Guest Author - James Shea
The successor to the famed castle-building series, "Stronghold 3" modernizes the graphics of the first game and...not much else.
"Stronghold 3" is the newest game in the Stronghold series, which is about building castles, establishing economies, surviving sieges, and so on. Stronghold 1, released in 2001, was a smash hit despite its limited gameplay options, and while Stronghold 2 was less well-received it was still acceptable. Stronghold 3, unfortunately, has decided to take no risks and copy Stronghold 1 wholesale, without introducing any new features (and losing some of the features introduced in Stronghold 2).
When I say that Stronghold 3 is exactly like Stronghold 1, I know what I'm talking about: the game, on Steam, came bundled with Stronghold 1 if you pre-ordered the game. So I was able to play Stronghold 1, quit, load up Stronghold 3, and see that it was literally the same without adding any new features apart from graphics. The relatively uninformative HUD and limited building selection was acceptable in 2001 as a limitation of technology, but ten years later it's pointlessly useless.
The game is in essence about collecting resources, whether it's for food, building materials, or weapon-making. There's no information about how fast you're gathering resources, expected harvest levels, or anything of that nature. You can check your current stockpiles, and you can be told that "more people means faster food depletion" but you can never see how much food is needed. This is especially annoying when you have crops like wheat which need to be ground up at a mill and then converted to bread at a bakery; the only way you can tell if the system is jammed up is by periodically comparing how much wheat, flour, and bread you have. The combat system isn't much better; unit AI is pathetic, and things like walls have no defensive value whatsoever.
The game modes are laughably underdeveloped. There's a campaign mode (which tells a story using not cutscenes, but black-and-white sketches), a free build mode (with exactly two maps, both of which are tiny), and a "historical siege" mode (where the castles are tiny and most definitely NOT built to historically accurate levels). There's not really enough room just to build a castle for the sake of building a castle, as all the maps are cramped and confined. The one real appeal of the game - the opportunity to build in 3d, as opposed to Stronghold 1's 2d - isn't brought into play because the maps are just too small.
The graphics, while an improvement over Stronghold 1, are barely acceptable for 2011 standards. There's not a lot of customization options and building types, so your castle is always going to look like a random mishmash of structures with a wall around it rather than something actually aesthetically pleasing. The opportunity to build a castle is the only reason that the game would be worth playing, and it's not even really good at that. Overall, Stronghold 3 is a shameful disappointment on every level; even people who absolutely loved Stronghold 1 are better off playing that game than shelling out $50 for this.
Buy Stronghold 3 from Amazon.com