Games of the Year

SpellForce 3

SpellForce 3 Screenshot 1
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It is the year 518. The rebellion of the renegade mages, known as the Mage Wars, has been quashed by the Crown. However, it was a pyrrhic victory: whole regions have fallen into anarchy, refugees roam the lands in search of shelter, and a mysterious, deadly plague called the “Bloodburn” has arisen and is spreading rapidly.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

Reforced version is Spellforce 3 like how it should have been done from start on. Polished gameplay, all the improvements from addons merged back into base game. Feels like a new game and I'm eager to finish it again with a new playthrough.
Really appreciate the effort, this is how updates and long term support should be done. Double thumbs up.

Review from Steam

Rating: ★★★☆☆
(3½ stars if half-stars were possible - it's a good RPG / RTS hybrid)
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Review:
Spellforce 3 is a hybrid between an RPG and a RTS game - though I think it leans more on the RPG-side than RTS. I actually prefer it like this, because the RTS mode of the game is much weaker than the RPG part - it's a mind numbing chore of unlimited enemy waves coming at you.
Audiovisually the game is very good - in fact I think it's the best looking RTS game I have seen, though things tend to meld together into the environment so it's sometimes difficult to see what's part of the environment and what's part of the actual gameplay. This is less of a problem in the expansion areas though.
Units look good and have good animations, but the attacks feel too "soft", if that makes any sense. Like in blizzard games you "feel" the impact of attacks, there's sounds and impact effects. Spellforce 3 just doesn't have that.
The sounds do their job just fine, and the music is.. well it's pretty good. Though it can get annoying over time when it loops the same battle sequence over and over again. The game's voice actors are also pretty good in my opinion. Overall it's a solid package audiovisually.
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Ok so the technical side is good, what about the gameplay itself?
This is where the game gets very divisive for me. The RPG part is good, and it gives a feeling of old RPGs where you move your party like an RTS, such as Baldurs Gate / Icewind Dale or the newer Pillars of Eternity.
You have a party of four heroes (more characters than that available, but you can choose your party every mission) and they have their skill trees, attributes, items etc. like in RPGs. It just works.
However, the RTS part of the game is mediocre at best. It does feel different from other RTS games, but it doesn't feel that fun for me. You build your base a little like in C&C, you just click a button and place the building where you want. You don't micro your workers or anything. However, the map is divided into sectors, which limit where you can build. Each sector also has a limited number of workers which you must distribute to different resources. Defensive towers also use these workers up so if you want to defend, your economy suffers.
The units just feel like a clump of stats, I didn't get a "bond" (for lack of a better word) for the units. Usually in RTS games certain units become my favorite ones but in Spellforce 3 this wasn't the case.
The campaign's RTS levels also feel like a mind numbing chore with their unlimited enemy waves. The Dwarf companion says "More fighting, does this never end?" and that's my thoughts exactly. It's too much of an endurance contest and it's tiring.
Later the enemy can be cheesed with certain characters / units, quickly striking their capital down which causes all of their buildings / units to die. And the game pretty much encourages you to cheese it like this, because doing it the "proper" way (taking over all sectors) is just slow and boring.
Also I think the game should mark items on the map after you've explored the black fog. Honestly it pissed me off how I had to spend 20 minutes AFTER I won an RTS map and scan through the whole map to find stuff I missed. And it's still entirely possible to miss artifact parts because some of them require you to rotate the camera to even see! Fortunately the expansions didn't have this - they don't have artifact pieces hidden around the maps.
Another thing that annoys me a lot is the slow movement speed of the heroes. Yes there's items and abilities that give more movement speed, but.. eh. Slapping a +25% bonus to a SLOW speed doesn't make it fast, it will still be slow. The maps are generally very large and if you're just exploring the slow speed becomes really annoying over time. Yeah I understand it's good that units / heroes aren't too fast in combat, but they could be like twice as fast when out of combat so the exploring wouldn't be such a boring chore.
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Overall, I think Spellforce 3 is a good game. It appeals to quite specific gamers though, as it's a hybrid between RPG and RTS. If you like only one of these genres, then it most likely won't be that enjoyable for you.
Honestly I think the main game (Spellforce 3 Reforced) is the weak link of the bunch. The expansions were much more enjoyable for me. Especially the first expansion (Soul Harvest) was really good in my opinion. It cut out the boring parts of the game and was more focused on the good stuff.
The second expansion (Fallen God) started out quite boring in my opinion - but it did get better later, so I still think it's better than the main game.
The expansions are stand-alone so you could basically just get them and skip the main game if you're not that interested in the story. But yeah, if you like both RPG and RTS genres, then Spellforce 3 is worth getting - though I still recommend getting it from a sale.
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Summary:
The Good 👍
+ One of the best looking RTS games
+ Good RPG-side
+ Expansions worth it - better than main game
The Bad 👎
- Mediocre RTS-side
- Would be nicer if the game marked items on map
- Slow movement of Heroes

Review from Steam

This game was recommended to me by a friend, specifically to play in co-op after the big update.
I'm a huge fan of DnD style RPGs and Age of Empire base building-style RTS and this delivered on both fronts.
Its not a master of either of those aspects, but it does them well all the same.
RPG Aspect:
You can customize and build your characters to have very unique builds and fill roles for the party. For example, I chose the defensive tree and the healer tree for my "paladin" style character. He could taunt enemies and regenerate anyone in the area, while sponging and layering up AoE defense.
Gear plays a big role too, with very natural progression and unique items that give very fun mechanics to play with and augment your characters.
RTS Aspect:
The RTS sections were actually my favorite part of the game. Some levels are very unique with an interesting twist that will force you to think on your feet and adapt your playstyle.
The various factions you can play all have varying playstyles and flavors that can change how you engage with the scenarios. I love all the factions, but the dark elves and trolls are by far my favorites.
Some sections will even give you a choice of 3 factions to play if you have a preference of one faction.
Campaign Aspect:
The campaign is a pretty good length, maybe 20-40 hours depending on how much you want to explore.
The story is well-written and engaging. The voice acting is great and the game is full of talent.
The visuals are excellent and make the environments very immersive. The loading screens have some of the most beautiful art I have ever seen in a video game, which even prompted me to purchase the digital extras to look at all the art-books (which I have never done for any other game).
DLC Aspect:
The expansions are great and serve to expand on the world and the gameplay, adding more of what is already a great game. Fallen God is especially charming, following the trolls and getting a deeper insight into them as a race. (spoiler: they're bloody adorable).
Difficulty Aspect:
The game can be sometimes too easy and sometimes extremely punishing.
I recommend playing the game on hard always. Circle Mage difficulty can be pretty sadistic with the enemy spawns and resources.
And if you want to play on normal or easy, no one would fault you and honestly you dont lose out on much in the way of overall gameplay fun.
Negative Aspects:
The game lost some points for me with a little bit of tedium in some of the missions.
The core game requires you to do a lot of walking sometimes which can grow a bit tiresome.
Dialogue can also drag on a bit and sometimes i found myself skipping through less important dialogue.
Only a minor complaint over all though.
(Edit): The workers never shut the hell up XD
TLDR:
An excellent RPG and RTS for anyone who loves this fantasy genre, with something for everyone.
Even if the RTS puts you off, you'll find yourself enjoying it once you've done a mission or two.
Brilliant fun for CO-OP especially.
9/10 - Highly recommend, a real diamond in the rough.

Review from Steam

A hidden gem of a game, it's hard to overpraise this game. Music, writing, visuals, atmosphere, voice acting, story are all way better than they have the right to be.

Review from Steam

Remember Warcraft 3?
Do you miss the story rich RTS campaigns of the old?
Are you waiting for something like Warcraft 4 or Starcraft 3?
Yeah, thats never happening, blizzard died in 2013, this is the next best thing. Play it for the campaign.

Review from Steam

Note: In early 2022 the devs released a complete overhaul of the original Spellforce 3 game to bring it up to speed with the enhancements made in the DLCs. However, they also changed many aspects of the campaign, including quests and item placement. Any Google search results you read prior to 2022 are likely out of date, and the Spellforce 3 wikis you can find are also out of date. Likewise, old reviews are out of date.
This is a review of Spellforce 3 : Reforced, the overhauled version of the game.
Spellforce is a hybrid RPG/RTS series. The first two games are some of my favorite games of all time. It may seem like an odd concept, pairing RPG with RTS, but if you think of fantasy stories like The Lord of the Rings, they do tend to include both adventuring components and battle components. What I like most about Spellforce as a series is that you are a hero with an army, so you can get the full Aragorn / Gandalf experience. The games divide the campaign into missions, more like a typical RTS game, but the missions vary from completely RPG-focused to mostly RTS-focused or, most commonly, a mixture of the two. For people who only love one style of game, the results may be disappointing. The RTS elements are fairly simple, so the real RTS nuts may be dissatisfied. The RPG elements are not on par with the best Bioware / Bethesda have to offer. However, both systems are still good, better than what average examples of the genre provide, and the whole is better than the sum of the parts. What makes the series for me though are the storylines, which are on par with some of the best RPGs and better than you would expect from any RTS.
Spellforce 1 and 2 are much older games, and Spellforce 3 provide significant upgrades to all systems and graphics, particularly the RTS component. Fans of the older games may complain that Spellforce 3 is too RTS focused, although I do not agree. I think the RTS elements of the older games were fun, but severely undercooked. It was relatively easy to defeat the RTS components, which people playing more for the RPG element may consider an advantage. The AI in the older games was relatively passive, and you could mostly go about your business without any serious threat from the AI until you decided to go on the offensive. Spellforce 3 is not like that. The AI is very aggressive and will throw enemies at you constantly, forcing you to build up armies as quickly as possible. You cannot be complacent. It is not, however, difficult as some may claim. It really can shock you if you are used to the more sedate pace of ealrier games, but once you understand how the AI thinks, it is not hard to get the upper hand. In particular, a lot hangs on how quickly you can expand your territory early on. I found if I went out and claimed a few outposts, and then used my heroes to sow chaos in the enemy region, I could leave a lot of my territory only lightly defended because the AI will focus on the heroes.
I'm not an expert in RTS games, so I cannot judge how good the RTS in Spellforce 3 is. It works a lot better than previous games, and I think it is a relatively nice introduction to RTS.
The game is not all RTS though. The gameplay loop is typically go to a region, do some adventuring, activate a RTS sequence, complete the RTS, do some more adventuring. What varies is how soon the RTS starts. The RPG elements in Spellforce have always been fun, if not terribly complicated. Spellforce 3 improves a lot on these systems by providing more robust skill trees. Your main character will have three skill trees, one of which is Leadership and the other two you choose. You find and recruit companions as you progress, and they tend to have a unique skill tree that no other character, including the main character, can have, plus one "normal" skill tree. This results in all the companions being somewhat unique in abilities. You can only have 3 companions with you at any time and, like a Bioware-style rpg, you can switch companions in your home base. You may get jealous of the companions' unique skill trees, but part way through the game your main character gets access to some unique skills of his/her own.
The main character, the companions and all the NPCs are fully voice acted, and the voice acting is excellent. There is a lot of dialogue, with any conversation usually presenting the player with 2-6 options. The game highlights which options are just informational, so if you are in a hurry you can skip those, and if you want to hear all the dialogue you know which options will advance the conversation and which will just loop back to the options. You can talk to your companions between missions, and as the game progresses they slowly reveal more of their back story. There are no romances though. Companions will also banter on missions, and the incidence of this is very infrequent so it does not get annoying.
I played through the game on Normal difficulty. The first few missions were quite difficult because your heroes lack abilities and items, and the RTS AI is very aggressive. If I can offer a tip that will improve your experience: focus on Constitution early on so that your hero can wear better armor and has more health. This will help prevent your hero from dying before you can react to the situation. Your main character does not need a healing skill because you get a companion with one early on, but make sure you develop you companion's healing ability. The game does provide you with potions that allow you to respec your hero or companions, so you cannot really mess up your build. Just remember that you only have so many quickslots, so giving any single character many different active abilities is a mistake because you will not be able to slot them all.
Once you beat the first few missions, the game becomes much easier. In fact, I found it got too easy. You can change difficulty on the fly as it just seems to effect the resistances (armor) of your heroes, troops and the enemy. On normal difficulty, you can make your hero almost entirely immune to damage by the end of the game. Switching to Hard, your resistances are lowered. At the beginning of the game on Hard you can have negative resistances, except in heavy armor. I don't know if difficulty affects the RTS component. I do not think so, although the enemy has higher resistances.
It took me nearly 80 hours to beat the campaign. I am very slow though.
Overall, Spellforce 3 is an excellent game and the Spellforce series as a whole deserves way more recognition. Although Spellforce 3 massively improves the mechanics of the RPG/RTS hybrid, I prefer the earlier games, despite their questionable mechanics. Spellforce 3 has graphics and a camera designed for a RTS game, whereas the older games had graphics and a camera that could do both RPG and RTS very well: you could zoom really far in an play the game like a third-person RPG if you wanted to, which I did, and then zoom all the way out for the RTS portions. However, Spellforce 3 is a much more polished game, and the fact that the devs released a major overhaul of the game shows that the people making it really appreciate their customers. I just wish the game was more popular because there is a good RPG here and a good RTS, and the whole is way more than the sum of the parts.

Review from Steam

The storyline is really very interesting. The gameplay itself gets quite repetitive (but that's the nature of this type of game - each new map means you start from scratch without two pieces of wood to rub together and have to build up an army), but the story and the characters are great.
When I bought this, I also bought the two expansions. I played everything in reverse order - Fallen God, then Soul Harvest, then the main game. There are common thread and story characters that wend their way through all three, which is also rewarding. Very fun game, I recommend it. :)

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