The Stockpile Is Empty. The End of a Wonderful Franchise
Where to begin... I will start by saying that never in all my years playing RTSs have I been as dissappointed at the state at which a game was released as I was with Stronghold 3. I dont usually complain if I hastily buy a game that turns out to not meet my expectations. What has clearly been the scam of a lifetime, for fans of the Stronghold franchise, can only be summed up as "clearly unfinished." The backlash has been so bad for FireFly they have released an apology for the state of the game and are promising patches every week to soothe the burn felt by those ( like myself ) who shelled out 50 bucks for an unplayable buggy mess. Here is the link to their official statement. http://www.fireflyworlds.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=485&Itemid=1.
To highlight a few of the issues that plagued me : Frequent freezes and crashes ( on a very capable PC with graphics turned all the way up or turned all the way down), Pointer issues as far as selecting troops, when ordering troops onto your walls or towers they often end up behind the wall you selected resulting in them being slaughtered, troops fail to react to hostile enemy actions which often result in your troops idly standing by as they are riddled with arrows and spears, no Kingmaker/ Skirmish mode ( no dynamic AI as in Stronghold 2 which allowed the computer opponents to build fortifications, siege other players, and maintain their respected economies), Multiplayer is complicated beyond repair as far as crashing and gameplay issues, peasants take too long to appear and feeding them is a nightmare ( ie; having 8 apple farms, 4 wheat farms, 6 bakeries, 4 dairy farms, and 2 pig farms still cant feed a population of 30 peasants. Obviously there are some balancing issues to be corrected ), wolves and troops have walked through my walls, difficullty lining up and fortifying walls with towers, barracks, armory, and gates, The ability to ajoin housing/ hovels and other buildings together has been removed resulting in placing single developments down that have a required amount of space which results in rather large amounts of space being used ( particularly diffiuclt on the small maps that populate Stronghold 3 ), There have been accusations made that FireFly had promised to have a cooperative mode in multiplayer but didnt actually amke it to the finished game. This list isnt complete by any means as I am just too tired to continue on all the bugs and balance issues. The link provided above is to Firefly's website and has a whole list of comments from forum users detailing OUR complaints.
There are a few things that Ive been impressed with. The graphics are pretty decent in this game, and are a far cry better from Stronghold 1 and 2. From the foggy mist hovering above the ground to rain and lightning effects, I actually felt like it was a bleak little world that my sims had to live and endure in. In free build you can change the weather and lighting outside. Changing morning to night and watching the shadows get longer right before dusk was a cool effect. The ability to decorate your buildings with severed heads and banners were ammusing but there isnt enough choices in my opinion. But still a neat touch and a step in the right direction. Some music has carried over from previous Stronghold games with an additional few tracks. I particularly like one song that sounds like an old tune sang by merry men around a barrel of mead. My only gripe, once again, there just isnt enough. The songs often repeat themselves consecutively. One thing I thought I might see was the fully rotational camera allowing me to look at the sky and all around. There were a few screen shots released that looked as if that would be back from Stronghold 2, but I havent found it yet. It might have helped to actually recieve a manual with my 50 dollar purchase. Instead, I open the box to find 1 piece of paper with a DLC code on it and another explaining the control layout. The few things that Stronghold does with its presentation still cannot make up for awful gameplay and uninspired cut scenes ( they look more like black and white story boards instead of in game graphics or CGI. )
Sadly, the game in its current state is pretty much unplayable. I spent 20 plus hours playing on the single player story economic campain only to have made it to the 4th mission. This was mainly due to all the crashes and restarts i had to do. Not to mention the tower climbing wolves munching on my archers after they had ran through my wooden defensive walls around my settlment. I dont know how many times I replayed the Wolves in the Abbey mission. While the gameplay does more to resemble Stronghold 1, it falls short of bringing back the magic that Stronghold 1 and 2 won many of us over with. I felt that Stronghold 2 was an excellent game and I was in favor of the crime and punishment system along with cleaning up gong and rats. None of this made it back. Well I should say it didnt entirely make it back. It is a very crude version of what Stronghold 2 strove for. Here you can place punishment buildings down and they effect your peasants mood and work ability. Somehow the joy of punishing criminals is lost by just simply placing a gallows with a poor soul already swinging from the rope with no explanation as to why he is there. He is just there. Crime is more simple in this game as you cant actually prevent it. Sadly no more courthouses or dungeons. Crime instead is randomly generated during gameplay and has a negative affect for some time over your peasants moods, causing them to leave. A sunny day will give you a plus rating or a recent crimewave will give you a negative rating on top of what you have managed to bring your happiness level to. This part in particular was upsetting to me. No matter what level of happiness your peasants are they will be affected by things beyond your control a la crimewaves, rats in the granary causing you to lose rations, hopweevil destrying your crops, mad cow disease, and so on.
Overall, Stronghold 3 just feels like an empty shell of what the first two games set up. Nothing has really been added and there isnt a wow factor in this game. In my opinion, it is a simple half finished attempt to cash in on two outstanding previous titles. The most frustrating part is that Firefly wants you to buy unfinished rubbish at full price and then slowly release a series of patches over the next few months to make the game playable. This is something that should have been done from the beginning. Patches and DLC are suppose to enhance the players experience, and tweak certain aspects that may not have worked, not bring a game to its expected level of playabilty that it should have been already upon its initial release. Perhaps, when it is all said and done, Stronghold 3 will meet some of our expectations as a great castle sim but there is quite a void to fill.