Originally released back in late 2017, SpellForce 3 was an interesting blend of video game mechanics. Combining an RPG with a RTS is a really interesting idea. Unfortunately I haven’t yet had the opportunity to play the original game. That said I was given the opportunity to check out SpellForce 3’s standalone expansion SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest. As I am a fan of RPGs and RTS games I was intrigued to see how the two mechanics would work together. SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest is a fun and unique experience that should please both fans of RPGs and RTS games.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Grimlore Games and THQ Nordic for the review copy of SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.
In SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest three years have passed since the Purity Wars. You play as a disgraced general that has gone into exile. The Queen calls you to return to your homeland though as things are not as peaceful as they appear. The Dwarves are fighting among themselves putting their realm in danger. A cult of Dark Elves are also harvesting souls for an unknown reason. You must gather your allies together in order to try and prevent a catastrophe that threatens the world.
As I said at the beginning of this review I haven’t played the original SpellForce 3 or any of the other games in the franchise. I bring this up because I am going to approach my review from a different point of view than people that have played the other games in the series. For the most part the game does a really good trying to make the game accessible for players that haven’t played the other games in the series while not bogging down the experience too much for people that have played the other games in the series. The game does throw a lot at new players at the beginning of the game. I applaud the game for doing a good job giving the game a tutorial for new players while not being overly long/boring for players familiar with the series. The story is also crafted in a way where you can jump in without knowledge of the previous games and mostly know what is going on. There are some moments where the game talks about characters and events (presumably from previous games in the series) that are missing something without context, but you shouldn’t have too many issues with the story. While I would say that it is probably preferable to play the other games in the series before SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest, you can still enjoy the game if you just jump into the series at this point.
So the main reason why I was intrigued by SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest is that I thought the idea of combining a RPG with a RTS was a really interesting idea. Ever since I was a kid I have been a fan of the RTS genre while also enjoying RPGs. I was curious how the two mechanics would work together though. I have to say that the two mechanics work surprisingly well together. At first I found the combination kind of strange but it makes sense when you think about it. In most RPGs you play a military leader/hero. It makes sense that you would occasionally control troops which is where the RTS mechanics come into play.
So let’s begin with the RPG mechanics. The RPG mechanics are pretty typical of the genre. You control a group of heroes. Each hero in the game has two specialties which dictates what type of combat they utilize (melee, ranged, magic, etc.) and what special abilities they have access to. You use your heroes to explore areas and fight enemies to complete various missions. This rewards you with experience which you can use to upgrade your abilities. You will also acquire gold and equipment which you can equip your heroes with in order to improve their skills. Basically if you have ever played an RPG before you should have a good idea of what to expect from this aspect of the game. SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest doesn’t really revolutionize the genre, but it doesn’t really need to as it does a good job with what it already has.
I would say that the biggest issue that I had with the RPG elements of SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest are mostly attributable to me not having played the other games in the series. When the game starts up it does bombard you with a lot of choices and information that is kind of hard to process. I think this is partially due to the game giving you quite a few customization options. You can either spend quite a bit of time trying to process it all or you can kind of wing it and learn as you go. As you start playing the game you will start to adjust.
As far as the RTS mechanics they are similar to your typical RTS game and yet different at the same time. At its core the gameplay is the same as you gather resources to create buildings, purchase upgrades and train troops. You then use those troops to try and defeat your enemies. The one area where the RTS mechanics differ quite a bit is in the resource gathering. I have played quite a few different RTS games and yet I haven’t seen another game handle resource gathering in the same way as SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest. Basically the whole map is broken down into different sections with each section controlled by a “command center” of sorts. Instead of creating worker units to gather resources and build buildings, the game has workers reside in the command centers that are sent out to do tasks. These workers are used to build buildings and gather resources. In order to receive more workers you need to either purchase upgrades or build buildings that will increase the total. I think this is an interesting idea but it did add a learning curve to the game.
For the most part I really liked the RTS mechanics. As the game also includes RPG mechanics it was pretty obvious that the RTS mechanics weren’t going to be as deep as those in games that are solely RTS games. Nevertheless I think the game’s RTS mechanics still have quite a bit of depth to them. Each of the factions in the game have their own unique play style which should bring quite a bit of replay value to the RTS battles. While I have not played the original game to compare them, based on other player’s thoughts the RTS mechanics appear to be one of the areas where SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest has improved significantly upon the original SpellForce 3. People who enjoy RTS games should enjoy the RTS mechanics of SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest.
While I enjoyed SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest I think the biggest problem with the game is that it gives you a little too much to manage at any given time. Typically you are controlling four heroes at the same time. As all of the heroes have different special abilities you have to manage all of them at the same time. Maybe it was just me but I found it hard to manage four heroes at the same time. It is hard to have much of a strategy with all of this going on at the same time. Combat usually ends up becoming a brawl where you just send all of your heroes into combat at the same time. It is hard to keep track of all of your heroes’ health at the same time which leads to your heroes dying quite a bit. Thankfully it is pretty easy to revive your heroes. When you throw in the RTS mechanics there are even more things to keep track of. For this reason if possible I would highly recommend playing the game cooperatively since you can then divvy up some of these tasks so one player doesn’t have to handle them all at the same time.
On the story front I think the game does a pretty good job. Despite not understanding everything that the characters talk about (due to not playing the other games in the series), the story is interesting. The game appears to have a detailed lore and it does a good job building its world. The story takes your typical fantasy storyline and tweaks it to create a unique story. On top of it all the story is helped by the game’s voice overs. All of the dialog in the game is voiced and the voice overs are good. While I have only played a portion of the game, I am interested in seeing where the rest of the story will go.
The game’s visuals do a fantastic job supporting the game’s story as well. For an RPG/RTS game I have to say that I was honestly surprised by how impressive the graphics are. Despite the camera being zoomed out, it was still stunning how much detail there is in the game world. The only real complaint that you could have with the visuals is that the game seems to be pretty taxing on computers. I didn’t encounter any issues, but I was playing the game on a computer quite a bit above the recommended settings. If you have a computer closer to the recommended settings though you may encounter some issues.
Before wrapping up I wanted to quickly talk about the fact that SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest is technically a standalone expansion pack. If I hadn’t known better I would have thought it was a sequel to SpellForce 3. I have only played a fraction of the game but it appears to have quite a bit of content. The game’s story is supposed to be around 20 hours long. The game also includes two new factions to be used in multiplayer. For an expansion I don’t think there is much more you can expect.
Overall I had fun with SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest despite not playing the original SpellForce 3. What initially intrigued me was the combination of a RPG with a RTS. Despite being two distinct genres, they work surprisingly well together. The RPG mechanics aren’t particularly original but they work quite well. The RTS mechanics might not be as detailed as a traditional RTS but they are unique and fun. When you add in the interesting story and fantastic graphics SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest is a fun and engaging experience. The game can be a little overwhelming at times though. With all of these mechanics working together the game requires players to keep track of quite a few things at the same time.
People who hate RPGs and RTS games probably won’t like SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest. If you have never played SpellForce 3, you should maybe considering playing it before starting up SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest. If you have enjoyed the SpellForce series or like the idea of combining a RPG with a RTS, I think you will enjoy SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest quite a bit and should consider picking it up.