Don't waste your money [Contains Spoliers]
I was very disappointed tin this latest installment to the Stronghold franchise. As a longtime supporter of the series from the Original Stronghold to the Crusader re-release, Stronghold 2 as well as Stronghold Kingdoms MMO, I was initially excited to see Stronghold 3 come out. When it was released to negative press, I was concerned and waited some time to allow Firefly to work out the bugs prior to buying the game. As it has now been one year since its release I incorrectly assumed that all is well.
I haven't played the Multiplayer so I cannot speak to the playability of that aspect of the game but from what I have heard, it is worse than the single player. I played the single player military campaign (there is a military and economic single player campaign) and was very frustrated throughout the experience.
First, the game has many bugs; mostly graphics bugs like unit expanding and floating away but then reappearing where they are supposed to be. These bugs while annoying aren't my major gripe with the game. I have two major gripes; the incomplete campaign and the overall playability of the military campaign.
The story of the military campaign has you confronting The Wolf, a character from previous iterations of the Stronghold series but with each successful mission, you are berated to find out that "that was too easy, there must be something wrong" as the story goes. This lack of originality in the story line seems like the script was written on a napkin during a weekend of binge drinking. As the final coup de gras in the story fail, after you complete the final mission, the final "winning" animation shows that the mission was a trap and The Wolf captures you. The whole story portrays your character as if it were some toddler fumbling though a fast food play land while the missions themselves are very challenging (but not in a good way but more on that later). To complete the story with: "the guy you have been fighting (and triumphing over) this whole time just pulls a fast one and beats you." it is like they woke up on Monday morning with a hangover and had to turn something in or get fired and this is what they came up with. I felt insulted...
The overall feel of the military campaign was frustrating to say the least. I loved the traditional Stronghold recipe and I am not sure why they decided to change it. The original feel that I liked was something like:
1. Start off and build a few troops to defend.
2. Build just enough economy to enclose the keep
3. Build stronger walls further out to give you more room for a more robust economy
4. Build a stronger economy that can support a military that will eventually be able to attack your opponent while defending from the constant onslaught of the enemy.
5. Once your army is built, zerg the enemy base.
Stronghold 3 has just enough hints of that to make you aware that they know the recipe but that they don't care. The strategy for completing all of the missions is to find the gimmick. Every mission either has a timer that won't allow you to build up a decent army, thus forcing you to find some gimmick attack/exploit that beats the AI or the mission won't have an economy at all; instead supplying you with a fixed number of troops at the beginning, forcing you to exploit terrain or attack a side. Maybe Firefly's intent was to make the player find the the weak spot in the castle and attack there but I found it more frustrating than anything and more often than not, found myself on YouTube looking for the gimmick only to be annoyed when I found out how. I didn't buy Stronghold 3 to solve a puzzle, I bout it to build a castle that can defend against the enemy, build a robust economy thus funding and fielding a vast army that can march out and tank out my opponent. If I wanted a puzzle, I would have bought a Rubik' Cube...
Overall, I can say that I was very disappointed with Stronghold 3. I feel cheated out of my money but more than anything I feel bad for Firefly. I love the Stronghold series and when they put out this garbage, it hurts the brand and makes it difficult to get funding to make the next (and hopefully better) Stronghold. Shame on you, Firefly, for releasing this trash. I would rather you have taken the extra week to finish this product before releasing than to tarnish your good name. I would have paid an extra $10 for a good game, as I am sure most loyal fans would, if you would have put out a good game. As it stands now, I will be gun shy about buying Stronghold 4 if there ever is one.