REVIEW: SpellForce 3: Fallen God

Dec
02

REVIEW: SpellForce 3: Fallen God

I am guessing everyone is familiar with Internet Trolls at this point, well now it’s about time to get familiar with SpellForce Trolls!

Released: Steam
Type: Single-player, Multi-player
Genre: RPG, Strategy,
Base-Building RTS
Developer: Grimlore Games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Franchise: SpellForce
Release Date: 3 Nov, 2020

Reviewer’s Note

Psygineer the Reviewer previously reviewed another SpellForce standalone expansion and enjoyed it. Psygineer was not actually slated to review Fallen God but Psygineer was happy to help another reviewer with their backlog. SpellForce blends Western Role-Playing Game elements with Base-Building Real-Time Strategy. As you may be aware, Psygineer particularly likes base-building RTS games and dislikes that they are starting to be a forgotten genre so Psygineer did not need arm twisted too hard to review this game. It was many moons ago that Psygineer first encountered that genre and often spent great deals of time building glorious bases rather than playing the level properly. Psygineer is getting tired of talking in third person already in imitation of trolls and will stop doing that now.

Review

The Trolls get their day in the sun in the latest SpellForce 3 stand-alone expansion, Fallen God. The Trolls always speak in third person, often saying their own name when talking which was a bit weird at first but I came to appreciate it later on. When you encounter other races that do not have this same predisposition to refer to oneself in third-person it makes the trolls feel more like an interesting unique race rather than just humans with an unfortunate tooth-condition. Because of their speech patterns they do give the impression that they may not be quite as evolved as say the elven, dwarf or human races which is probably why they are often hunted for sport with their tusks being a sought out trophy. It is a shame really because the Trolls, given a chance, could prove to be valuable allies to the other races. They have a basic job-system and very rich cultural rituals and beliefs that may be a bit uncivilized by the standards of others but have deep meaning to the trolls. The fact that two separate Troll tribes were willing to come together to risk their lives in order to ritualistically honour the dead Chieftain of one of the two tribes and pass on the title of Chieftain to another really speaks volumes on just how civilized they are as a species.

There really is not that much that is overly different between this SpellForce 3 expansion and the previous one. It is basically a new campaign with a new race for you to enjoy. The Trolls are a particularly interesting race though, so it is well worth giving them a chance. They feel like an evolutionary step between the uncivilized races and the more advanced civilized races which is kind of refreshing. The overall gameplay involves building bases and capturing and holding various points on the map. Expanding to these points allows you access to the nearby resources as well as to the workers needed to collect them. The further you expand though the harder it is to maintain your grasp on the territory as the opposing factions have the same territorial needs. As a little change of pace there are sometimes caves and other dungeon like elements for you to explore but even outside of those there are usually plenty of treasures to find if you are just willing to explore a bit.

Treasures are where the WRPG elements really start to influence the game. Rather than being a pure RTS, you have hero units as well. These hero units can equip various bits of gear as well as utilize potions. You will often find useful items just lying around which encourages you to explore each level. You can of course trade for better things or earn them as quest rewards too. Often when exploring for treasures you will find optional side quests to complete besides just your normal quest. These side quests can sometimes lead to decent rewards, but in the very least you will get some experience doing them. Your characters will gain levels as you progress through the game and with these levels come potential stat gains as well as abilities. You have skill trees to work down that require certain progression on the tree and character level before you can purchase those skills. Actually, this is a great time to talk about character development in general.

Have It Your Way…Almost

When you first start the game, you get to pick your starting talent tree classes. That is pretty typical in traditional Western RPGs. However, not only do you get to pick your own talent trees, you also get to choose the talent trees for the rest of your team as well. That means if you end up having duplicate heroes at start off that is on you this time! Your last name changes based on your class as well which is a really interesting touch. I decided to make a necromancer again (not having learned my lesson in Soul Harvest) and was quite surprised by the fact other characters kept identifying that I can hear the dead. Had I had more time I would have actually tried some other starting variants to see how the dialogue changes, but I can say having your character’s class so integrated into the lore of the game that it felt natural was quite a unique experience. Most of the time in these games there might be a cursory nod at your class but typically they do not see you as anything more than an interchangeably generic hero who can probably do something to help them.

The characters this time around give you fewer options than they did in Soul Harvest. In this game you are focusing on four specific trolls rather than having a generic hero thrust into the world. As such, you are limited to customizing those four specific male trolls. You have some options to tailor their appearance to your liking but other than that, they remain four male trolls at the end. Some people do not like it when you cannot choose female characters but in the end does not make that much of a difference in the game.

An interesting element in this game comes down to the equipment you can use. Typically, in RPGs in general you have stat restrictions on gear. A wizard, who is seen as a highly intelligent/wise character cannot wear heavy plate armor because usually wizards have all the strength of a wet paper bag with a rock in it. This time around though there are racial implications on gear as well as the standard stat restrictions. You might find yourself a really cool weapon that has the right stats for you to use it but find yourself unable to equip it because it is not meant for troll use. Trolls clearly care about ensuring they only use certified troll products (or something) so they opt to just smash or trade away things not made for trolls.

Back to Base-ics

Speaking of made by trolls, for trolls let’s now focus on the base building elements. I did talk about these in detail in the Soul Harvest review, but I still have some stuff to say about it this time around too. It is still your typical build a base, harvest resources, train units and capture everything type of RTS, but there are some troll specific nuances that are worth mentioning. Trolls produce units a little bit differently. Once you train a basic unit you can send it to school more or less to learn how to be a better troll. If you send it to a hitting camp it will learn to smash things better, if you send it to a throwing camp it will learn to throw things from a distance. Going back to school again will further progress the troll, refining their abilities. Should you decide you need more of one type of unit and less of another you can always send some trolls back to school for retraining. The training camps also allow you to upgrade the units they produce as well with new abilities/effects such as adding a slowing poison to their attack. The further you get into the game the higher your technology level gets and the more options for destruction will be at your disposal. This leads to each new map being a little different than the last assuming you want to use the newest available units.

The rest is pretty standard for a SpellForce 3 game. Each location on the map can only support so many units. This forces the player to expand into other areas which also has a limited number of units it can support. This requires you to plan your expansions carefully to ensure you have workers to run the various buildings you want to have operational. The game will let you spend into the negative too so you have to watch your resource flow to ensure you can actually finish building what you need. There are random caches around the map you can collect with your heroes if you happened to paint yourself into a corner in terms of resources but they cannot effectively be used as an on-going crutch. With a little bit of care and planning, you will have a well-functioning land sprawling base churning out all the resources you need. Unfortunately, as mentioned earlier, your enemies have the same idea as you. Plus keep in mind your tusks apparently make great decorations.

Strong Tusks and Thick Hides

Exploring the map is often encouraged in order to expand your domain and is an integral part of completing the side quests the game presents to you. You cannot just send your units freely though because odds are high that they will encounter beasts or other enemies that want nothing more than to harvest some troll flesh. The combat in this game is very much the same as it was in the previous SpellForce 3 titles. Due to the training costs involved and the time it takes to reschool your trolls back up to the highest available tier, caution should be exercised in most encounters. That means you need to micromanage a bit to ensure you are at your most effective. Your units will fight on their own without directions from you if they have to but paying attention to your units and shuffling the wounded ones out to let the stronger ones take the hit is usually always in your best interest. Your heroes are not immune to damage either but can be revived either manually by another hero for free or automatically if you have any respawn charges left.

You have access to a hot bar and a quick action wheel to help command your heroes to their fullest. All the abilities your trolls have can be fired of very quickly and easily. A quick use of your abilities can often turn the tides of battle such as quick heal spell might be the difference between a hero succumbing to their wounds or living to bash another day. There was one combo I was particularly fond of and that was when enemies were covered in oil I would send my self-immolating hero into their ranks to set them ablaze. It was not exactly the most effective battle tactic and often led to the hero going out in a blaze of glory himself from the attacks suffered while charging into the battle, but it was still amusing to watch the chaos.

The Story of Gory Glory

I will not be spoiling the story for you here, but I will tell you that the story is far more in-depth and engrossing/compelling than I had anticipated. First off, if you have not played the previous SpellForce 3 games or even any SpellForce games in the past, that is not a problem here. The entire story is standalone and requires no previous knowledge to understand what is going on in the world. The story of Fallen God is quite dark, and you will likely feel a bit sorry for the misunderstood trolls. They are constantly being hunted for sport and all they really want is to just live in peace. They are seen as a primitive less evolved species but they have a complex society and deeply care about their fellow trolls. They also have some backwards customs which probably do not help the outside world from seeing them as anything more than savage brutes, but they are also a spiritual people who believe they are doing what their god wants as well as following cultural traditions.

The charm of the characters comes from their fairly unique cultural normative of always speaking in third person as I alluded to earlier. I was actually thinking of writing this entire review in third person just for the fun of it but figured that might get a bit annoying both to write and to read so I spared you that. The story does give you options while most of the time they do not really feel like they have made an impact they still may eventually have an impact. One of the four champions you pretty much start with actually observes how you react in some situations and learns from it. This is a unique way of progressing one of their two tech trees. If you tend to be hostile all the time, he will learn to be hostile, if you are kind, he will learn to be gentler. If you act independently, he will be more self-reliant, if you favour the tribe, he will learn to protect and work with the tribe. All in all it is a rather interesting way to keep you in check when making dialogue choices and helps with the replayability.

Graphics

Okay, this is where things will get difficult for me. I am currently between computers with my trusty old computer dying and the great computer part shortage of 2020 preventing me from building a new one. For now, I am using a borrowed system with an APU rather than a proper dedicated GPU. Hopefully, I will be able to get the parts needed soon to rebuild because games like this really benefit from running at full tilt graphics. With that said, I ran this game with full tilt graphics with glorious 7 frames per second just to get a feel for the graphics before reducing it to medium quality and getting about 30FPS. During the time I was looking at it at 7FPS I can tell the game looked wonderful. It was almost playable at maximum settings and I did struggle with it before ultimately reducing the quality. The first few maps though I got in all their high graphical glory (until there was too much going-on on the screen anyway). Looking at videos of the game being played I can confirm I was seeing it the way the developer intended and that it does look glorious for a RTS. Even on reduced settings the game still looked good. Sure, I could no longer see the fine details of the customizations I did on my trolls but they still looked interesting. The lush environments, the primitive buildings of the trolls, the more advanced enemy buildings, all of it came together to make a wonderful experience.

Audio

Like its predecessor, the entire game is voice acted. It will have none of that text on screen only business. Even minor characters are fully voice acted. You select from one of the prompts presented and he then speaks what you chose (although he does take some liberties with the wording). I can only imagine what it was like to be the voice actors for this game both with having to have the slightly lower intelligence sounding voices as well as always talking in third person. I wonder how many of them are still talking in third person today!

The accompanying soundtrack is also quite well done and fits thematically with the game. It is one of those ones though that I had to go double check that it was there before writing about it. I am not saying it is forgettable, just that there was so much other stuff to pay attention to that I kind of just tuned it out. That is actually how I like the soundtracks in game to be. If they are too overwhelming they are distracting but if they are truly absent you miss them so soundtrack music that blends into the background that enhances the game from the shadows is what I find to be ideal.

Controls and User Interface

If you are the kind of person who likes hotkeys and radial action buttons, then this game is for you! Despite what looks like a complicated game on the surface is made far easier by placing your favorite skills on the action bars. While you can point and click either on the radial buttons or on the action bars themselves, pressing the associated hotkey works even better. While this game is fairly heavily menu-driven, they are all laid out in such a way that it is easy to find what you are looking for. It can sometimes be a challenge to use your abilities simply because it can be difficult to tell if the spell already fired or if you need to click again to trigger it. That could have been an issue with the system I was playing the game on though, just the battles were usually so chaotic and close quartered that I was never quite sure if it was the auto-attacks doing everything or if I was helping by pressing the hotkeys!

The map screen between missions is interesting as well. It will flag areas where you have new or incomplete quests so that you do not need to worry about if you missed anything before moving on to your next great conquest. When on a map itself, you will have fast travel available between areas so you can move your units around fairly quickly. It can be used for a quick reinforcement of an area or a hasty retreat. You likely need to worry about doing that a bit more in the higher difficulties though, the easy setting pretty much makes it so you can walk around with impunity.

Verdict

So, should you pick up SpellForce 3: Fallen God? If you are a fan of the old base-building RTS games, then this is one of the only series around that I can think of that still releases new ones with any regularity. The RPG elements in the game keep it fresh for those of you who get a little tired of having to rebuild your base every time. It is the best of both worlds really and it is coupled with a well written and compelling story for those who enjoy the lore of a game. You will get to know troll culture quite well and all the ins and outs there in. What it means to be a troll’s trusted one or the rights of ascension to Chieftain and why you should never volunteer to take part in it. There are so many nuances that it keeps you wanting to play just a little more to hear more of the story and you will explore every dialogue option before selecting the advancing one. Overall, I have to say this is definitely one I will Save.

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