Lords of the Realm 3 is a real-time strategy game developed by Impressions Games and released by Sierra Entertainment in 2004. It was the third entry in the Lords of the Realm series, which hadn't seen any releases since Lords of the Realm 2 in 1996. The game was notably released as a budget title, starting at the cost of $20.
Lords of the Realm 3 drastically changed the formula of the series from Lords of the Realm 2. Rather than being a turn-based real-time strategy hybrid like LotR 2 was, Lords of the Realm 3 was completely real-time, even on the strategic layer of the game. The changes the game made to the series' established formula alienated much of the franchise's established fan base- who heavily criticized the game for being completely different from LotR 2. The game did still receive a number of positive reviews from critics though.
The basic setup of Lords of the Realm 3 is the main similarity between it and Lords of the Realm 2. Just like LotR 2, Lords of the realm 3 is divided into 3 levels of play, the strategic layer, the battlefields, and diplomacy. This however, was where the majority of similarities ended.
Unlike LotR 2, all of these separate layers in Lords of the Realm 3 are active in real-time simultaneously. You could be viewing a battle for instance, but everything that occurs on the strategic layer continues unhindered- armies keep moving, sieges can begin, your land can be plundered, diplomatic offers may be made to you, etc. The same goes when viewing the strategic layer- battles continue unhindered.
To help make this continuous real-time system feasible, many of the game's features can be automated. Your lands will handle themselves just fine as long as you assign vassals to them. Once a vassal is assigned- there is almost nothing else you need to do with that land. Even battles can be left automated- as the game's AI takes control of your forces in any battle or siege you are not viewing.
The Strategic Layer
The strategic layer provides a view of the lands you are fighting over. These lands are comprised of numerous regions that are divided into numerous parcels of land that can used by whoever owns the main parcel of that region. Players have four types of vassals to assign to these parcels:
- Knights: Knights are the leaders of your military units. When posted to a parcel, they build a fief and are immediately posted to that fief with the unit(s) they command. If assigned to the main parcel of a region- they build a castle that can be upgraded and must be sieged to be razed.
- Burghers: Burghers are a player's main source of gold income. They build towns wherever they are assigned, which automatically produce gold for you and allow you to hire mercenaries. If assigned to the main parcel of a region- they build a city. Cities must be sieged to be razed and start with stronger defenses than a brand-new castle, but cannot be directly upgraded and are still much weaker than the stronger castles.
- Priests: Priests allow players to raise their Christianity level, as they build churches on the parcels they are assigned to. On a region's main parcel, they build a cathedral. Cathedrals provide even more of a Christianity bonus, but are easy to raze as they have no defenses of their own like cities and castles do.
- Serfs: Serfs build farms on the parcels they are assigned to. These farms raise the level of food you have, which increases the number of knights you can support.
The Battle Layer
The battle layer is arguably where Lords of the Realm 3 remains most similar with Lords of the Realm 2. Battles are always between 2 armies which are comprised of the units that are commanded by the knights who have joined the army. The units available in the game range from basic swordsmen and archers, to more unique units such as welsh archers, teutonic knights, highlanders, and others.
Lords of the Realm 3 offers some relatively basic formation options for its units. The formations offered depend upon the unit selected and range from basic line formations, square formations, phalanxes, stakes, and more.
The diplomacy layer allows players to offer gifts, alliances, peace agreements, or declare war on the other noble houses. This layer also allows players to keep track of their Christianity level. Depending on the map being played, a player's Christianity level can have a major effect on what knights- and thus what unit types- offer their services to that player.