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Stronghold 3 Review (Windows PC)

Posted by Rory Klawien, Nov 17, 2011 15:14

I came into the Stronghold series with Stronghold 2, and as such I am one of those seemingly rare individuals that liked the second version. However, my appreciation for the game, even with its heavy economic micromanaging, can be attributed to my preferred strategy in RTS games, which is to turtle. That said, in researching the first Stronghold, as well as its expansions with Crusader, I was able to understand the complaints that fans of the first had with the second. Two of the more common complaints that I read on other sites and forums were the added, perceived excessive, economic controls and the seemingly forgotten combat, both items readily apparent in Stronghold 2.

Stronghold 3 was described from its beginning as a direct response to those complaints and a return to the more gritty castle build and destroy game focus that was the original. In addition they promised better graphics and a more realistic environment.

Stronghold 3 Brick and Mortar

At its heart Stronghold 3 is a castle building real time strategy game. Like its predecessors, in every mode of the game, whether battling the computer in single player or a live opponent in multiplayer, you start on a map with a small or limited set of peasants (workers), resources, and buildings. Like the previous games your primary concern as you build is keeping your peasants (workers) happy, and to a lesser extent, safe. This is because peasants are needed, in order for them to function and provide benefits like food and additional building materials, and to create military units.

Stronghold 3 maintains the series’ unique castle building by again providing the plethora of defensive buildings such as castle walls, towers, gatehouses, and defensive traps that you can build or that you must defeat .

Adding to the challenge are random events, both good and bad, that can occur over the course of the scenario, some of these events, such as weather, have an immediate and direct effect on the peasants’ happiness. Others like crop failures affect your ability to provide resources which may eventually affect happiness levels. Finally there is threat of animal and enemy attacks that can both directly impact happiness and result in your peasants or  lord being killed, which usually ends the scenario in defeat for you!

stronghold 3 needs new engineers

Winning a scenario is often a fine art between managing your peasant’s happiness by feeding them, entertaining them, and keeping them safe and achieving some goal.

Stronghold 3 Strongholds

As in its previous version, the game offers a large variety of game modes, there is a single player mode with four different play options (including two campaigns, Free Build, and Historic Siege), a multiplayer mode, and a map editor. These multiple modes and game types give Stronghold 3 players a large variety of options and include something for combat, town-castle building, and economic-minded players.

In the single player mode, two campaign types are available; military and economic. Both campaigns are supported by their own unique storyline and accompanied with a voiced motion-comic between missions. Each is focus on a specific style of play, but both require at least some management of the other facets. While the economic campaign timeline technically picks up after the military campaign they can easily be played in any order without ruining one or the other. I am a sucker for a good story, and while it was no “Game of Thrones”, there was enough of one to keep me interested in both campaigns and wanting to complete them. The choice of going with black and white still drawing “cinematics” is not as engrossing as animated ones, but they were done well and did bring the story to life far more than not including them.

The history loving geek in me definitely liked the Historic Siege Mode. In this mode, a player chooses to attack or defend a castle which is designed to represent an actual historic castle. While it is definitely for the more combat-oriented player, I appreciated the historic roots and the brief description, given when selected, of the castles historical significance.

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Stronghold 3 Review (Windows PC)
7.0 Replay
The game does include a good number of options including several single player modes and multiplayer content, however the playability of the game is such that it detracts from its replay value.
8.0 Graphics
The graphics of the game are more than adequate for an RTS with some nice touches such as water movements and environmental changes.
7.0 Sound
The in play sound is adequate though similar to past games. Again some nice touches have been added such as your peasant speaking to you when clicking on them and the voice work for the campaign stories.
3.0 Gameplay
With limited combat controls and a lack of unit intelligence a player is forced to babysit units even though the game requires his attention in many other ways. Mix that with that finicky castle/wall construction and both economic and unit balance issues and the game quickly becomes frustrating rather than fun.
5.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
While multiplayer is available it comes with all the same challenges that single player game has. It includes four maps; two large (4 player) and 2 small (2 player). It includes the ability to find games and host your own, but does not include any concept of experience or skill. I did not see an option for playing against a computer opponent and the only type of game seems to be annihilation.
4.0 Overall
While the game was touted as a return to the roots of the original Stronghold, as demanded by the fans after the perceived failure of Stronghold 2, its buggy game play and balance issues make it a crumbling ruin rather than the stronghold it was promised to be.

Rating: 2.5, votes: 2


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