Monday, 31 October 2011

Stronghold 3 -Not fun for me nor fun for thee...

So Jess, did you really think that last post was a declaration of me making socially-relavent-to-15-year old girls's posts?


Nope that post was just Chuck Testa.

But I digress. the point is that I decided to write about what I know, and what I know is a small niche of RTS games. Last week I was silly enough to waste 50 dollars of my pitifully easily earnt cash on a game by the name of Stronghold 3. I was hoping it would be as good as it's ancient ancestor "Stronghold".

I was wrong... But to be fair it had high expectations to live up to.

The original stronghold was the first of it's kind. A medieval castlebuilding game with economic, military and aesthetic aspects of it. In free build mode you could run your castle like a medieval game of the sims, keeping peasants happy, or sad, building a nice big castle or a crappy castle with walls in awkward places. Absolute freedom. In economic missions you utilised the best tools medieval lords had at their disposal to ascertain a strong economy; food (by far the most effective; nothing motivates peasants like food) , religion, booze, torturing devices, dancing bears, highly variable tax rates and a rapidly expanding ghetto far away from the castle in a swamp because you didn't have enough room to fit all the peasants houses in the inner bailey.

And in the military missions you got to play with the most horrific yet fantastic killing machines they had at the time. Ballistae, catapults, trebuchets, crossbows, killing pits, mangonels, dogs of war and my personal favourite: burning oil. There were two delivery methods for burning oil; getting engineers to pour it from atop the ramparts or using archers with flaming arrows to light up pitch ditches. I preferred the pitch ditches.

Boiling oil was not nearly as popular though, as boiling water, hot sand and whatever else you had lying around... I'm not joking, this is actually what they did in those times.

The best aspect of Stronghold though was the story. Unfortunately computer games have a nasty habit of using monkeys with typewriters to write their plot arcs.Stronghold seems to have used regular humans on typewriters for their story. It's a classic tale of taking revenge in the midst of civil war. You play a medieval lord whose father died defending the king when he was kidnapped in a nasty cocktail of foreign invasion mixed with local treachery. The new regent to the throne is none other than the knight who killed your old man. You start with a hunting band of archers but by the end of the game command a whole army as the peasants you free from the lords you kill, mistake your thirst for bloody vengeance as an honorable quest to liberate the land and return it to the rightful divine rule of the king.

The story is rather empowering and is free from some of the other nastier tropes that plague modern games.

Stronghold 3's story was disapointing from the start. In all fairness though it was because my expectations were high. All the trailers were narrated by the "Wolf", the knight whose revenge you sought in the original stronghold and end up killing. I was willing to forego the implausibility of Wolfie surviving a sword in his stomach and a 50 ft fall off his keep under the pretension that I would be playing as the Wolf in his quest for vengeance in a glorious new segment in this saga of vendetta.

Sadly, you play that same character you did before but now he is playing the part of a typical goody two shoes. I wish the writers got their facts right. Anyone who knows their history knows that knights were not so holy and righteous and there certainly isn't anything chivalrous about rape (which was a universal activity in war amongst all soldiers).

Knights and lords had the added benefit of being able to legally rape women in peacetime too. If you don't believe me then go look up "droit de seigneur".

So apparently Wolfie has a new army and is terrorising the country again. How he managed to rise up from the grave and summon an army when he is universally disliked by his own countrymen and lost his treasury when he "died", I do not know.

On a positive note though, the story is definitely an improvement on "Stronghold 2" which had 2 bit graphics for cutscenes and characters so one dimensional that the 2 bit graphics described their personality frighteningly well.

Furthermore they did get the economic gameplay right. It has just the right amount of complexity and depth, nothing more. The military gameplay is stupid though; since when could men-at-arms kill archers on 20m towers with a thrown spear? And apparently archers can do similar gravity defying tricks. Of course it makes sense that archers could hit men on the walls, but some towers were too high to hit. Hence why they were built in the first place; so the defender could take pot shots at the attackers who couldn't hit them save with siege equipment.

The missions aren't too bad. They require time and patience. If you do not have any patience then don't bother playing them because you may find yourself vexed at losing missions for stupid reasons (eg gravity defying arrows). But if you can happily sit down and analyse and plan then this game is for you. Because rest assured, where there is a will and a brain there is definitely a way. And seeing your enemies fly off the walls with fragments of crenelations like shrapnel from your catapults?... well... that should be reward enough for your efforts.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

It's not you it's me...

It's not that I don't love you readers. I do, and for the very few people who are reading this after weeks of apathetic doldrums, you are looking very beautiful tonight.

It's just... with work, and esports it's hard to find the time and willingness to cover the ickiness that is the title and topic of my testament.

So instead of prolonging the struggle of keeping life in my poor blog, I am breaking up with blogging...
...about war, religion and politics.

Instead, this blog will just become my new personal blog. A bit like my old blogs on deviantart and the now ancient myspace, but hopefully with a bit more coherency and of course this blog will continue to be rated "G" for Gman, so no naughty things will be posted. I will just write whatever comes to mind, maybe put up a short story or two. Don't feel obliged to read. This is more of an exercise for myself than anything else.

As always though, your feedback whether it be positive or utterly cruel and constructive is welcome.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Battle of Tours

It's that time again, ladies and gents.

Time for me to stop rambling about endless political posts and off-topic trivialities and give you all a history lesson.

On this day (October 10th) 1279 years ago a major battle was ensuing. It would decide just how far Islam would encroach on western Europe and would mark the rise of a European power.

By 732 AD Spain had been consumed by the Moors. Islam was on the rise and threatening to spread further into Europe.

Remember learning about how terrible life in the dark ages was? It wasn't just terrible food, plagues, hard work and neighbouring warlords that were a problem, the Muslims had Europe in a vice grip too.

At this point in history there was no major power to stop them. The Umayyed Caliphate (aka the Moors, aka the evil forces of Islam) had already crushed the Iberian Peninsula (Spain) which had been held by feeble visigothic christian kingdoms and were poised add Gaul (France) to their list of conquests.

But as we already know, every story has a hero and today's hero, boys and girls, is none other than Charles Martel.

Stop! Hammertime!

Martel was the "Mayor of the Palace" of Austrasia at the time but don't let titles fool you; Martel was an autocrat ruling over Gaul and a rising general.

As it turned out, he had his work cut out for him. The Moors were slowly invading and ravaging the land with a cavalry-rich composition. All poor Charles had to work with was infantry, so he had to pick his battles carefully.

And pick carefully he did, he planted his army in between the Moorish army and Tours in the woods on high ground. If the Moors wanted to sack the juicy ripe town of Tours they would have to charge their cavalry through trees and up a hill. Moorish commander Abd-al-Rahman, was naturally afraid of fighting such a battle and against an unknown number (the trees made it difficult to judge the size of Martel's army), so he waited and called for reinforcements.

This was Rahman's first major blunder. By waiting for reinforcements, he gave Martel more time to prepare and call on reinforcements of his own. This was Martel's country, and so he had more reinforcements to call from in his countrymen.

When Rahman finally decided to bite the bullet and attack, the battle was already decided for him. He led cavalry charge after cavalry charge into a solid wall of trees and men clad in heavy armor. The casualties were heavy for the Moors. Nevertheless, eventually the cavalry broke through Martel's phalanx to the general himself, but Martel's liege men were quick to come to his aid.

Meanwhile, Martel had scouts sent into the Moor's base camp to create havoc. Rahman was forced to send some of his cavalry back to deal with the small threat, but his camp mistook the riding cavalry for a retreat. And so his whole camp began routing and it soon became a retreat.

Rahman attempted to stop the retreat and re-rally his troops and at this point Martel struck the killing blow, and surrounded and cut off Rahman from his retreating army. The Arabian King was slain and the battle was won.

For those of you who were too busy checking out the hot girl in front of you in Geography class.

Charles Martel's legacy continued in the form of the Carolingian dynasty. His grandson would become known as Charles the Great (aka Charlemagne) of the Holy Roman Empire.

But above all else Christian Europe was safe once more from Islam.

I for one find it interesting that for once the French were on the receiving end of a cavalry charge with an army of infantry when medieval history is littered with accounts of the mighty french cavalry. And also the stupidity of Rahman, all he had to do was continue his journey of pillaging the countryside until Charlie was forced to engage unfavourably.