by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
Getting jiggy with it
I am sure you will agree with me that while the above is ‘good to have’, the developers really wouldn’t have gotten away with a Stronghold 3 without some kind of physics, right? Right. I think Simon and Eric knew that too and proceeded with demonstrating some parts of the interface. It was here that Stronghold 3 first impressed me by showing just how much thought is being put into the game by its creators.
Eric selected a house from the building menu and dragged it over the map to find a suitable location to place it. As he got closer to the keep, the house increased in size, donned a more intricate design and increased the number of possible occupants. This reflects the feeling of security your people derive from living close to the keep: more secure people are better able to prosper and therefor can afford better living conditions. A larger keep has a larger area of influence, thus increasing the area where large, secure houses can built.
Come on baby light my fire
When day changes to night, villagers light fires in their homes to drive out the darkness. It looks cosy but darkness is far from just an aesthetic addition to the game. In Stronghold 3, fog of war – which the developers felt was a little unnatural – is replaced by the cover of darkness. The concept of not being able to see beyond the castle walls intrigued FireFly enough to add it to the game and use that more creatively than they ever could with fog of war.
They gave an example of a night time attack. If you suspect an attack, you might send archers to defend your walls, but if darkness covers your enemies approach, you could be in for a nasty surprise regardless of your preparations. Eric told his archers to shoot a flaming arrow at a distant tower filled with hay. It ignited immediately, showing the surrounding area to be clear of enemy soldiers. Next, a flaming bale of hay was fired towards a forested area, again lighting it up, this time revealing a small army waiting for orders to attack. This use of fire and darkness makes night time attacks far more dynamic and I can’t wait to find out in what wondrous ways they can be used.
I was made...
There are a number of other elements FireFly is fiddling with, each geared towards creating the ultimate castle simulator. Perhaps the most innovative is their plan to base multi-player ladder rankings on geological location. You know what it’s like, starting out with a new game, winning your first multi-player game and excitedly opening the ladder rankings only to see yourself ranked as ‘pathetic loser’ out of ‘a gazillion’ players. FireFly will allow you to dynamically change the size of the area surrounding you so that you could see your ranking in your own country, city or local area. To me, that looks far more motivating than having to compete with tens of thousands of players.
Of course Stronghold would not be Stronghold without being able to hurl deceased animals into enemy keeps, tar-pits, logs being released from the castle war onto a besieging army and everything else that makes Stronghold so much fun to play. What we saw was really not a game yet, but the concepts are solid and look to push this medieval series straight into the modern age.