Stronghold 3 is a game split between genres. Like its predecessors, it's part city builder and part real-time strategy. We recently got a hands-off demonstration of this upcoming hybrid alongside the game's designer, Simon Bradbury, of developer Firefly games. Bradbury was quick to admit that he and his team "threw it a bit too much on the sim side" with Stronghold 2. With Stronghold 3, they're aiming to have it feel more like the original while also upgrading a few mechanics along the way. We already covered some of those upgrades in our question and anwser session with Bradbury--such as any-angle building and animal artillery--but for more information, we jumped into the game itself.
Stronghold 3 features a new class of citizen, the villager, who accompanies peasants and soldiers in bringing your castle to life. While peasants toil away at their jobs and soldiers spread the glory of your kingdom, villagers will be living it up and taking full advantage of your castle's perks. A disgruntled old man might turn to drink and spend his days stumbling through town, while some local youths amuse themselves by punting poultry across the yard. How you treat these villagers feeds into your popularity. In previous Stronghold games, your popularity was in constant flux and could plummet without your realizing it. Now, it's more static and stays at a fixed number until influenced by the player or a random event in the world.
If you're feeding your citizens twice the normal amount of food, they're going to love you, right up until your stockpile runs out. Conversely, if you construct a few torture racks and stockades, your subjects will begin to fear you. Whether you're liked or feared, each side has its perks. A happy king attracts more subjects to his kingdom, whereas a scary king receives more gold and other lavish gifts from others. A happy king's troops are stronger but are generally limited in number, whereas a scary king's troops are weaker but more numerous.
Whatever your disposition, all your citizens will be influenced by the powers of Mother Nature. A heavy rainstorm will dampen your popularity and your troop's fighting capabilities. Battling at night is also a possibility now. The game forgoes the traditional fog of war in other strategy games, so when the sun goes down, your line of sight will be limited by how many beacon towers or other sources of light you've built. Your individual troops can carry torches, but their sight won't extend far past their own two feet. Of course, a more dramatic solution to the whole night time problem is the flaming hay bail launcher, which does exactly what you think.
In addition to darkness, physics is another addition designed to make your soldiers' lives that much harder. During a brief combat demonstration we saw, a small band of archers assaulted some soldiers atop a wall. One by one the soldiers went tumbling over the side and flopped their way down a cliffside in comical rag-doll fashion. The wall itself had it coming as well. Under the barrage of a catapult, the procedurally generated stone wall shattered in realistic ways, creating a jagged hole in the center. And the tumbling debris that followed did more than just look nice; troops on the receiving end took damage from these falling stones.
Another skirmish tasked a small band of red troops with killing their way up a mountain path littered with blue troops. The red team's first obstacle was the new palisade trap, which looked like an unassuming wooden wall. However, when they approached, wooden spikes jutted up from below and damaged nearby troops. After this, the two sides clashed in a large skirmish. With Stronghold 3, the team at Firefly is aiming to create battles on a larger scale than in the previous games.
The battle animations have also been tweaked, replacing the exaggerated movements of the previous games with brutal strikes and swings. "It was a brutal period," said Bradbury, "and we want to try and capture that." Because the blue team was carving up the red team faster than a Christmas goose, Bradbury ordered his battered troops to pull through. This command disengaged them from combat and told them to elbow their way through the enemies and keep moving forward. Of course, they also took constant damage throughout but did end up making it to the enemy's castle walls. Then, they were run over by flaming logs. This trap came from within the castle and, while not as subtle as the palisade, was very effective.
Stronghold 3 will include a campaign, a sandbox mode, and numerous historical battles, but it was one of the multiplayer modes that really caught our attention. Tentatively titled King Maker, this mode starts players off with nothing more than simple peasants and limited resources. From there, you must amass honor--another system being streamlined in Stronghold 3--to fund research into higher technology levels. However, at some point, you must decide to stop researching and start amassing troops. Do you try to produce simple units quickly or hold out for more advanced ones? You can discover these answers for yourself when Stronghold 3 is released on the PC this fall.