Published on January 4th, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
Isometric role-playing games were new and refreshing back in the mid-90s; games such as Baldur’s Gate and Fallout are just two of the many great examples of the genre. A few years prior to their popularity the Real-time Strategy games, such as Dune II and Command and Conquer, had already begun making waves and over the years saw numerous improvements and changes to the traditional RTS formula with games such as StarCraft and the Age of Empires series. Fast-forward to present day and we are seeing a renewed interest in the Isometric RPG, whether this comes as new IP, such as Divinity or Path of Exile, or a revitalization of an older RPG such as Baldur’s Gate.
Somewhere in-between the two genres are where SpellForce 3 comes in…it’s like a soup, where you take a bit of Isometric RPG, add a dash of RTS and mix it all together. Much like soup, the individual ingredients that go into it may not be the very best, but it’s the combination that keeps you drooling for more.
SpellForce 3, as the name suggests, is the third game in the SpellForce universe, yet it acts as a precursor to the games that came before it. You begin the game as Tahar, who is the son of a treacherous mage during the Mage Wars. As part of your own road to redemption you are tasked with investigating a strange plague, known as the Bloodburn, that has swept across the land of Eo with no known cure. The story has the usual mix of interesting characters, betrayal and redemption, all of which tend to lend themselves to a good story.
The story, while not particularly new, is told through the various companions and NPCs you run into along the way. The voice acting is top notch, and along with the beautiful graphics pull the player into the heart of it. The game itself is not short, easily clocking in around 30 or so hours (depending on how long it takes you to complete the numerous side quests and battles along the way). It is told in two distinct parts, one part has you and your small band of followers (up to 4 including yourself), exploring the world, interacting with NPC’s and taking on numerous side quests and challenges as you work to unravel the mystery of the Bloodburn. The other part that has you building bases, creating armies, and leading them, along with your band of companions, into battle.
As I mentioned above, neither of these two distinct ingredients are particularly the best of the genre, but the mix between small group exploration and massive large-scale armored conflict, is something when combined make SpellForce 3 a joy to play. It’s not perfect, the RTS aspect of the game tends to be more about building up large groups of soldiers and marching them into enemy encampments, reminding me a bit of tank rushes from earlier RTS games. There is no pause button, to issue orders to your troops and arrange them where they are most useful. This tends to cause your army to attack every enemy encountered as one big blob. It’s not necessarily bad, and certainly doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the game, but it does take away a lot of strategy when organizing your attacks. You also control your individual party members during these battles, but again without a way to pause and give individual orders, you will find yourself mashing buttons to launch special attacks and selecting your large forces to attack a single enemy or enemy structure. This game could clearly have benefited from a bit more strategic options when battling.
I’ll admit that while I do own all the other SpellForce games, I hadn’t had the chance to play through them prior to reviewing this game. I mention that because playing the previous games in the series is not a requirement to understand and enjoy the story. Many nuances are certainly missed if you haven’t experienced the other games, but I never felt lost going through the story. If anything, I now have the desire to go back and play SpellForce I and II and their expansions.
SpellForce 3, should be commended on its unique blend of RPG and RTS. When your army is needed, it’s because the story has taken you there, and the transition between RTS and RPG is done seamlessly. The characters are interesting (if not entirely memorable), and the battles are massive and while at times can be a bit overwhelming, are enjoyable none-the-less. It did take an hour or two for me to really get into the game as the early stages in the game act as a tutorial and take you through adventuring 101 and RTS 101. It’s necessary and does move the story along, but it just takes a bit for it to get going. Once it does however, you are in for an incredible adventure. If you are a big RPG fan, then this is a game to pick up. If you are strictly an RTS fan, and looking for a game that does this genre extremely well, then there are better games to play. However, If you are interested in or enjoy both, then this is the game for you.
What I liked: Breathtaking visuals, Incredible voice acting, Interest story
What I liked less: Lack of pause feature for better tactical planning, Individual character control and actions could have been done better
4.5 out of 5 stars