Spellforce 3, originally released in 2017, gets a standalone expansion in the shape of “Soul Harvest”. As with the original game, this one’s a PC exclusive – and we played the game through Steam.
I have to first commend Grimlore Games and THQ for releasing this as a standalone expansion rather than a sequel, which they could have easily done. Soul Harvest houses a campaign that should last most players at least 15 hours, possibly many more – yet the game is priced at half the price of the original game. Soul Harvest is still a trimmed down experience, but that’s only because the original was so grand in scope.
Speaking of which, I vividly remember a THQ showcase appointment in which they presented three of their upcoming games a few years ago. In that meeting, it was clear that the developer speaking about the (then) upcoming Spellforce felt that 15 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time to do the game justice – and it’s easy to see why he’d think that. The game’s a unique blend of RPG and RTS with a fantasy backdrop, and thus unlike any other games from those two genres.
Soul Harvest is set three years after the end of the Purity Wars, and war is about to break out yet again. You assume the role of a general who has returned home in shame, only to find yourself in a precarious position between different realms – protecting the dwarves, while also keeping an eye out for the dark elves threatening to consume people’s souls.
For the stronger (hero) units in the game, there is an extensive skill tree to explore, and you can further shape their future by selecting areas for them to specialize in. This is the area in which RPG and RTS meet very prominently, but from a gameplay perspective they’re split between individual RPG-style missions and larger scale confrontations that play out in RTS fashion and combine classic resource/base management with tactical/strategic combat. Depending on the race you choose to side with, you’ll have different units at your disposal too. The RTS portion of the game, at least to me, feels a bit like the classic Warcraft titles in terms of delivering a fantasy approach to the genre – not a bad comparison to make!
Having said that – the RTS gameplay in Soul Harvest feels more streamlined than what I remember from the base game, with less intricate systems for logistics and more of an emphasis on accessible combat mechanics. It definitely helps the game along, but you might not enjoy it as much if you’re an RTS purist. Still, I think it’s a decision that changes the game for the better, as we’re dealing with a crossover product that could otherwise alienate more casual fans of either genre. Scenarios are sector-based as well, where controlling as many sectors as possible is the key to having the resources you need to keep your war machine going. It’s something I didn’t quite appreciate in Ashes of the Singularity, but it works well enough here (perhaps because Spellforce 3 is more accessible).
Part of Spellforce 3’s appeal to me, and this also applies to Soul Harvest, is the excellent audiovisual delivery of the game. There’s an incredible amount of detail on screen at any time, as well as a lot of great visual effects – ranging from spells to the running water going down waterfalls. The game might not rise to the RPG heights of a Larian production and might not be as refined an RTS, but while that is possibly its greatest flaw for genre purists it is the combination of the two genres that makes Spellforce 3 more than worth the trouble. Let’s hope the continued work on Spellforce 3, and the reluctance to call this Spellforce 4, means that a proper sequel is already being worked on.