By – Mike Andre
So, today we are going to talk about Stronghold 3. The highly anticipated new title in a once great series which recently saw the light of the day. A few months ago, Firefly Studios announced they wanted to get back to their roots and use the first Stronghold as the base for the new game in the hopes of reclaiming back those who lost faith in the series because of Stronghold 2 and Stronghold Legends. Sadly for everyone, Stronghold 3 ends up being another disappointment.
What a shame, what a shame
We are not necessarily talking about a awful game, but rather about a mediocre game that probably ended up on the shelves prematurely with big, glaring flaws killing what could have been a pretty enjoyable experience otherwise.
In case you don’t know the series, let me tell you that Stronghold games are not bog- standard RTSes. Unlike other strategy games, there is a lot more to do than just sending constant waves of units to your enemy’s base and hope it works out. Here you build and manage a castle and it’s population while making sure you don’t get invaded. While in the first two games this was fun and satisfying, in Stronghold 3, it’s just plain boring. There are quite a few causes for this, but perhaps the worst of all is the lack of balance in most aspects of the game.
Games are suppose to be fun
Waiting for minutes until your population grows so you can fill up certain jobs is not fun. Spamming food production buildings throughout the map so your peasants have something to eat is not fun. Watching a single wolf tear apart half the population you worked so hard to grow and maintain in only a matter of seconds is definitely not fun.
From your incredibly overpowered lord who can take out an entire regiment by himself (which means recruiting weaker units is pretty close to worthless), to excessively expensive or excessively cheap buildings, there are also smaller though still significant issues I’m sure the developers could have easily sorted in a few weeks, had they decided to postpone the release of the game.
Don’t get me wrong, I really, really wanted to like this game. It’s just not possible. At least not until the developers patch up this thing so it reaches the state it was supposed to be at launch.
At least not all of it is bad, just most of it
The last two games looked bland at best and suffered from all sorts of technical problems but, Firefly learned their lesson and decided to go for an existing engine instead of creating a new one from scratch, saving them money and headaches.
That said, Stronghold 3 doesn’t look particularly orgasm-inducing, but the visuals are pleasant to the eye. It doesn’t require a high-end PC to be appreciated and, given it’s seemingly unfinished state, doesn’t seem to suffer too much from crashes or other technical issues. Physics are also well used even if a bit unrealistically at times. Blowing up walls or running over your attackers with tree logs on fire can be pretty fun and is definitely one of the highlights of the game. The music and sound effects give the game a nice tone, and the voice acting is for the most part good enough, though some lines like “the peasants are unsure of you, sire” get repetitive after a while.
When it comes to game modes though, the lack of a skirmish mode is impossible to forgive. Playing in Single Player mode, what fans probably enjoyed the most about the Stronghold series was freely building your castle while competing with other AI players for supremacy, having to worry about both defending and attacking. The two campaign modes are not particularly interesting either. One focuses on military action, the other in the management aspects, but none of them are exactly engaging. In both cases, the story is rather poor and is told through Age of Empires-esque cutscenes in between missions you’ll probably feel like skipping.
Conclusion – Is It Worth Your Money?
All in all, Stronghold 3 is a big disappointment. Perhaps with some time Firefly Studios can turn this mess into a good game, but as it is right now, I can’t recommend it to anyone. It’s true that we don’t see many good RTS releases nowadays, but at the price of $50, you can find much better strategy games.
Like the first Stronghold, for example.