing object becoming invisible. The battle style for this game is in real time and can make the battles chaotic and hard to control in both the RPG and RTS modes. They have added an action wheel that does slow down time in battle and gives you a full choice of your abilities to use that has on many occasion saved many lives of my heroes and armies.
Spellforce 3 has multiplayer modes whether you want to co-op the campaign or PVP online on the RTS side of the game. It is a fantastic story and one you could easily play again and try out the different story choices in game but it does get a bit tedious and repetitive as there isn’t much development in each area. The RTS side is simplistic in what you can do and build and there are only minor differences between the races you can control or specialized buildings and troops. The loading times of the game are pretty long as well and you do find yourself sitting around waiting a lot which if you have tabbed out may lead to you forget you are playing.
A Fantastic storyline, intrinsic characters, stunning maps that are visually enticing and a blend of genres synched in game play. A game I have thoroughly enjoyed playing but did take quite a few hours to hook me. It has some flaws and to me they are forgivable as I truly escaped into the world of Eo as a new player to the series and I will definitely be looking for future installments and probably purchasing the older games as well. I feel the game should give you more control and over your armies and individual sets of troops and give the races noticeable differences and unique skills in the RTS mode and go deeper and darker with the RPG elements. Updates and patches have been coming in constantly showing how much the developers are putting into this game. Don’t miss out playing this engaging and enchanting game.