Review – SpellForce III Reforced (PS5)

Does anyone remember StarCraft 64? It was an early example of developers porting a game because they could, regardless of its actual playability. And while I was mildly amused at the absurdity of StarCraft on a Nintendo console when I played it a few years ago, I do feel bad for anyone who originally received it. Image being a kid on Christmas Day, Mom got you a brand new Sci-Fi game for your new console, and it’s StarCraft 64. A game that I would deign to say is very close to unplayable. Certainly extremely unfun. Well, imagine no longer, because SpellForce III Reforced for console is here to recreate that experience for you. Further proving that regardless of how much time passes, game executives never change. 

This is the fantasy the game sells you on. Epic, right?

To be clear, this review is about the console version of the game. While I wasn’t the hugest fan of the original release of SpellForce III, it wasn’t a terrible game. I think there are better games in the genre, but I don’t begrudge any fans the game has. It had a very healthy DLC tail too, with sizable expansions and patched to the core game, so honestly it might be a great game now. Sadly, zero of this carries over to the console port. 

In theory, SpellForce III Reforced is a blend of real-time strategy and roleplaying games. You play as a hero in charge of an army of soldiers belonging to your chosen faction. You build a base, raise an army, while doing more traditionally RPG activities. Side-quests, leveling up, exploration, it’s essentially WarCraft III but more in every way. And on PC, it was very alright. I thought the writing was kind of meh, the story generic, and the game mechanics same old same old. Not bad in any way, just more of what I’ve already seen being executed unremarkably. On console, however, none of that really matters, because it plays so badly. 

This monstrosity of clutter on your TV is the reality of playing this game.

It’s obvious right from the start how little work was done to bring this to a whole new platform. Right when you start the game, you realize the UI is nearly straight from the PC version. Which mean it was intended to be viewed on a monitor up close, not on a TV from far away. So the text is tiny and heard to read, it’s extremely cluttered, and there’s very helpfully little to no tutorial or explanations. So a whole overcomplicated unintuitive UI is thrown at you, the most important part of an RTS, that’s hard to read and not at all explained. And then you realize that instead of natural gamepad controls, you have to use a cursor to do way too many things. Controlling a cursor with a gamepad in an RTS. It’s a gaming nightmare. 

Just in case you’re holding out hope that maybe this time it’ll work out, let me assure you it doesn’t. Everything is a struggle, and not one that’s worth it. Placing structures is awkward, good luck trying to build any kind of strategic base. And controlling your army (you know, the main mechanic of the game) is rage inducing. Especially during combat, which is only something you’ll be doing almost always. You can create groups by struggling to click and hold a square around your chosen units (again zero work put into adapting this to the platform), but it only helps a little. Because whether it’s one group or several, trying to have them attack the right enemy is a battle of patience. Every single time. Everything moves so fast, and your cursor simple can’t keep up.

The dialogue is as wonky as ever, you say this right after you tell at the guy for being careless and letting prisoners die. No biggie apparently.

I could keep going about how much this doesn’t work, but that would be putting in more work than the developers did for SpellForce III Reforced. It’s a rare case of a game that I just enjoy from the start, and it only got worse the more I played. There are games I would consider to be bad, but this is a whole different beast. It just fundamentally doesn’t work. I would struggle to order one group to attack an enemy during battles, and by the time I did, the rest of my army had been massacred by everyone else. I’ve never been so frustrated with a game before. And this was just on normal difficulty, the idea of people playing this on harder ones is absolutely laughable. So in summary, avoid this port. Play King’s Bounty II instead.

Graphics: 9.0

It actually looks pretty good, and runs well too.

Gameplay: 3.0

The general gameplay is as generic as it comes for the genre, but the control scheme makes doing anything a struggle ,and, during battles, an extremely frustrating struggle.

Sound: 7.5

Voice-acting is terrible, but the music is great, so just turn voices off and the music all the way up.

Fun Factor: 1.0

Ports like this are why people say it’s impossible to play a RTS with a controller.

Final Verdict: 4.0

SpellForce III Reforced is available now on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X, PS4, and PS5.

Reviewed on PS5.

A copy of SpellForce III Reforced was provided by the publisher.