|Developer||Grimlore Games , THQ Nordic|
|release date||December 2017|
|Genre||Strategy (RTS), Role playing (RPG)|
The new gaming year is gaining momentum. We’ve seen some high-profile releases recently, and we’ll be talking about those titles shortly. But for now, I would like to return to one landmark project that was released at the end of 2017. This is a continuation of the famous SpellForce series, reanimated by THQ Nordic. The third part received a mixed reception due to technical problems at the start, but now SpellForce 3 will definitely please fans of the genre. We will share our opinion about the game in this review. At the same time, let’s compare the capabilities of different video cards at maximum graphics settings.
The events of SpellForce 3 take place long before the first part in the familiar fantasy world, where people coexist with elves and dwarves, and magic plays a key role. Attempts to curb and ban magic lead to conflicts, and as a result, a major war unfolds. Our story begins with one of the moments of this military confrontation. General Sentence Norius organizes a military attack on the rebel base and pursues their leader, a powerful magician. The villain is overtaken at the moment when he is preparing for the execution of his own son. As a result, the rebel leader escapes, and the son ends up in public service, joining the ranks of the Wolf Guard.
It is he, a hero named Alrik Takhar, who will become a key figure in the future. Years later, when the wars subsided, a new misfortune falls upon the country — a strange pandemic of «blood fever». The protagonist is instructed to investigate the situation in one of the villages, where another outbreak of the disease allegedly occurred. But here the interests of people clash with the elves, internal intrigues emerge and a moral choice arises that forces the hero to commit betrayal. The reckoning is the dungeon and the expectation of an imminent execution, from which the hero is again saved by a coincidence of circumstances and unexpected help.
Takhar, who has broken free, gradually puts together a detachment of comrades-in-arms and tries to figure out the causes of the epidemic. The plot leads us along the line of ancient secrets, along the way offering interaction with different factions and forces. Having settled in an abandoned city, we begin to create our own coalition, helping various factions and getting their support. In the course of this, the scale and epic nature of the events taking place increases.
The story of SpellForce 3 is constantly evolving and pushing the story forward. An important role here is played by the development of the game world, where each location offers something new, has its own secrets and its own little world with its own characteristics. There is an effect of adventure and a feeling of a great journey through unusual places.
A key feature of the SpellForce series is the combination of the RTS and RPG genres. The first few missions of the game are more like party RPGs, where a group of heroes explore locations, clearing them of enemies. We have up to four fighters at our disposal, but depending on the circumstances, sometimes we have to act with fewer partners, up to single episodes. Each hero has his own specialization: someone is a skilled warrior, someone is a magician or an archer. There are several classes, and they combine different directions and different schools of magic. Therefore, being a seasoned archer, the hero can use specific arrow magic, and a melee warrior is not without magical skills of another specialty.
As befits a role-playing game, it all depends on the right combination of skills of the whole team. While the fighters cut off nearby enemies, they are supported from a distance by magicians or archers. Cleaning the territory from enemies is combined with the search for loot and the completion of various quests. On each map, a certain storyline develops, but there are small side tasks. From the point of view of the role-playing genre, there are very few additional tasks. And the world itself does not have a deep semantic content. Turning off the main road, you rarely come across something interesting. Often these are just groups of robbers or monsters that guard the chest. Production also does not always have a high value, only sometimes something really useful comes across.
Pumping is not very diverse. We put one point into the skill tree, pumping magic and specific skills. Their set is limited and often you just improve already opened skills. At certain levels, heroes unlock new skills. Also, from time to time, we get the opportunity to increase the base characteristics that affect health, attack, and weapon requirements.
Each hero has three active skill slots and three active potion slots. Both active and passive skills are assigned to the first cells. And sometimes the choice is not easy. You can choose only offensive spells, but under certain conditions, other magic will be in demand. This is one of the factors that determine the role of the hero in battle and his interaction with his comrades. Therefore, with ostentatious simplicity, it is necessary to approach pumping thoughtfully.
Ammunition is important — armor and weapons. By increasing the main characteristics, we get the opportunity to use new items, improving our defense and attack power. The best items have additional properties, for example, swords can cause bleeding or deal magic damage. In many RPGs, the best items are obtained through combat, but here you often have to lick your lips at the assortment of vendors in major cities. And all the accumulated rubbish goes on sale to purchase one sword or shield.
Role-playing game is combined with strategy and massive battles. First, there is a reconnaissance of the area by a group of heroes, then the arrangement of the settlement and major strategic actions on the map. It can be put in such a way that your group helps the locals, and then leads them. All this is strictly differentiated, but inscribed in the plot, so it is perceived logically and coherently. Sometimes a game offers a more subtle mix of genres, allowing you to free prisoners or otherwise build up your powers. But basically there is a strictly fixed moment when we are allowed to build a city center, and then the strategic stage of the task begins.
Strategic dominance is about gaining advantage on the map and managing resources properly. We have several types of outbuildings available that bring different resources. Along the way, you need to capture new points, establishing posts and building new buildings to replenish resources. Such expansion at the same time increases the unit limit, allowing you to increase the size of the army.
The first missions in terms of strategic nuances do not cause difficulties and simply bring things up to date. Then the confrontation on the common map becomes more intense. Our expansion is facing enemy expansion, it is more difficult to control different directions and maintain a balance of resource extraction and supply. The latter factors depend on the distribution of workers across buildings and along the delivery line. After the attack and destruction of part of the infrastructure, the harmonious system begins to fail and requires manual intervention in various economic objects.
In the barracks, we order fighters of various types, the list of which depends on the general level of the village. An interesting find are blueprints that can improve the performance of certain units. It is enough to find and study the drawing once, in order to have these bonuses throughout the campaign. Not a bad incentive to look into every corner of the map and not ignore a single dangerous place.
The set of units depends on the race. At first we use only human fighters, but over time other possibilities will open up. The simplest warriors are recruited quickly and require few resources, armored fighters are more expensive, but more effective in combat. There are different types of infantry, archers and cavalry with their own characteristics. Therefore, the best tactic has traditionally been to quickly manage different groups for confident maneuvering on the battlefield.
The main heroes play an important role in any major skirmish, even with a large army. This is due not only to their survivability and powerful attacks. Heroes can apply magical effects and heal all units. Certain items or skills create an aura with positive properties, and even an exhausted hero strengthens the position of the squad.
The virtual enemy acts very aggressively. If at the first stages of the game we have time to leisurely engage in construction and assemble an army, then later circumstances force us to act faster. Development has to be combined with defense and retaliatory raids immediately after attacks. All this keeps in constant tension. Attempts to cheat can turn into a crash. Decided to quickly bypass enemy territory and deliver the main blow to a key point? The enemy will quickly gather reinforcements from the surrounding areas and arrange a bloody reception. And the maps are built pretty well too, the cunning design encourages some points of tension where different armies are doomed to run into each other when trying to expand.
Not always the confrontation on the map comes down to the explicit goal of dominating and destroying another group. We can find ourselves among the hordes of the undead and will survive by fighting off demon attacks and trying to destroy certain targets. The game has variety and certain conditions that affect the course of the strategic confrontation in each individual mission.
In addition to the story campaign, there are online battles and the ability to play with computer opponents on different maps. Here, too, everything is based on the familiar system of capturing points to convert your advantage into military dominance. There is a system of heroes with different classes. And the cards allow you to use a different number of factions, up to four opposing sides.
Visually, the game looks great. SpellForce 3 pleases with beautiful panoramas with rich colors.
The level of elaboration of locations and detailing is at the highest level. This is seasoned with a good play of light, beautiful water with reflections, dynamic shadows from objects around and other effects.
Bright special effects from magic, fire and various elements look great.
Visual impressions are complemented by excellent work with sound. When you change the position of the camera, the localization of sounds changes, and at high altitude the wind howls. All this allows you to better get used to the atmosphere of the virtual world. The musical accompaniment is also pleasant, there are pathos orchestral melodies.
The beautiful graphics of SpellForce 3 require powerful GPUs. Therefore, you can play with maximum settings only on powerful video adapters. We decided to field test the game with a group of GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA.
Testing was carried out at the Gray Citadel location. This is a large detailed level with lots of detail and thick fog at the foot of the cliffs. Walking along a small route relative to the first portal was performed with manual camera movement. An additional rotation of the camera around one of the objects was performed.
All quality sliders are at their limit, additional effects are included. Only the resolution of the shadows is left in the meaning that the game offers.
Below are the results in 1920×1080 resolution.
As you can see, budget video cards can hardly cope with the game, although in simpler scenes they can give better fps. We can talk about complete comfort when using the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti or more powerful solutions. In general, NVIDIA accelerators show the best results. The GeForce GTX 1060 and GeForce GTX 780 Ti are faster than the Radeon RX 580/480.
Let’s supplement the given data with tests in 2560×1440 and 3840×2160 resolutions.
The GeForce GTX 1060 and GeForce GTX 780 Ti still allow you to play at 2560×1440. The ratio in favor of the old video adapter looks very interesting, because even in Full HD the game uses up to 4 GB of video memory or more. 4K resolution is only possible with the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. With the Radeon RX Vega 64, you can comfortably play in WQHD mode.
SpellForce 3 is a beautiful game set in a vibrant fantasy world, combining party RPG elements with real-time strategy quite nicely. The game does not expand the scope of the genre, but simply combines different elements and different game stages. You shouldn’t expect from SpellForce 3 depth and elaboration of large role-playing games. The story campaign is built interestingly, it has variety, but few nuances and side quests. Behind the chic detailed landscapes there is a certain emptiness, few active characters and elements that complement the plot. But as scenery for RTS — it is perceived perfectly. The result is a really exciting adventure, in which there is pathos, scope and big battles. There hasn’t been anything like this for a long time. If you’ve been wanting something similar to Warcarft 3 or have previously played the old parts of SpellForce, don’t miss the new game.