For every game review that I’ve written, I always managed to make it through to the end of the game. I make sure that I have played through everything the game had to offer. Stronghold 3 is the first the game that really gave me a run for my money. It was one long, grueling journey to the very end. But hey, now I am able to say that I am one of the few people who actually completed Stronghold 3. It’s that bad.
The game is the seventh spin-off in a series of games dating back to the original Stronghold in 2001. It was developed by Firefly Studios once again, which is why I am so surprised as to how bad it is. How could they ship a game as bad as this? Firefly Studios has been at the helm of the Stronghold franchise for years now, pumping out quite a few great castle-sims.
Stronghold 3 is littered with bugs. It won’t be hard for you to find one. Even after a few, relatively big patches, the game still feels broken. Soldiers will constantly ignore your orders, forcing you to order them to attack over and over again until they do and archers specifically will refuse to fire upon enemies from elevated positions. You’ll have to deliberately put them into harms way for them to fight at all.
Other factors such as wolves and bears having the power to kill your soldiers on sight frustrated me more than ever. I’d have to place contingents of warriors all over my so-called “stronghold” just to protect them from these silly beasts.
When it comes to building castles, Firefly Studios said before that they had ditched the previous grid building system to allow players to build where and however they want. That isn’t the case. Yes, there is no longer a “set” grid in place, but each building or wall that you place will have it’s very own block. No other building or wall can interfere with that block or the item cannot be built.
The more “free’d” building system did have a few perks though. For instance, every building can now be rotated 360 degrees, meaning you can position structures at any angle you’d like to.
The list of available structures to build is the same as has always been for the typical Stronghold game, however many have either been renamed/redesigned or removed entirely from the game. My personal favorite, the Jousting Arena has been taken out, and other buildings such as the industry structure for collecting wood has been redesigned to be an entire wood camp. They lost their special horses for transporting the wood though, so it has to all me transported manually meaning it takes a lot longer to get back to your stockpile.
Another neat feature that could be found in previous Stronghold games that is now gone was dynamic environments. When woodsmen would go off chopping down trees, the tree that cut down would fall and then be gone forever. Or the stones nearby a stone quarry station would gradually disappear as time went on.
The only thing Firefly Studios did change in this game is a day/night cycle, with the addition of a few random rain storms. At night, you’ll only be able to see a few feet from your castle walls, everything beyond that is blacked out. Enemies, or even yourself, could be hiding out in the darkness possibly preparing for an attack on the castle or just waiting for an unlucky soldier to wander off to his death.
While this whole idea is neat, it is only found in the single-player campaign portion of the game. The lack of “Kingmaker mode” from the game, as featured in Stronghold 2, means you’ll be forced to play either the military campaign, the tediously boring economic campaign, or free build.
Stronghold 3′s military campaign takes place ten years after Stronghold 2, continuing the story of The Boy. The Wolf has cheated death and is back for revenge. By raiding towns and villages in the dead of night The Wolf has created a tide of panic, with The Boy and his allies the only force to stand against him. Though that tidbit of information was hard to uncover since they story is told through a bunch of narrated slide-shows. Boring? Yes.
Overall, the plot is pretty basic to say the least and the way the story is played out by the player contradicts almost everything a Stronghold game stands for. In certain missions, you’ll be guiding simple, little bands of soldiers across landscapes in various different escape missions. They’re all long and boring and in no shape or form are they fun. Most likely, it will be a struggle for you to get through all 17 missions in the frustratingly, bland experience of a campaign.
When it comes to what should be the fun part, the battles themselves, we run into yet another problematic experience. While there is some depth when it comes to outfitting your army with different types of units (spearmen, macemen, cavalrymen, etc.), worry about such variety is useless since none seem to have any significant advantage over one another. In pretty much every conflict you’ll just send your soldiers off into a fight and hope for the best.
Even though Stronghold 3 had been in development for over 5 years, it is still one large, buggy mess. Foes are far to overpowered, the story is awfully boring, and the lack of any mode that pits you against your enemies in a wide open map, giving you the freedom to build and conquer as you please limits the game’s playable options. If you’re looking for a fun, castle-sim to play, I’d recommend Stronghold 2 over 3 any day.
Replay Value: Very Low
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