‘Spellforce 3’ Review – Strategy Meets RPG
It has been a very long time since I have played an actual real-time strategy game. I have played many strategy games, but less real-time and more action-based. Let me preface this a little further to you, the last real-time strategy game I played was Stronghold: Legends back in 2006, so it has been 11 years. Anyways, enough about my history and more about the game at hand, Spellforce 3.
It has been eleven years since the last Spellforce game released. Spellforce 3 brings a ton of new features and interesting mechanics to the strategy genre that I haven’t experienced myself. Spellforce 3 takes traits from traditional RPG games and mixes them with the real time strategy elements you know and love. Lets start with the story to the game. To me, the story felt like any traditional RPG, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it didn’t really do anything to stand out. The characters were all voice acted which brought life to the dialogue for the campaign. The campaign did a great job of showing you how to play the game as you progressed through the story. Your heroes are the characters where the main sources of the RPG elements come in.
Each hero had their own ability trees that could be accessed upon leveling up. There were plenty of choices as far as abilities are concerned, even being able to unlock an additional tree the further you progress through the game. As you go through the game, you can pick up loot, just like in any RPG, and equip them to your main characters. The gear can also vary in rarity, from common epic pieces that give you large stat bonuses. Most importantly, when you equip a hero with a new piece of gear, they change visually, which is paramount in any self respecting RPG. On top of being able to customize your hero’s abilities, you can also divvy out attribute points each time you level up. Sometimes attribute points tend to lead to ruining the build of your characters if you don’t put them in the proper stats, but I didn’t feel that way in Spellforce 3.
At it’s core, Spellforce 3 is a real-time strategy game mixed in with role-playing game elements. The campaign introduces you to the building aspect of the game early on so you can get the hang of it. You get a main building, a capital if you will, and you are assigned workers. The more you build in your city, the more people you will attract. You can use the citizens to do different tasks depending on what building you have. As with all strategy games, you have resources that you have to manage. You will collect things like wood, food, stone and iron. All of these things are important when developing new buildings or units. I do have to say that the regular units felt very underwhelming to use. Fortunately, there were a few, “elite,” units per faction that felt fun to use like the Elve’s Ice Mage or the Orc’s War Troll. It almost feels like they put a ton of focus on making the hero this badass singular unit, like a created character in an RPG. The basic units could be upgraded through each factions special building, like the arcane smith for the Elves. These buildings open up upgrades for your basic units, making them run faster or do more damage. Though the regular units are lacking, the combat is one of the better parts of Spellforce 3.
Each hero feels like their own unique character. Each hero has their skills assigned to certain keys that you can use in battle. Just like in any RPG, there are cool downs for different abilities. This ensures that combat is much more than just right clicking on a group of enemies and sending your army to fight them. You have healers, ranged attackers, mages and physical heroes. Knowing how to mix and match these heroes, will be key in succeeding in battle. The campaign will take you between 20-30 hours to complete. I would recommend replaying the campaign in different difficulties, but there are some bus in the game that sometimes halt your progression. The good thing is, the developers are hard at work patching out all of the bugs that affect gameplay directly. Spellforce 3 is nothing short of a gorgeous title. I was running it at the highest settings possible with an NVIDIA GTX 960 and experienced no frame drops or tearing.
The skirmish mode in Spellforce 3 was a great way to spend time after the campaign was over. Unfortunately, being spoiled by games like, Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2, I was disappointed to see only three different factions to choose from. Each faction had their own unique building style and unique buildings for elite military units. The skirmish mode offered a less quest/objective based look at the game where destroying my enemy was my only concern. As you build your city you can capture outposts to broaden the reach of your kingdom. ON every map, there are also boss creatures to destroy that will give you tons of experience and great loot. Some quality of life improvements could go along way, like adding a fast-walking function or being able to enlarge the mini-map to get some more detail. I had a rough time playing the co-op, again this was due to some bugs, so I wasn’t able to play it a lot. From what I did experience, it worked quite well and was enjoyable to play. With some more polish and attention to bug fixes, I think the developers could make this the next big strategy game. Spellforce 3 is something that I would recommend to even the most basic of RTS/RPG fan. It offers enough to keep your attention, even though it is riddled with bugs in certain areas. Check it out, it can only go up from here!
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Review statement: The copy of this game was provided by the developer for the sake of this review.