Spellforce 3: Reforced is a unique experience that deserves its time in the spotlight

Although it first debuted over twenty years ago, the Spellforce series has never made it to console in prior generations. Having played Spellforce 3: Reforced quite comprehensively now, I can understand why. This real time strategy/RPG hybrid must be almost as demanding on the hardware that hosts it as it is on the human brain when it comes to dealing with some of the party and unit management aspects – but despite some fiddliness, Spellforce 3: Reforced feels like a AAA tour-de-force in a genre where there is no real competition.

Yes, of course there are other roleplaying games and some great strategy games on console, but I don’t believe I can name another game that combines those two genres in this way, committing fully to both without any real compromise. The game begins with a detailed character creation process where you can choose a class, invest in a pretty exhaustive skill tree and build your backstory — which ultimately shapes your hero on the battlefield.

Players will quickly find themselves impressed by the voice acting in Spellforce 3: Reforced as well — with one early character sounding extremely familiar to anyone who has played The Witcher series, and almost all characters having significant voice acting attached to decent dialogue. Supporting the generally interesting and well-crafted characters, there’s also an exceptional world to explore here – with some brilliant locations that are just incredibly detailed.

The early scenes take place largely in heavily forested areas with some abandoned shacks, dilapidated castles and small villages to explore, and the attention lavished upon them is fantastic. From small campfires tucked inside ruins deep within the forest to flags that fly on the highest tower of a mountaintop keep — there’s tremendous verticality to Spellforce 3: Reforced’s maps, even though they are viewed from the common isometric view that many RPG’s use. 

This is used to great affect by the game, with many levels of exploration often possible within a single area. The excellent camera also helps here, panning and zooming very naturally over high bits of scenery, whilst also capable of getting quite low to crowded streets and paths. In large cities, Spellforce 3: Reforced looks nothing short of incredible, with not only a ton of visual detail, but also a ton of creativity among the houses and streets. Between the characters and the world, Spellforce 3: Reforced feels very alive.

Spellforce 3: Reforced

When it comes to combat, Spellforce 3: Reforced transforms into a real time strategy game that’s as good as any you’ll find on console, albeit with perhaps slightly fewer features. The player begins each combat section with a central base, and from there they must build hunters, stonecutters and foresters to collect basic resources. These allow units to be purchased and commanded — usually alongside your hero(es) who will also be deployed in the field. 

When you’re ready, you’ll strike out to take over neighbouring sectors — each of which comes with the chance to build an outpost, add a set number of peasants to your workforce and to access more resources. Expanding your control is essential to victory, but the larger your empire, the more you need to defend. 

Enemy AI in battle is actually quite good too — with the enemies capable of raiding various different points along your front line, and often retreating in the hopes of living to fight another day if your defensive forces are too great. This isn’t anything too revolutionary, but to be honest I am quite used to seeing enemies in RTS games simply fighting to the bitter end, without any consideration for what might make sense strategically.

Whilst the initial campaign focuses initially on humans (which are balanced between offence and defence), there are both later missions and plenty of skirmish options that will allow players to access either elven or orcish forces. Elves are a bit more fragile than humans, but they have excellent ranged units and are better fighters on a one on one basis. Orks are tough, melee focussed fighters that have some exploitable weaknesses — but work very well for sledgehammer gameplay.

Whilst the lengthy campaigns offer plenty for those who want to experience them, the skirmish and online multiplayer modes are also excellent, and the RTS gameplay here is far from tacked on — it’s actually very good. If I have any complaint about the specific RTS elements, it’s probably only that the choice of units and upgrades is a bit more basic than it is in some other games, but it’s by no means so limited that Spellforce 3: Reforced becomes stale or anything like that.

Spellforce 3: Reforced

I do have one minor issue with the RPG/RTS crossover element of Spellforce 3: Reforced and that is the complexity of the controls in battle. Sometimes you will simply have too much going on, and not enough visibility of what’s happening at ground level to be able to issue commands as effectively as you might like. Most pressingly, this applies to the activated abilities of your heroes — which include powerful spells and healing aids that need to be used at the critical moment and targeted carefully. 

Regardless of this minor annoyance, pretty much everything about Spellforce 3: Reforced is extremely well done and very enjoyable to experience. From the voice acting, story and worldbuilding to very solid RPG and RTS mechanics, Spellforce 3: Reforced is a resounding success. The game is long but not as overlong as we see in some action RPG’s, and the RTS gameplay is clever, fast-paced and often challenging. 

Spellforce 3: Reforced is available on Xbox One and PS5 now. 

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