Let me just say right off the bat that Spellforce3: Soul Harvest is a stand-alone expansion that does not require the previous game in order to be played. Not only that, but the story doesn’t require any knowledge of what happened previously, either. This is actually my first foray into the world of Spellforce. Soul Harvest takes place years after the events of the third. It frequently alludes to those events but it fleshes out the important parts enough so that I never felt lost or confused about the plot. For this review, I will be focusing on the roughly 20-hour campaign.
You take control of the disgraced General Aerev. Stationed in Empyria, far away from his beloved homeland of Nortander for over a decade, he wallows in the knowledge that he got his troops massacred. He has a very convenient form of amnesia, though, so he doesn’t quite recall exactly what happened. One day he receives a summons from Nortander; Queen Ayelith demands he return to Nortander immediately for an audience. She wants to give him a second chance and take up the mantle of the commander of the Wolf Guard. Based in the mountain fortress-city of Greykeep, the Wolf Guard is a special force made up of humans, elves, and orcs. The Queen isn’t going to just hand over control to you: Aerev must prove himself by completing a few important missions first.
I know you must be anxious to jump in and get your journey started but first, you have to create your character. You can choose your first name, but the family name is set in stone as Aerev since that is how all the voice-acted characters address him. You can’t change the voice and race options either. Locking the choices make sense. Nortander is a human country and having multiple voice actors recording all that dialogue would be too costly and time-consuming. You still have other customization options to play around with, such as gender, hairstyle and accessories, etcetera etcetera. Later on, you will get the chance to create mercenaries. You can create them however you see fit. These are the characters you will use should you decide to play the online co-op portion of the campaign with up to two other players. You can use mercenaries in your own campaign, but you can only have two at a time in your party.
The customization is more than just skin deep. You have an allocation of points to spend across your basic stats; strength, constitution, willpower, dexterity, and lastly, intelligence. It’s important to pay attention to your attributes, as they are very important to the type of character you plan on creating. The power of abilities and equipment often scales directly to the factor of your attributes. A mace may require 4 strength to wield and do 50 base damage, but if your strength is higher than required, then your damage dealt will increase exponentially. Then you have the option of selecting any two branching skill paths from a set of nine. To break it down simply, three of those skill sets offer you the types of abilities you would expect from the traditional RPG roles of DPS, Tank, and Ranged. The other six sets are dedicated to various branches of magic. Some examples are Druidism, Necromancy, Light Magic, and Demonology. Each set of skills offer a branching skill path to unlock various perks, magic, and abilities. Most of the skills can be upgraded to become more powerful versions of the base ability. You can end up spending a lot of time here reading the descriptions and trying to decide what awesome combination you want to make your character. I must have spent close to an hour here reading through everything and trying to figure out the best murder-combination for my main character. There is plenty of skill synergy involved, so careful planning now will reap great benefits later on. If it all sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry. There are a slew of premade classes to choose from if you don’t feel like spending too much time in the character creator.
Meanwhile, if you are looking for gameplay, Soul Harvest has it in spades. It is basically an RTS fused with a heavy dose of RPG elements in the same vein as the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing games on PC. It is an interesting hybrid, and honestly, one I didn’t think they would be able to pull off. Parts of the game will have you and your party adventuring around, receiving side quests from NPCs, managing your party’s equipment and leveling up all while you enjoy an epic story. You know, all the traditional elements of a great RPG. And the other part? Command and Conquer with angry dwarves, bloodthirsty elves, and cultists! It’s an interesting mix that I am totally down for. If you’re not a big fan of RTS games don’t worry: the multiple difficulty levels cater to people of all skill levels. If you are a fan of RTS games but not really into the heavy RPG element, you can always enjoy the skirmish mode. You have the choice of playing skirmish mode online against other players, or solo mode against AI. There’s something here for everyone to enjoy.
I’m going to take a deeper dive into the RTS portion of the game for a second here. The capitol is your main base of operations, meaning if it is destroyed, game over. The battlefield is divided into sectors and each sector contains finite resources. Each sector contains an outpost that you can take control of to be your base of operations for that area, which also gives you a nice boost to your population while giving you access to even more resources to be gathered. Your population determines how many troops you can create and manage at one time. So it is of the utmost importance to take control of as many sectors as you can, as fast as you can. Just building all willy-nilly, either. It takes workers to build and carriers to carry the resources, both of which are limited. Once the structures are complete, you can assign workers to increase the production speed of said structure. You need to have at least one worker in the structure or else it won’t work. This means you’ll often be doing a balancing act, trying to place people where you need them most. That’s not all. Throughout the early part of the campaign, you have the chance to try out the three factions; human, dwarf and elf. Each faction has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. Units and buildings vary as well. Humans are meant to be an average and balanced type of army, while the dwarves and elves are more defensive and offensive, respectively. Towards the latter part of the game you are allowed to choose which faction you want to use, so it’s best to stick with the one best suited towards your own play style.
I don’t really have anything bad to say about Spellforce3: Soul Harvest. Even though it is technically an expansion, I could talk about it for at least a few more pages. But, a review has to end at some point, right? It looks good, sounds good, and delivers a great story with engaging RTS gameplay and a heavy RPG element. If you are a fan of either genre, do yourself a favor and grab this game immediately. FOR THE WOLF GUARD!
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 9/10
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