RTS style games and RPG games both are always hard sells for people. When you try to mix these two genres you can either get a delicious meal or a recipe they wouldn’t serve in a gas station cafe. So how did Spellforce 3 come out? It was a meal done by a student chef at the local culinary school. It was made with great care and talent, yet the flavors were unbalanced. Let’s talk what works and doesn’t with Spellforce 3. Also, this is probably a good sign not to write reviews while hungry.
SpellForce 3 is an RPG/RTS hybrid set in the world of Eo. After a brief campaign tutorial, you play as the child of Isamo Tahar, the betrayer. The mages of the world tried to uprise against the kingdoms of Eo before they were promptly defeated by the Wolf Guard of Nortander. You fight in the end of the wars as you try to find your place in the world. As you work to keep the peace a new disease called the bloodburn starts to ravage Eo. For newcomers and fans keep in mind this game is a prequel set before the original game when doom was already brought to Eo via the convocation ritual.
So the game plays like a traditional RTS only in the sense that it’s a top down style game where you can manage resources to build buildings and armies to take on your opponents. You can develop unique hero units to add to your armies. These hero units can earn gold in battle to buy equipment or they can find gear from other mobs. As they gain experience they can level up to learn new abilities or increase various attributes. In the single player campaign, you’ll also have dungeons to challenge your hero characters.
So let’s talk about the single player content first. I actually don’t want to spoil any story elements in this review. The campaign was an engaging experience that made you feel like your character mattered in the world. Even If I didn’t know this was a prequel I felt like a world shaper. The campaign was immersive to, I enjoyed learning the mechanics and I loved building gigantic armies to crush anyone who opposed me. Without blatantly saying it this game encourages you to try harder difficulties as you learn. I’ll probably do multiple story runs. The big problem with the campaign is the scale of the world compared to the people. The world itself looks lovely, the first city in the game for example feels gigantic and beautiful despite being a top down game. Yet the animations and the scale of the people compared to the world were awful. The special ability animations of the heros were pretty boring and small. They didn’t give you that feeling of power that these heroes should have. I understand they wanted to make people feel tiny, they wanted to make it feel like the characters had to fight hard to matter in the world. However, immersion should be half open world and half character visuals. Even older RTS games found ways to make the main characters or units livelier and this game needs that. The writing of this game made it easier to look past this in the campaign at least but not everyone will let that carry through. The music is pretty average, it’s the standard.
So, with player vs player some of the problems may be subjective. So the major one for me was how much slower this game was compared to other RTS games. Don’t get me wrong, I am no fan of being cheesed by the many variations of zerg rush strats in RTS games so a slower RTS would be welcome. The problem is it’s too slow. You can’t interact with your worker units at all. You have absolutely no way to optimize how you gather units aside from when you upgrade your buildings and where you place resource buildings. Everything else in resource gathering is automated. Once you assign worker units to a building, they will do all the work without input from you. To increase population for your army you have to capture outposts in preset areas in the map. You can’t build them anywhere you please. While some may call this whining, this takes away strategic options. Once players memorize the map you have little options to surprise your opponent. When it comes to player vs player many matches may come down to who captures the outpost first. What’s to stop opponents from rushing a hero to capture the closest outposts on their opponent’s side of the map?
Despite some potential multiplayer exploits the game is worth it for the single player content. The AI is competent, and the story is a fun bit of fantasy. I might even check out the older games just to see what happens after the prequel.