Role-playing and real-time tactics have been a staple of the video game industry for decades. Spell force 3 is the mixture of RPG & RTS in a world that is beautiful as well as dangerous. Some cross-genre games are blended like ingredients in a mixing bowl, while others let their two halves live side-by-side.
SpellForce 3 fits into the latter category, pairing role-playing and real-time-strategy elements. These metronomic shifts between the big picture of a wider war and small moments are rare in RPGs, no doubt in large part because of the problems they present for intuitive play. Most skirt the issue by barely involving the protagonists in the larger conflict at all, letting the battles unfold in flashy cutscenes or even in text descriptions in loading screens. But Spellforce 3 is totally unique and different in this regard.
Spellforce 3 is an RPG-RTS hybrid game developed by Grimoire games and published by THQ Nordic. The game was released for Microsoft Windows on 7 December 2017 in Steam and GOG.
Story & Narrative
Isamo Tahar, a powerful mage has started a rebellion against the crown titled the Mage Wars. General Sentenza Noria, Commander of the elite Wolf Guard, is tasked by the queen of Nortander to travel to The Eye in the region known as Marshlands to eliminate Isamo. But soon the focus shifts to his son, and the story portrays how his son saved humanity from great crisis and darkness rising within the Greykeep and outside.
The story gives enough incentive for you to buckle up, swords unsheathed. Most of the time it’s well written and is paced accordingly with some twists here and then. But that doesn’t mean everything is great and dandy, however. The story can feel shallow at some parts like there is high stake but everyone is carefree like nothing is going to happen, talking and going about their business casually. But leave that out, and the campaign is pretty solid.
Gameplay & Mechanics
SpellForce has been doing this unique mix of role-playing and real-time strategy since 2003, and never before has the mix worked so well. The game uses a traditional isometric perspective that players can rotate fully to display the environment. Depending on the level, players assume control of a single character or a group of characters which can be sent to different places on the map. Simplicity is the key, as seen in the way it bundles all abilities for your four-person party into a simple action wheel that pops up when you hold Alt over an enemy. The RTS sequences require base building and gathering resources, but they’ve spread fairly far apart and the labourers and caravans usually do their work without outside management. By keeping the RPG and RTS systems uncomplicated, SpellForce 3 ensures that they can both live on the battlefield at once without ever becoming too much to handle. Played in co-op mode with up to three players, SpellForce 3 can even feel a bit like a traditional RPG, although unfortunately, only the host gets a persistent save.
Character progression involves few surprises compared to other D&D-inspired games, and each character has access to just a few main skill classes and branching abilities. And since you gain experience fairly quickly, you can ultimately sample a lot of what’s on offer. There are various schools of magic, combat skills like brutality and archery, and all-around categories such as leadership, with branching talents that include the usual range of attacks, buffs, and spells.
Combat is equally forthright. It’s all real-time and rather chaotic, without a tremendous amount of thinking required in a given moment. Consider it a blend between the tactical battles of traditional RPGs and the more frenetic hack-and-slash of action RPGs. Combat is never so incessant as to grow tedious, and individual battles seem to fly by. The pacing of these sections is spot-on, with one distinct map after another pulling you into ever-more exciting bouts. Oddly enough, there is no There’s no tactical pause to issue orders to your party. But it’s a minor annoyance and Spellforce 3 simplifies and merges with success, almost all of its RPG and RTS mechanics.
The game generally plays well. But there are some balancing issues during the strategy phase, with an AI that is too aggressive and overwhelming. Some bugs and other little technical problems do not sink the production at all but prevent it from reaching the top. There were tons of bugs at initial release. Sometimes it felt like that the players were, in fact, beta testers. But now game most of the bugs have been squashed, thanks to dev continuously patching the game.
Population caps regularly get in the way of fully manning facilities. This forces you to quickly expand territory and earn more population by setting up new outposts, but manpower always seems to lag behind. Needing to wait for carriages to ship resources to new outposts causes further delays. You can’t wait around to let stockpiles grow because enemy AI is always on the move and attack almost immediately. Resources are also extremely limited, which forces you to push onward so that you can keep the goods flowing and keep churning out troops.
Graphics, Sound & Performance
Spellforce 3 is downright amazing looking. The impressive presentation gives the game real visual impact whether you are playing adventurer or general. Maps are extremely detailed, with lots of little touches and great variety in background scenery. There is a very good balance here between trudging through murky caverns and wandering through forests and plains. The one drawback is that the settings can be too detailed at times, and things like chests and other points of interest are not all that easy to notice. You need to swivel the camera a lot to ensure that you don’t miss anything. And all of this fidelity comes with the price of lengthy loading times, too. Venturing into any new locale drops you to a screen that gives you percentages on loading things like “Initializing Creature Resources,” which pulls you right out of the moment. SpellForce 3 uses a brand new game engine, capable of generating a detailed open world with entire virtual civilizations living within it and the game benefits from it. On a GTX 980Ti, the game ran maxed out with over 90+ fps at 1080p.
Music is equally as impressive as most of the graphics, with some epic fantasy orchestral tracks, mystical chanting, and all the fantastic and powerful tunes you’d expect from an RPG. SpellForce 3 does not disappoint in this regard. Sound effects are your standard stuff and nothing too amazing. They’re all well produced and rendered properly. Everything sounds the way it should.
The game is almost fully voiced, with all of the important scripted conversations being spoken by professional-sounding voice actors. They do a good job of it. Emotional sections can come off as lifeless, but some of the voice actors do manage to get into their characters’ role quite well.
Spellforce 3 is one of most beautiful rts titles on the market as of now. Combat is fun and most of the time the game feels like a lovechild of Baldur’s Gate and Warcraft 3. Bugs, technical issues and a story that is shallow in some parts pulls-down an otherwise strong and enjoyable game.