Spellforce 3 recently had a free weekend ahead of its release on GOG and Steam which I took part in and I thought I would share my thoughts on it. Spellforce for those who are unaware is an RTS/RPG hybrid series of games. The original Spellforce: The Order of Dawn was released in 2003 and had two expansions and then a sequel was released in 2006 Spellforce 2: Shadow Wars which also had three expansions. I was a huge fan of the first two games and had a lot of fun with them, so I was intrigued when I heard that they were making Spellforce 3, this was tempered a little bit by the fact that the last two expansions released for the second game (Faith in Destiny and Demons of the past) were not nearly as polished as the rest of the series, but as it was a new studio creating this one I went into the open weekend a bit of optimism.
The open weekend featured an opening mission of the campaign which is set before the main events of the story, a skirmish mode with 4 maps and multiplayer on the same maps. I spent most of my time with the campaign as that is the real draw for me so that’s what I will be talking about. Straight away playing the game felt very polished, the voice work was great with one of the main characters especially standing out (voiced by Doug Cockle who voiced Geralt in the Witcher 3). The graphics are fantastic the campaign mission took place in a very lush jungle with rivers going through it showing off a lot of really nice looking foliage and ruins. It was a fantastic first map and I hope the full game will take advantage of the engine they are using to travel to a range of different biomes. The map was also a really good size and included a lot of random enemies and loot to find as well as your main enemy base. The gameplay itself would be very familiar to anyone who has played an RTS but with the added RPG elements such as skill trees, side quests and inventory management for your party.
The combat looked and sounded good with a nice variety of units available, and path finding did not seem to be a problem although I found using my characters abilities in combat to be slightly fiddly this would no doubt be a case of getting used to the control scheme. It has a black magic spell to summon zombies and explode their corpses so that’s always going to get a thumbs up from me.
The way resource gathering, and base management are handled in the game is different to the previous games as now the map is divided up into sectors which you claim by having your heroes claim an outpost. Once an outpost is claimed you get a set population of assign to other buildings such as woodcutter or hunter and the outpost can be upgraded to have a larger population. What I thought was interesting about this new system was that the resources would not just be instantly shared between the buildings villagers assigned to the outpost would have to take the required materials from the outpost to the barracks, for instance, every time you started to train soldiers. This adds a little bit more time to your army building but as soldiers are trained in squads instead of individually it makes little overall difference to the time it takes to gather a large force. Interestingly this also applies across sectors so if one of you need stone to build a building, but all your quarries are in different regions then a horse and cart will spawn from that region to carry the required resources to the place that needs them. Overall it adds a sense that your base and regions have a bit of life to them and are not just empty settlements and requires you to pay attention to your supply lines.
The interface and menus in the game work well and are easy to use, I especially liked the fact it includes a bestiary with a list all the creatures you had fought and the skill trees for the different characters had a good range of skills without bogging you down. You could also set up two different control schemes and swap between them with a button in the lower left of the screen making it very user friendly.
Overall, I have to say I cannot wait for the full release and fingers crossed the rest of the game will not disappoint as it’s been a while since I have played a new quality RTS.
Spellforce III releases December 7th