SpellForce 3... reviewed!

SpellForce 3 reminds me of why I'm a fan of RTS games, but it also reminds me of why they're frustrating as hell... sometimes.

Variety is what we generally try to present to you, which means we don't always get to play some of our favorite genre's... so getting back around to an RTS like SpellForce 3 was like "YES!" (for me). This is actually the first time I've ever played a game from the SpellForce franchise, but doing reviews has gotten me to put my stubbornness aside that required me to play previous installments first. That said... SpellForce 3 actually takes place before the first installment (about 500 years or so before the convocation) so that's cool and if I decide to backtrack... it would basically be moving ahead in the story. SpellForce: The Order of Dawn (the first game) took place after the convocation, followed by the second installment that took place a few centuries after the convocation... which is the central apocalyptic event in the SpellForce universe.

It was a ritual done by the Circle Mages that devastated the world. Yikes!

(Anyway) I do recommend playing "Scenario: Old-Haalayash" before jumping into the main SpellForce 3 campaign. This particular scenario plays out before the events of the main campaign, which definitely played on my stubborn side. The option to at least get up to speed with this mission... (versus reading or watching what happened prior) could not be ignored. Not only that, if you're a noob, you need to shake the rust off or you need to learn the user interface of this game... this mission is perfect. The initial missions of the main game get you up to speed as far as learning how to play, but you get backstory and experience in this scenario. So I recommend starting here... even if you can't transfer that experience or the items over to the main game.

Here is gameplay of the full mission (broken up due to size), which leaves the main campaign unseen for those of you looking to get the game.

SpellForce 3 places you in the shoes of the Betrayer's Child... which its probably safe to assume that no one would want to be known as... in real life. You can choose the name, sex and appearance of this character (to a degree) before starting his or her journey. This is a nice touch, though I would've preferred something a bit more custom... its better than nothing. Your father/the betrayer is known as... Isamo Tahar, a mage rebel. He convinced several Royal Houses of Northander to turn against the Queen to join forces with him... in hopes to put an end to the persecution and discrimination of mages in Northander. You happened to be saved from execution by the commander of a Royal Army elite unit, General Sentenza Noria... which lands you on the side of the Royal Army where you begin your playable journey just after the end of the wars.

The playable adventure itself involves you setting out to find who or what is behind something known as Bloodburn (that looks like a plague) decimating parts of Nortander. During your journey, you will meet new characters and factions to join forces as you dive deeper into the story. I won't be going into detail about that, but I will say that (for me) the story is pretty good... and it flows well.

SpellForce 3 is a real-time strategy/role-playing game, but... it also has something for fans of base building. I like when hybrids hit it out of the park, and this game is almost the perfect blend.

The base building comes into play when you're taking on the opposition, so it's not something you'll be stuck doing all the time. It's a nice touch though... just be prepared to race against the clock in order to get your base prepared for on-coming attacks when battling some enemies; you also have to build your offense to take care of that threat at its source via a tried and true Click 'n Fight system.

You have a variety of characters at your disposal once they join your squad, just make sure that you take advantage of the fact that you have variety. Equip them with the right weapons to make sure you can bring the hand to hand combat + ranged attack options. Not only that... make sure you take advantage of the skill tree to have a full circle of ability during your adventure... so that you can bring the pain and the healing. Trust me, you'll need it.

These battles can really feel like overwhelming tasks at times (to the degree of "WTF?! Is this even beatable?!" as you increase the difficulty) but stick to it... even if you have to save your progress in the middle of the battle based on you reaching strong momentum in battle just in case it goes left. My frustration came from not being able to zoom out and collectively see the areas all my soldiers were located. That's something I appreciated about the RTS game... RUSE. Don't get me wrong, you can zoom out to a nice extent, but not as much as I'd prefer because I'd like to see what's going on and act accordingly. You can click on the map to see that location or scroll to that location, but a zoom similar to RUSE would've been a plus. Also the ability to lock the camera onto selected characters.

I think zooming may have been limited due to the level of detail this game has... I mean the environments are beautiful in SpellForce 3. I found myself just zooming in and out to appreciate the work the developers put in at times, and I still do, to be honest. So visually they knock this game out of the park and the audio quality is awesome (minus hearing "We're being... attacked!" one too many times). Go up to the video above and really listen to the background music, the sounds in the environment, the voiceovers and of course the sounds of battle and other sound effects. Use quality speakers or headphones... and just listen, they really deliver in this game.

Outside of the single-player, you also have PvP multi-player action... as well as a co-op mode that I really look forward to trying out (aka I haven't played it yet). So replay value is here, which also comes by way of 39 Steam Achievements and the SpellForce 3 Editor allows you to create levels and so forth. Modders should be able to appreciate the mod tools... and I'm actually looking forward to seeing what is created.

Price wise... I don't have any complaints about the full retail price because you get a fully satisfying experience with depth by way of an RTS/RPG masterpiece that's actually worth it. Nuff said. I don't see anything fit to really be a con... but I will say that I'm not the biggest fan of rotating the camera in search of items in the environment. They're almost swallowed up by the detail in some locations, but just consider that as an added challenge since it doesn't make or break the game.

Overall, I think that SpellForce 3 is a force to be reckoned with in the RTS/RPG genre... and the man hours have been well spent because this is one beautiful looking adventure with a story packed with depth and audio I can appreciate.

Fun factor: 4

Visually: 5

Replay value: 5

Price: 5

"4.75 / 5 Cool Points"

Brought to you by the... Baby Fu Clothing Co!

THQNordic provided SDGT Entertainment with a copy of SpellForce 3 to review.