Saturday, November 5, 2011

Stronghold 3

The original Stronghold was an excellent game. It's easily the best castle building game I've played (though that's not really saying a lot) and even outside that relatively narrow genre, it's still one of my favorite games. So, I was very excited about Stronghold 3, which came out just a couple weeks ago.

Unfortunately, Stronghold 3 has been very disappointing.

When it first came out, it was buggy as all hell. It was pretty much unplayable. Fortunately, some patches have been released. They're now on version 1.2.24396. It's not usually a good sign when the version number is in the tens of thousands. That's a lot of bug fixes.

But at least now you can actually click on things, and your troops will go where you tell them. (Well, most of the time. My guys still occasionally get stuck on nothing, but ordering them backwards and forwards again will usually get them unstuck. (Sadly, that's still better than it was before))

But even without the bugs, it's still disappointing. The change from earlier games that I dislike the most is happiness. As with earlier games, if happiness is above a certain level, peasants will come to the castle, and the higher the happiness, the faster the come. Conversely,  the further below that level, the faster the peasants will leave. However, in earlier games, influences on happiness level were related to the rate of change of happiness. Raising taxes wouldn't make the peasants unhappy, it would make them unhappier and they would keep getting unhappier until you did something else to make them happier. In Stronghold 3 the influences on happiness are direct, and immediate. This can make for an unfortunate situation if anything happens to your farmers. If you run out of food, people will immediately start leaving the castle, and the farmers can't be replaced.

Another thing I don't like is that strongholds seem a lot less strong in this game. In earlier games, archers on top of walls or towers had an incredible advantage over those on the ground. They could shoot farther, and they got some protection against enemy arrows. In this game, there's no protection from enemy attacks. Enemy arrows never miss and bounce off a crenelation. And though there is a range enhancement, it's pretty small. In fact, archers on a wall instead of a tower don't seem to get any extra range at all.

Beyond the big things, there are lots of little irritations too. For example, peasants eat a lot. You can only attach a wall to the very end of another wall, not in the middle for a T-shape. Troops default formation is no formation. Etc.

Stronghold 3 isn't all bad. There are a few things I like about it. One is what they've done with housing.  In earlier games, it didn't matter where you put hovels, so it made sense to make them far away from the rest of the castle. That way, they wouldn't get in the way, and they wouldn't be in harms way when enemies attacked. But it also wasn't very realistic. Now, the closer you put your hovel to the keep, the more people it can hold.

Another thing I like is that now you don't place buildings on a grid, and they can rotated very finely.

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