In the realm of the RPG, Spellforce has been an established force for quite some time–20 years, in fact–during which it's delivered three games and plenty of expansions. The unique trait of the series has always been its fusion of real-time strategy with role-playing, offering deep character creation and storytelling, while also engaging us in the kind of epic combat we'd read about in the greatest works of fantasy fiction–from Lord of the Rings, to Game of Thrones.
Spellforce: Conquest of Eo is the latest game in the venerable series. As its non-numerical title suggests however, it's not a conventional Spellforce entry, deploying a Civilization-style turn-based format (or 4X, as the millions of genre fans call it) that expands the scope of the game like never before.
Here are five reasons why strategy fans should set their sights on SpellForce: Conquest of Eo.
An epic fantasy tale
4X strategy games don't always embrace storytelling, usually leaving you to create your own head-canon as you seek to conquer the world. Conquest of Eo however, packs a gripping tale into its campaign. You play a mage, inheriting a tower from your former master, and seeking to expand its influence through research, fielding armies, and finding sources of Allfire–a mysterious magical energy that fuels your ambitions.
But those ambitions won't go unrivalled. The world is filled with hostile forces, from Orcs to Undead; from New Purity cultists to granite dwarves. Meanwhile, the mysterious Mages' Circle also has designs for the Allfire, and doesn't take kindly to the schemings of a formidable upstart like yourself.
Suffice to say, victory won't come easily.
One of the perks of the 4X format is that it allows for a far grander scale of game than real-time strategy. For the first time in the series, you have a large-scale overview over the beautifully crafted world map, letting you plot not just your next move, but sweeping strategies that take in-game years to implement.
You traverse vast kingdoms, where you can ally yourself with different fantasy races–each fleshed out by years worth of lore and world-building created by the series' writers. The world is full of mysteries; you'll plunder ruins, mine for magical resources, and encounter heroes to embark on quests with. This is a huge world with huge possibilities.
Intricate tactical battles
As you might expect, 'Conquest' plays a key role here. Armies collide, and grand-scale balances of power can often hinge on the outcome of a single battle. It's only natural that you'll want to oversee those battles, so, in the spirit of the great Heroes of Might & Magic 3, you get to zoom in on the action, commanding your units on a tactically rich turn-based battlefield.
Take the high ground with your archers, employ heroes who break through enemy ranks, or hang back and play songs to rouse and heal your troops. There are countless combinations of spells, glyphs, and mortal and immortal units to harness, and endless ways to rout your enemies, or seize victory from the jaws of defeat.
A new experience every time
True to the genre, Conquest of Eo's campaign is designed to be played over and over again. The procedurally generated worlds mean that each game will require a new approach; you'll need to adapt your strategy based on the resources available to you, the heroes that cross your path, and the alliances that you forge with your neighbours. Not to mention the hundreds of side-quests out there, each accompanied by tales that teach you about this fantasy world. You're not going to find all of them in a single run, that's for sure!
Crucially, you pick from one of three mage archetypes when you start the game, each with their own playstyle. The Necromancer raises fallen soldiers as undead, giving them vast numerical advantages; the Alchemist brews incredible potions to bolster their troops, while the Artificer tinkers with glyphs to adapt their armies to whatever threats face them. Which path will you choose?
Take to the skies
From Bowser's gunships in Super Mario, to Howl's Moving Castle, and a thousand works of steampunk fiction, flying fortresses have long been a 'thing' in the popular imagination. Well, Conquest of Eo embraces that concept in its own special way.
Instead of conquering cities like you would in a regular 4X game, you in fact only control one building–your Wizard Tower. But this is no regular tower, as you can break it free of its foundations and fly it around the world. Yep, your base of operations–where you research tech, train troops, and craft spells–is a veritable flying fortress, creating strategic opportunities of the sort never before seen in the genre.
SpellForce: Conquest of Eo is out now on Steam. Head over there to check it out, and start planning your epic pursuit of the Allfire.