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Back to Eo – SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest Review

SpellForce 3 is the latest installment in the beloved RPG/RTS series that sheds light on some very important, world-building events: the Mage Wars, followed by the Purity Wars and the formation of the Circle of Mages that will play a pivotal role in the fate of the world from that point. If you are unfamiliar with the game or the series, consider reading our SF3 review for basics.

Soul Harvest is the first major stand-alone expansion to the game. Three years have passed since the events of the SpellForce 3 campaign.  The wars are over and a fragile peace sets in the ravaged lands of Nortander with the different races of Eo working together under the watch from the newly formed Circle of Mages. However, worrisome news come from various corners of the rebuilding kingdom: there are rumors of Dark Elven involvement with the disappearances of entire villages and the previously peaceful dwarves are plunged into hatemongering rhetoric that puts them at odds with their former allies.

The possibility of a new war is drawing ever closer and what is worse, corporal Tahar, the hero of the Purity Wars and the protagonist of SF3, has been killed shortly before the events of the DLC start. The Queen calls for a disgraced General, Aerev, to lead the Wolf Guard and prevent another conflict from hitting already suffering lands of Nortander. But is it too late? Check out our SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest review to find out!

Soul Harvest does not require the base game or the knowledge of the events that have transpired in it. The expansion features an all-new protagonist, epic story and two new playable factions: Dwarves and Dark Elves (in addition to the Human faction from SF3). As your character, General Aerev, has been absent during the Purity Wars, you will have options to explore what happened in the past by interacting with the characters who have been present during it.

However, as the campaign is the direct continuation of SF3’s story and most characters involved in Soul Harvest have been present during the base game’s plot and keep on referencing it repeatedly, I recommend playing through it if you have not previously.

The original SpellForce 3 game left me with mixed feelings, which is one of the reasons why I did not jump right into Soul Harvest when it released in May. While an amazing game in its own right, SF3 was rough around the edges and had a plethora of problems and inconveniences that managed to sour the otherwise good impression. You would be happy to know that THQ Nordic and Grimlore Games took the issue to heart and made giant strides in fixing or polishing them, some more successful than others.

The cumbersome interface of SF3 got a make-over and, while still incredibly overstuffed, now offers an easier way to issue commands to your four heroes – the protagonist Aerev and three companions you can choose either from your party members or hired mercenaries. While the controls did not improve much in the expansion, having a way to react to whatever is happening on the battlefield with the new action bar improved the overall situation.

In the thirty hours it took me to beat the campaign, I have ran into a handful of bugs and a number of typos that did not have any effect on my gaming experience. In the original SF3 I had problems with literally every single side-quest out there until a bunch of patches were dropped by the developers, so Grimlore Games made an amazing job in ironing out these tricky things and polishing the expansion.

Considering all of the above, SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest offers an epic adventure into the dark fantasy world of Eo, complete with superb voice acting, various characters with their personal story arcs, deep story that asks some hard questions and explores themes like second chances, fate and more, gorgeous aesthetics and dramatic soundtrack.

Soul Harvest has improved the gameplay of SF3 in a myriad of ways from adding two new distinct factions and flying units to enhancements to in-game camera and AI behavior. Expect to be on the receiving end of a flurry of hit-and-run attacks from various sides that will cripple your RTS progression through missions. Save often!

The DLC also streamlined the RTS micromanagement: while in the base game you had automated caravans running between bases in order to trade resources from one outpost with another, Soul Harvest goes back to a more familiar way of using centralized warehouse. While each zone still has its own set of resources to get, you no longer need to wait for, say, stone to be delivered from your main base or the closest outpost with Stonecutter for buildings in the region with none of it. It will simply be subtracted from your overall resources. Whether the change is good or bad is up to you. I have liked the caravan system of the base game but the new approach does make expanding your territory faster and the whole economy easier to tackle.

A similar approach has been used with the character specializations. In the base game, Tahar has an access to four specializations at once, while the followers have three. In Soul Harvest, both of those are down to two, which means that you have fewer skills to choose from both for the protagonist and for the companions at all times.

A new addition in the expansion is the possibility of romances. While I do not always follow through with building relationships above friendships in RPGs such as Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire or Dragon Age: Inquisition, I always appreciate the feature as another form of RPG element that allows weaving your character deeper into the world.  However, if you are into it – no judgment! We even have a list of 15 RPGs that allow you to build relationships prepared just for you.

A separate issue, somewhat related to the feature above is that like many other games SF3: Soul Harvest colors the dialogue options grey when you have exhausted all possible topics of conversation in that branch. The problem lays in the dialogue trees staying grey even if you receive new options inside. For example, some characters might not be too keen in disclosing personal information when you first meet them and face your questions with snarls or deflection. That might change over time, as you get closer to them – except you would not know of those new possible dialogues, as the “Tell me about yourself” option stays grey.  While not a particularly big deal, I have missed a few personal quests because of that.

I want to mention the voice actors behind female Aerev and Yria, one of the general’s companions, who did an amazing job in portraying those two characters. I hope we will get more of Aerev and the rest in the future.

I have not tried out the multiplayer part of the game, as I was mostly interested in its single-player campaign. The patch notes, however, report overhauling the original three factions (Humans, Elves and Orcs) while also adding Dark Elves and Dwarves into the mix. Each race has its own strengths, weaknesses and unique features such as the requirement for special resources. For example, Dark Elves require Echo that you gather from defeated enemies in order to upgrade some of their units.

Summary
Summary: SpellForce 3: Soul Harvest is an excellent RTS with RPG elements that smoothed out many rough edges of its predecessor. The developers put a great deal of effort into the expansion in order to improve the game in every aspect.
Good
  • Engaging story
  • Gorgeous aesthetics & soundtrack
  • Solid voice acting
  • Unique mix of RPG & RTS
  • Lack of bugs
Bad
  • Steep learning curve in the RTS part
  • UI still needs work
  • Large-scale battles are incredibly chaotic visually
8.5
Great
Written by
While growing up in the wilds of Russia, Catherine learned to talk, write and game at almost the same time. You can follow her attempts at latter two at MMORPG.com and GameSpace.

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