SpellForce 3 Reforced is out now, and the series has been around for all but 20 years now! Originating on PC back in 2003 with SpellForce: The Order of Dawn, and 2 expansions following the first game. SpellForce 2 launched in 2006, and had an expansion the following year. Then all went quiet on the SpellForce front until 2012, when a new expansion, Faith in Destiny, launched and then 2014 when a 3rd expansion landed: Demons of the Past.
Originally SpellForce 3 launched in 2017 on PC only, and then had 3 expansions between 2019 and 2021. Here we are mid 2022 and the first SpellForce game has at long last landed on console.
You do get a bit of back story if you have never played one of the SpellForce games. Prior to the first game, the lore is that mages known as The Circle found an ancient text to grant them power. This dangerous ritual named The Convocation shattered the world of EO, leaving smaller land masses where continents used to be, and the mages dissapeared. These land masses surround magical towers now which were created by Aonir: The Star God. One of the mages reappear, who summons a rune warrior (player character) to save the world. SpellForce 3 sees mages being barred from using their magic, if caught they are put to death as heretics.
The introductory first level sees you working overground, introducing you to the RTS (Real Time Strategy) elements, building a base and training more soldiers before attaching a fort. Once inside, the game plays more like a traditional RPG, similar to Baldurs Gate. You will work your way through the fort, cracking open crates and eliminating enemies, before the main objective of stopping a rogue mage and his followers carrying out a ritual. Once this level is complete, a small child is rescued who just so happens to be the son of said rogue mage. He is brought up in the military, but hated by a few of his peers, given his background. This sets the scene for a story following his exploits, and the plight of the mages and the world around you.
The SpellForce series is known as a RPG/RTS hybrid and weaves both aspects into many of the levels. Rather than an open world, you get scenarios for the want of better description. Each scenario will drop you into a locked in area that you can explore. Usually, these areas will have a few different main objectives, as well as smaller secondary quests to follow which grants smaller rewards or extra equipment. The RPG side of things has you – and usually 3 NPCs – running round the map, doing the smaller quests that have blue markers on the mini map, before tackling the main objective. This plays out pretty much like most modern RPGs, with an isometric viewpoint, allowing you to switch out gear and level up yourself and the NPC characters, and pick new passive or active skills from a few different available trees (depending on character type).
Battles see you opening an ability wheel, into which you can put shortcuts to special abilities (yours and party) and potions etc for quick use. The battles can be as tactical as you want them to be. You can select an individual and move them out the way of physical damage. You will be putting mages and archers away from the frontline soldiers, given their lighter armour and so on; or you can just have the group selected, and click on a single enemy and roll that way. If one of your heroes fall in battle, you can simply click on them and they will be revived by one of the other party members. It works well, and you do get plenty time to revive someone before they die completely.
The RTS side of things isn’t quite as involved as the Dawn of War or Command & Conquer games, with multiple trees for all the different soldier and unit types, as well as the buildings and their upgrades. The RTS side of things kind of reminds me of the classic Majesty 1 & 2 games. Usually what happens, is you will do the RPG bits on a level, and then the main story will see some sort of fortification or village that has to be stormed. So you will head back to an area which you will have discovered while exploring one of the side objectives/quests. This is where your base of operations comes into play. You will have the central point which tells you what stocks of food, wood and and other commodities needed for buildings and soldiers, and then build woodsmen, miners and hunters huts to set the ball rolling.
Following that, are barracks and extra billets, so you can have a larger army and once those are built, a few smaller upgrades will be available at the base centre. Later levels, as you play, more buildings unlock and new soldier units etc. As in most RTS games, these tend to be something for which you will need to complete a specific task on a level, and serve as a small tutorial as you go. Additionally, once your main base is captured, you will also be able to capture points around your central area, giving access to extra wood and so on. Of course, while building up your troops ready for the main offensive, you will get a few enemies attacking your base to keep you on your toes! The buildings themselves don’t attack to a cursor like Command & Conquer etc, they will literally build where your cursor is, and there are no orientation options ether. So, it is just a case of finding an open area and lay out the plans.
Once you have acquired enough troops for the main objective, you can pretty much play it as a balance of power, like I usually do, just sending everyone in at once, with extra troops sitting back at the base, ready for any random attacks, or to bolster numbers of the main force. Or you can split units into groups and send out scouts, position archers and send the foot soldiers in with the heroes at the main gate, while another group will flank them. Thankfully, the console control options are on-screen at the bottom-right as, there is quite a bit to take in!
I have to say, I am impressed with SpellForce 3 Reforced landing on consoles. They have got the controls just right, and the visuals are as good as the PC version. Cutscenes are always fully-voiced, and one of the main characters is done by none other than Doug Cockle of ‘Geralt of Rivia’ fame from The Witcher series. Even the side quests have fully-voiced dialogue, which tends to be just text on a lot of games. The RPG and RTS parts of the game are highly playable, and the story is great. I have experienced a few bugs, such as a scene right at the start which didn’t trigger, so I couldn’t build a base or get the extra soldiers needed, but upon restarting the map, it worked just fine. Lighting in dungeons and dark areas can flicker and disappear completely while moving the camera round. Nothing overly bad in all fairness, which will be addressed in any upcoming patches.
SpellForce 3 Reforced is a welcome release on modern consoles and well worth buying.
A big thanks to our friends at THQ Nordic for supplying us with the review code.
- Developer: Grimlore Games
- Publisher: THQ Nordic
- Players: Solo, Co-Op, & PvP
Retro at heart and lover of all things ’80s, especially the computers, the music and the awesome movies and TV shows! Crazy huge retro gaming collection spanning the ’80s and ’90s with hundreds of tapes, discs and carts for various machines on top of a 600+ strong Steam library that is ever-growing. No I am not a serial hoarder, just a dedicated retro gamer!