Preview

Stronghold 3 Preview (PC)

It's nice to see the concepts and tech demos that you get shown in the early stages finally come together. The more we see of the sequel to the iconic castle-building series, the more confident we get that it's going to be an interesting experience. The strategy-genre doesn't get that many innovations, but there are plenty of niches that don't always get filled as well, and this is one of them. We were invited by Firefly to get an update on the game and how it's doing.
 

See? Just like if you were watching The History Channell or something...

The main thing of this latest preview is seeing how the engine and just the core gameplay come together. Firefly have really tried to help and bring the environment to life. Villagers will go about their business in a variety of different ways, interact with other buildings, the retinue will hangout outside the hall, animals will dive in-between buildings. Castles and towns have also have a more organic feel with the any-angle placement, and especially the degradable houses based on range. Regardless of whether you're doing a military or an economical campaign, your evolving settlement will always feel alive.

The economic campaign, despite being less action orientated, is shaping up to be challenging in its own right. Unique maps will provide objectives that need careful consideration, such as a plague infested town that you need to rebuild -do you tackle the plague first, or get rid of the some of the ruins that are getting in the way of your expansion? Not to mention you have a time limit to work towards. The popularity and honour systems are also starting to take shape - one can even play as a 'tyrant' and still be able to get through the game.

There was a bit to see on the military side of thing a wells: we were shown a couple of set up skirmishes and sieges, along with combat mechanics and the havock ragdoll physics that are in the game - always fun to watch people get shot off the wall and slide down the hill, even if it does look a little bit too fluid. The balancing needs a bit tweaking in terms of health and damage, but combat is pretty standard. There's some rock-paper-scissor elements, and making use of things like traps and the environments are key. You can also though just 'force' your troops through the enemies in front of you to the enemies behind - which will incur a heavy penalty but will help you break through defence lines.

The team have even recreated some historical castles to use in skirmish maps, recreated authentically using satellite visual data and historical text. Multiplayer has three main modes - Deathmatch (With up to 8 players), King of the Hill, which uses a single 'Estate' that you need to fight for control over, and Capture the Flags, which has several estates that you fight for control over. Estates in the single-player campaign represent small neutral dwellings that are often a low-level threat, but can bring good bonuses if defeated.

Despite the fact that there's a new 3D engine, it is in essence a new game, there's little that's been announced new in terms of content and buildable elements. Many of the concepts carried over from Stronghold 2 - like Crime and Punishment - have been simplified, although many of the core relevant buildings are still present - in terms of units though, Firefly have actually confirmed at least two new ones - the Ranger and Sappers. The Ranger is tougher archer unit, able to hold its own in the melee fight, and the sappers will help with sieges, naturally.
 
I was thinking we could go with the Wheel 'O Pain today

At the moment, Stronghold 3 is approaching beta, with a release slated for September/October. There won't be a demo before release, although the studio have said something might be sorted out post-launch. As we've mentioned previously, tools will also be made available to create maps and upload them to a central service, probably via Steam. The Stronghold series is an iconic franchise that has been sorely missed in a niche that's never really had anyone else try to claim the throng - Stronghold 3, whilst not a massive innovation, seems to be successfully bring the franchise into the modern age, and should definitely be a fun one to play.

Most Anticipated Feature: Thanks to the recent facbook campaign, players can now fire some interesting animals from the trebuchets.

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Comments

By SirRoderick (SI Elite) on Jun 27, 2011
SirRoderick
The only thing in there I didn't like was the word "simplified".

Everything else makes me hopeful, yet preparing to be dissapointed.
By herodotus (SI Herodotus) on Jun 27, 2011
herodotus
The first two were quite difficult until you got the hang of them, and even then "Crusaders" was brutal. So as long as the simplification doesn't detract from gameplay I don't mind (might attract more purchasers and players).
Won't say this is a pre-purchase "must" for me, but I eagerly await further news on the game.
By jpinks (I just got here) on Jul 09, 2011
jpinks
I know its supposed to be kinda real life combat but part of me wants a wizard or 2 to rain fire or burning cows on the other guys :)