SpellForce III

Platform(s): PC
Genre: RPG/Strategy
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: Grimlore Games
Release Date: Dec. 7, 2017


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PC Preview - 'SpellForce III'

by Cody Medellin on July 14, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

SpellForce III blends the best of real-time strategy and role-playing game genres with a rich, deep backstory.

Pre-order SpellForce 3

During E3 2017, we took a look at the campaign structure for SpellForce III. Last seen in 2009, the game concept still feels rather novel, as there aren't too many titles that dare to combine the RTS genre with isometric RPG qualities. From what we saw, the campaign looks to be rather intriguing for those who loved the gameplay of the first title but wanted more modern aesthetics. Recently, we saw how this hybrid would function in a multiplayer environment.

The closed beta featured four maps, and you can play with up to six players on the largest map, either in teams or with everyone fending for themselves. There are already three factions (elves, humans, and orcs) and a decent selection of units and buildings at your disposal. Having said that, this was a very early build, so the descriptions were either placeholders or had mistakes in them, and some categories weren't even functional yet. There's enough here to get a good idea of what to expect down the road.

The multiplayer component is purely RTS. You have buildings to gather resources and create units, all of which can be leveled up if you can pay for it. Hero units have special abilities, and you can create your own units with full hotkey support. There is some streamlining involved, so some of the tedious work is taken care of for you. Just about all of this deals with resource gathering, so gathering wood and stone is automatically done as long as you build the structures to handle that sort of thing. You can assign henchmen to perform the miscellaneous tasks, but the game tends to automatically do it for you, provided you haven't hit your population cap.

However, automation doesn't mean that the game is easier. There are several different resources you'll gather, and some don't come into play until you create buildings that convert one resource into another. It also doesn't help that the resources aren't very plentiful in one area. The best example of this is fish and game, food sources you'll always need but are depleted rather quickly. You'll have to be semi-nomadic if you want your food supply to be steady, and that's not something you experience in many strategy titles.

At this point, if you consider SpellForce III to be solely an RTS, you'll find it to be quite solid. Beyond juggling the various resources, there's nothing too different here compared to other titles in this genre — at least as far as multiplayer is concerned. The AI seems rather competent, and winning matches means learning the lay of the land and employing some strategy without using a large mob to overwhelm the enemy. It'll certainly take loads more matches to get the nuances down, but it's looking good so far.

The series' signature RPG elements come through in unexpected ways. You have the ability to choose stat points and extra powers. Gold is present, which provides you with the chance to buy things like armor, potions, and weapons. There are treasures to discover and non-faction monsters to fight, so there's a sort of microcosm of a typical RPG thrown into the middle of a RTS fight.

The mix of RTS and some basic RPG elements works fine in a multiplayer environment on two fronts. The first is if you're really into your hero units, as the discovery of monsters and items gives you a perfect chance to level them up and come into an enemy camp in a much more powerful state. The second is this feature is beneficial for those who are starting out in RTS games. When you're learning the genre, a decent deal of time in a match is spent waiting around while resources build and armies gather. Here, you're doing something productive with that time by going on small skirmishes while your base takes care of the rest. The presence of monsters also means that your enemies have to deal with them at some point, giving you an advantage if you've somehow made sure they discover enemies that are too strong for them to handle.

Though it is rather early, the presentation is quite good in SpellForce III. It doesn't take much to get the game to a locked 60 fps with ultra settings. A rig with a Core i5-3570 and a Radeon RX 480 8GB did it without breaking a sweat. While the character models are too small to appreciate the work put into them, the environments benefit, with rich colors and small details standing out. There's even a good change of weather systems, so day quickly transitions into night with smatterings of rainstorms here and there. Audio is also good right now, with a nice score that gets you primed for battle. The phrases for both heroes and minions are already worthy of belonging in the finished product instead of simply being placeholder material.

Even at this early state, SpellForce III looks rather intriguing for anyone who wants to take their game online. It has all of the elements that players expect from a competitive RTS title, so fans will feel right at home. At the same time, it has some basic RPG elements that can distract RTS novices while they build up their armies. Look for more coverage on SpellForce III before it releases near the end of the year.

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