By Remko Molenaar (Proxzor)
Even though the release of Spellforce 3 is set by the end of the year, THQ Nordic gave us the chance to play the game early, and see the development of the game into a full package game. Since I love strategy games, I didn’t want to miss this chance to see this unique concept of a game come to life. The Spellforce series has always combined RPG elements into a strategy game and made it a deeper experience than just moving units from one place to another in order to win. Spellforce 3 is still far from done, but we got the chance to play against others and the computer in a skirmish mode.
In most strategy games your start is essential to the outcome of the later stages of the game. While Spellforce 3 is somewhat similar, it is also incredibly easy to start up your base. In most strategy games, the micro management of your units is essential to have the most optimal income, but in Spellforce 3 you don’t really individually send your workers around. When you place new buildings around your town center, the game automatically sends the required amount of workers over and have them work their new job right away. While you are able to fire the workers and throw them on different buildings, the initial setting up isn’t too difficult and gives the game a relatively easy and slow pace to a game that gradually gets tougher.
When setting up a base, I quickly felt a bit annoyed. I know that this might be a little nit-picky but I do think that there needs to more thought put into the key bindings. While you are able to change them, the default key bindings aren’t efficient enough to me to really enjoy the game fully. For starters, when you want to make a new building you either click on the button on your screen, or tap the ‘K’ key on your keyboard to fire up the building interface. Having played many of strategy games, I know how building can be somewhat essential in a game and you want to be able to do this easily on the fly while you are moving around your army and whatnot. The letter ‘K’ is a long reach and I do think switching around keybindings to your liking will make the game more enjoyable to each person. Even something simple as attack or move isn’t on the usual keybindings that you would think, and since strategy games of this generation usually have the same set of keybindings for almost everything you can think of, I do think it is necessary to change the default keybindings to give a better experience.
In strategy games the objective is usually very simply and straightforward. You start up with your base, make it as big as possible, and try to create an army at the same time while your opponent likely does the same. Now this isn’t necessarily all too different in Spellforce 3, but the RPG element of the game does make it a bit trickier. In Spellforce 3 you will be able to train a select amount of heroes in a gam. These heroes can be seen as RPG characters: you can level them up, give them gear, upgrade their abilities, and even change their spells if you have different ones in your spellbook. At the start this can be easily done on the fly because there isn’t a whole lot you are doing. But once you get the battle starting and start slashing your way through your opponents, and trying to establish a bigger influence on the map, keeping an eye on your heroes is tough, considering they all have their own unique skillsets and abilities. If you’re fighting at different places on the map, with a hero at each location, it can be especially difficult to not only use all of their abilities efficiently to gain the upper hand, but also level them up and make sure your base is running optimally. Spellforce 3 isn’t a game that gives you a lot of room for thinking. Once the ball starts rolling it doesn’t stop till the game is over.
One of the biggest issues I have with the game right now is how resources are displayed. While it is obvious to spot trees, and water spots around for fishing, I do think it is a little difficult to spot for stone or even hunting. When you start out you usually have a bunch of resources around you to set you up early. Even spotting the first stone blocks was a bit confusing at first. Stone is important because it is used in many things, and thus very essential to your empire. To mine the stone, just like any other resource, you place the required building – in this case the Stonecutter – as close as possible to it and your set workers will mine away and get you your stone income. But with Stones, it is really hard to spot which ones actually do give you stone and which don’t. Hhunting cabins can also be a little confusing as to where you should place them, especially since the wild life doesn’t stand still on the spot. They obviously move around, and what happens when those specific animals are gone? While you can click on the cabin and see whats around you for more information, I think the game doesn’t necessarily give you the information well enough on the fly to really notice it at the later stages of the game. You will begin to question yourself if you are really using your workers optimally, while you are at a stage of the game where you do not want to think about them all too much.
As you can tell, Spellforce 3 is a really difficult and deep game. It isn’t a game where you just jump in and expect to be the best strategist ever. It is a very deep game that requires a lot of micromanagement, and the only time you can actually take a breath is when the game is over. Spellforce 3 is a very mature game, and this can be seen back in both the controls and the actual gameplay. The graphics also portray this very well. Think of a better looking up-to-date Age of Empires, with a slower pace and more serious look towards on how the game should work and feel. You aren’t alone in the world either. Obviously you have your opponents, but there are also monsters living in the map that you will definitely have to slaughter to continue your conquest and hunt for your enemy. Most races in the game have their unique style, but also have this mature gritty look to them that makes it more realistic. Each also have their own unique set of heroes and their own design in buildings, so giving your opponent a quick look can usually tell you what race they are and what they might be focusing on. Still, the game has such a depth that you never really know for sure until your opponent goes on the offense.
I can already tell that Spellforce 3 is headed the right way. Launch is currently set for December 2017, and from what I have seen in the development so far it is looking to be a very promising game. While I do have my issues, they aren’t necessarily any issues that make me not want to play the game. They’re more like personal preferences that I would see changed into making the game a better overall experience. So far in the beta we were only able to play against the computer or others online and haven’t seen anything of the campaign as of yet. Seeing Spellforce 3 shape up nicely, I do really want to see more of the game, and cannot wait to get it in my hands in later this year.
Disclosure: A beta access key was given to us for review purposes.