by Marjolein Verheij
previewed on PC
Gamescom press presentations usually come in two flavours. One flavour has us sit down with PR representatives or developers who walk us through a part of the game. We watch, ask questions and take notes. The other is where we get to go hands-on. Spellforce 3 went back to presenting basics and was demonstrated as Powerpoint slides. Looking at my notes, I think that wasn't such a strange smart move - no distractions from moving objects on a screen meant my notes exploded and we got into quite a bit of detail.
It has been some time since Spellforce 2 was released and the gaming industry has changed considerably since. The original studio that created Spellforce, Phenomic, was another victim of EA’s infamous studio closing sprees so Publisher Nordic Games established a new studio, Grimlore Games, and put them in charge of development for Spellforce 3.
Old map, new game
Spellforce 3 is a mix of RTS and RPG, is set some time before Spellforce 1 and uses the same map as Spellforce 2. Well, maybe not quite the same. The map is divided into sectors, which you get to conquer one at the time. Each sector has its own specialization - some will be great for mining, others for farming and so on. Once conquered, roads connect your sectors so you can move your goods around by cart and set up supply production lines to other sectors. This way you can bring metals to a sector that needs them to produce high level weapons but does not produce any by itself.
You will be able to play one of three playable races: humans, orcs and elves. Each race will feature four basic types of military units - cavalry, swordsmen, pikemen and archers - but also some special ones like a human paladin or an elven magician. And then there are the extra powerful - almost godlike - units. The Titan, for instance, will be very expensive to construct but packs one hell of a punch once you are able to field him.
Armies will be smaller than in previous games. Maxing out at some 250 units, this change allows for additional emphasis on the hero units. Heroes can be one of eight different character classes, including rogue, cleric, mage and warrior. Once fully upgraded, a hero can have up to three classes. These units are very strong but not to the point of overpowering everything on the map. They wouldn’t be able to just enter and conquer a new sector. You’ll first need to build up your economy and raise an army to accompany them before you will be able to take control.
Spellforce 3 is a far more political game than its predecessors, putting a lot of emphasis on diplomacy. Actions have consequences and befriending one faction may cause you to be at war with someone else. As you won’t always know who you will be pissing off when you make a decision, I think we can expect a more dynamic game.
Grimlore Games aims to make the game as beautiful and alive as possible. The presentation showed some in-game stills that had tremendous detail in terrain and man-made objects. Small animals will scurry away, the wind will rustle the trees in the forests and snakes slither around on the desert sands.
We have not seen much of Spellforce 3, but what we have - heard - sounds both ambitious and intriguing. It has been a while since a RTS dared to innovate, and even longer that we have played a true RTS/RPG hybrid. With a non-linear story and multiple paths leading to victory, we are keen to see how Spellforce 3 develops in the coming year.