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.


  1. I googled the legal rape thing and Wiki says there is no historical evidence that it ever existed.


  2. I liked the first Stronghold. The soldier's and armie's movement was always quite laggy though. Not sure, if that was my computer's problem, or just bad presentation.

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