I got the chance to give Grimlore Games’ SpellForce 3 a try while it’s still in its beta phase. SpellForce 3 is a conventional real-time strategy game with some surprising RPG elements. The game’s campaign mode is still not available to the public, so all of my time was spent in the multiplayer mode.
As of right now there are three races available: the Elves, Humans, and Orcs. I spent a lot of time playing against the AI so I could get a feel for how everything works. My initial impression was that the game feels a lot like Warcraft 3, which definitely isn’t a bad thing.
I enjoyed the game’s RPG elements a lot. You can summon a hero right from the start and that hero will act as the driving force for your expansion on the game’s map. Heroes are the only ones who can conquer new territories and take control of outposts. You can upgrade their stats, skills, and armor. It really makes your hero feel a lot more personable and important as opposed to having a hero with preset stats.
SpellForce 3 does a good job at encouraging you to explore the map; in fact, if you don’t you’ll lose. You get a set amount of workers at your starting base so the only way to gain more resources is to expand your territory.
Throughout your expansion, you’ll find large glowing pillars called Godstones placed all throughout the map. You can use these to revive and summon heroes as well as teleport your units to different locations or bases you have conquered other Godstones at. This adds a good layer of strategy as you can close in on your opponents unexpectedly and defend your bases from enemy attacks with the help of these stones.
Combat in SpellForce 3 was fun. Each set of units has different strengths and weaknesses so your success in battle is definitely dependent on how you use your troops and their positioning. With each faction I definitely would have appreciated more units that stood out. While there’s definitely some variation among units in each army, no particular faction is more interesting than another.
The beta gave me access to four of the game’s maps. Each one had exceedingly different terrain when it came to comparing one another. Exploring each map was a lot of fun because I never knew what I’d run into. Sometimes bands of spiders would be guarding one base in some castle ruins, while one territory might give me access to a fishing location. Monsters also vary throughout the land, as well as valuable resources that’ll be used to expand your forces and territory.
Aesthetically, SpellForce 3 looks like an old school RTS game, more akin to something like Age of Empires, Stronghold, or Warcraft for instance. Even the game’s menus hold true to that retro feel and look. Textures did look a bit ugly up close, so I hope they can be improved in the final version of the game. I’d also like to see some more gameplay mechanics in the final release so that SpellForce 3 can differentiate itself from its competition.
As of right now I don’t feel like the developer is doing enough here. I’d love to see more varied units and factions as well as some new buildings. As of right now, the game feels more like the first iteration of a game as opposed to being the third game in a series.