Spellforce is an old real-time-strategy RPG franchise that inspires an awful lot of love and nostalgia in its fans. Now Grimlore Games has released a story-rich standalone expansion, Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest, in the style of Warcraft and Age of Empires.
Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest eloquently chronicles the aftermath of the Purity Wars in Nortander, in which an uneasy peace has settled on the land following wars spurred by anti-magic sentiment.
Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest Review
You—a disgraced general—are abruptly summoned home by your queen to deal with some unrest amongst the dwarven factions stirred up by a mysterious hatemonger. Meanwhile, the dark elves have taken to harvesting souls, because, reasons.
It naturally follows that these two factions, with the human faction planted firmly in the middle, are the focus of the game. Each has its own playable hero with specific characteristics.
The dwarves are your typical tanks, focused on military progression and cunning defense tactics. Dark elves are more DPS-based and spend their time collecting souls from the units they’ve killed; they’re nasty characters and I love them. Humans sit somewhere between them, both psychotically and militarily.
Magic Time, Baby
You’ll choose from nine class trees to level up as you progress through the game and collect skill points to spend. And one of my favourite elements of the game is the ability to choose two skill trees.
This really opens up the option to delve deeply into one class’s abilities or to spread your abilities across the two and become a sort of hybrid class.
For example, I rolled as a healer with a taste for pyromania because I’m a trash monster who likes bad things. However, the game did a great job of making this appear to be a completely run-of-the-mill character class in spite of me, dealing with my choice with dignity and grace.
Every Group Project…
You’ll mostly be involved in group assignments with the people you meet throughout the campaign, which means you’ll get to choose from a pool of characters to make up your desired dream team for each mission. These can be particular characters you’ve met or the more undefined mercenaries.
Along the way, you’ll need to manage their skill progression and gear on top of your own. I really enjoyed this aspect of teamwork; choosing a certain character means a lot of the class-building groundwork has already been done, but you also have the option of skilling up lots of different types of mercenaries to compliment your playstyle.
Your missions will see you either exploring territories and dungeons or sending your armies into battle, because really, what else is there in life?
Meanwhile, in Nortander…
When you’re not off on a mission with your party you can travel back to Greykeep to turn in your quests and collect rewards, or to trade with the town vendors, or simply to have a chat with the many unique characters of the town.
Aside from this, you’ll be concentrating on the RTS side of the game.
It’s beautifully easy to pick this up, with workers assigned by default to each building you place, thereby eliminating much of the grind involved in creating workers and assigning tasks that many RTS aficionados will be familiar with.
All you need to worry about is making sure that you have enough resources to support them. Each different faction has different types of military units it can produce, bringing a nice individuality to them.
Although combat happens in real time—as does everything—you can slow time down by hovering your mouse over an enemy and holding down the alt key, which and bringing up a menu of combat options. This little extra wiggle room on top of everything else you have to think about helps enormously.
And there is a lot to think about in SF3 Soul Harvest.
In fact, this is my sole criticism of the game. This is a complex and often confusing game with just so much juggling involved. You need to take care of resources, skill trees, building plans, gear, and on top of this, micromanage battles that take place.
Whether instigated by you or sprung on you in a total dog move whilst you’re innocently mining moonsilver. Not that that happened to me, of course.
My first few hours were an exercise in bafflement, and there are still moments when I feel I’m not at all sure what’s going on. But there are moments when I eventually find myself emerging into a state of comprehension.
And it feels awesome.
Hhhwat Can I Do Yer Fer?
The production values of Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest simply ooze style; the visuals are stunning and the voice acting is brilliantly charming. And the game certainly isn’t lacking in reasons for you to care about the plight of its world and its inhabitants – I had a blast talking with the NPCs around the world; particularly a certain blacksmith, who had me crying with laughter (as my housemates can attest).
The game’s developers claim that the campaign ought to take approximately 20 hours to complete but I for one took longer than that. I’m a sucker for side quests and I just have to find every last chest in existence.
And then there’s the option to play multiplayer co-op in both campaign and skirmish modes, and is, of course, as amusing or as deeply competitive and friendship-ending as you wish to make it.
If you’ve been hankering for a slick RTS-RPG with polished gameplay and a powerful emotional core, and you don’t mind some serious multitasking, you’ll have a great time with Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest.
Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest was reviewed using a digital key provided by the developer.
Game Title: Spellforce 3 Soul Harvest
Game Description: A polished real-time-strategy RPG with a powerful story in the style of Warcraft and Age of Empires.