Comparison between SF3 and the older SF chapters

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Comparison between SF3 and the older SF chapters

Post by Ommariuolo »

Disclaimer: the following conclusions are my personal view, based on a lot of years of software analysis, videogaming and playing specifically Spellforce. They aren't related to personal fun, since anybody can enjoy any game and any thing without feeling the need of an explanation.

Hereafter I'll use 1, 2 and 3 referring the three chapter, or the proper acronyms when I refer on a specific vanilla/addon.

The pillars of RTS and RPG games are: base building, resource management, army development, strategy, character growing, party management, writing, environment, control system. So I'll use these to develop the topic.
About art direction, musics and voice acting, I think 3 is a good product, but I suppose these elements are related to all games and not only a single genre, so I'll not discuss them.

Devs speeded up the RTS part between 1 and 2, a right choice I think since 1 have several downtime during RTS phases. In 3 the sector system change drastically how the RTS play works, forcing you to focus more on the location of the buildings instead of allowing you to grow quickly your base and focus on the army, and forcing your hero to wander on the map in order to follow the sectors instead of letting them explore properly. Moreover, the sector system make difficult having a real coop between two or more faction on the same map, since each sector can have only one owner, whereas 1 and 2 allow you to exploit the resource competitively and cooperatively as your choice. 2 simplifies the base building and resource management allowing the player to focus on the military part, and 3, instead of embracing this good choice, return back slowing too much the pace.

About army development, 3 has less units than the old games and less characterized. In SH and FG they have more distinctive traits, but nothing more than DS already does 17 years ago. In fact, the sector system makes the army development secondary, since you can use your heroes to destroy immediately the enemy capitol and win easily each RTS map. In 1 you can win several maps without activate race monuments if you have a hero monument, but in BoW and SotP they almost solved this issue. So 3's devs don't learn from the past...

Since all these things, in 3 the strategy is almost zero, compared to 1, where several maps forced you to choose between what race develop where you have different race monuments, or compared to 2, where you have always a first phase where you have to defend your base with your heroes and then retaliate with army and heroes when you have built a good one. In fact, in 3 you can follow 2's way, but only if you volountarly want to slow your pace.

About character growing, maybe this is the only point where 3 does a good job, since they follow 2 where the skill tree is simplified. 1's way of giving points to skills follow the classic pen & paper system, and it's useful when you play p&p, but it tend to be too slow playing on a videogame.
2 simplifies it too much, IMHO, but it's a good starting point, 3 luckily follows that way.
Said so, if you compare 3 with old games, but also AoE2, AoE4, SC2 and other RTS games, the comparison is pretty merciless, due to sector system, almost no specialized units, slow pace of base building and army management.

About gameplay choices, in 1 and 2 they're really well integrated with the lore, unlike 3 where the gameplay choices are forced almost without explanation (for example, in 2 you can't leave a RTS map by an oath due to a specific trait of your race, in 3 why you can't leave a RTS map?)

About party management, the choice to almost ignoring it in 1 is due to the lore, since runic warrior have predetermined skills and you have only to give them the proper gear. The classic RPG games (BG, IWD, P:T, NWN, and so on) can't follow p&p because they have to give you the capability of create your own character, specialized or hybrid as your choice, and have to balance subsequently the party giving you the needed choices. A classic good party have 4 of these elements, sometimes combined together: tank, melee fighter, ranged fighter, rogue, healer, mage. Usually a RPG game give you several companions that have such skills combined, so you can ignore the one or the two who have the same skills as your character and choose the others in order to balance your party. 2 takes the classic RPG party management and change it a little: since you don't need a rogue they give you 5 characters following the classic, adding your character and unbalancing the party towards your preferred playstyle; moreover, having all your companion with you allows the writer to explore better all of them.
This is a winning choice because in classic RPG you almost ignore some characters, whereas in 2 you know and play along with all your companions. You can also have two companions whom you can only give orders, adding a good point for narration. If you change the skills of each companion, you can create your favourite party with 6 elements instead of 4, improving the balancing chances (for example, 2 tanks and 4 mages from different schools). This is a good choice that 3 should follow, but inexplicably don't.
Last but not least about party management, in DS we have classic companions' quests that give us, in 3 the companions' quests are no more than a textwall, a real step back.

About environment, the step back compared to 1 and 2 is huge: the absence of the sky dome, of the day-night cycle, the presence of a little fraction of the creatures that old games gave us. There's a weather condition, a good idea, but completely disconnected by the gameplay, becoming so a useless frill. In 3 there's a city where you can see a lot of things, but the interaction is almost zero, namely a handful of quests and characters... again the comparison with Empyria or Sevenkeeps is merciful. The poorness of the environment is harsh also compared to other games, if you want to see it, starting from PoE and passing by TW. And it's not a question of AA or AAA games, it's a question to give the feeling of a rich world.

About the control system, 1 and 2 have a winning choice, namely the click & fight system, unexplicably 3 ignore it.
Usually the way you fight is: choose the performer, choose the action, choose the target. Each RTS/RPG game have to follow this model. In 3 (and a lot of other games) you follow it by acting several times in different location and moment: usually you choose the performer before, then during the fight you click on the action and then on the target. Sometimes you perform an action using the keyboard, making it a little quicker: press the action key and then click the target.
The click & fight change this paradigm allowing you to choose the target via keyboard and before the action. This make the fight very quicker than the classic system, since you choose performer and target before the fight. Since you can change target via keyboard almost without moving hands, you're very quicker than using the mouse pointer, since pressing a key is quicker than moving the mouse and point exactly on your target, especially when you have one hundred of unit on the screen.
Dulcis in fundo, the click & fight allow you to play the same way with heroes and RTS units, so you don't have to memorize different approaches. In 3 you have the wheel of action for the heroes, that follow the classic system (choose performer then action from the wheel then target) only via mousepointer, a big step back, and you have to use the classic system for the units (choose the performer then the target since the units have only one action available), another step back.

So, speaking about technical matters, it seems that 3's devs don't learn from the past, don't want to follow a traced route.
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Re: Comparison between SF3 and the older SF chapters

Post by Unrealmaster »

I can only agree that SpellForce was always about the PVE focus. The story, the progression and the many world and landscapes you could visite. Sadly it seems that this focus was gone with the old developers and the new ones never know what SpellForce is but did take the name IP to sell this game.

To say that this game here is a bad game would be not true, but it is a bad SpellForce game.
There are so many things that just make this not a good SpelLForce game, but a PVP focus game with some PVE on the site. It shows that there was nerver much effort in the PVE part with the 3er series and almost all dedication to realise someones PVP dream here.

There were many attemps by the community to bring back the focus to PVE and to bring this game back to the values of it’s IP name, but these were ignored by the devs and even put down by scraping some options to enhance these lacks of SpellForce features.

The biggest famous feature oft he SpellForce series was always the „free game mode“ (open realm mode) with a real native 3 player coop with open end options and progression, but all these demands had been ignored for the PVP „vision“ that this game is used for. The so called "Journey Mode" we got is not even a shadow of what the FGM was and is even now only an grind spiral that lacks it fun in any PoV. Lets not even start about the missing 3rd person view that got also scrapped, not only because they did not care, but because they are also lacking the competence to create a gameengine that does not roast hardware. Mods show this quite well...

I really hope that someday we will get people in charge of the SpellForce series who get back to the roots of it with the main PVE focus with some PVP only on the side, not hardcore balanced, not forced down the players throat but all fun for everyone.
I'm all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.

Leo Szilard
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