by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
I've got the power
I am a sucker for developers that are honest about their games. Few games are without flaws and being able to discuss them openly with a game's creators is both refreshing and invigorating as it means they are willing to listen to their fans. That, in turn, usually means a better sequel. It was that honesty that made me believe in what FireFly Studios’ Simon Bradbury and Eric Oulette had to say during their presentation of Stronghold 3 at Gamescom.
The two men started off by saying “With Stronghold 2, we came to the conclusion that we’re better at creating a game than building a game engine, so we found one somewhere else”. For Stronghold 3, FireFly has selected the Trinigy engine, a versatile engine powering an ever growing list of games including Settlers 7 and the soon to be released ArcaniA: Gothic 4. More importantly, they themselves are already familiar with it through their work on Dungeon Hero, allowing them to spend development time on creating the game rather than having to learn how to use the engine.
During the demonstration, we were shown a pre-alpha build that sported a number of concepts and mechanics that will be used in the final game. Even at this early stage, these concepts showed just how well FireFly has listened to their fanbase and how far they are willing to go to make a great game.
Going back to my roots
Simon was quick to point out that they felt that some of the concepts in Stronghold 2 made the game lose its focus. Fans often asked for a Stronghold closer to the original game so Stronghold 3 goes back to its core, being a strategy game about building, attacking and defending castles. The main characteristic of any castle are its walls, and erecting those will be easier than ever. I can't think of any game in which building walls isn't a bit of a chore. Most rely on inflexible designs or have way too many parts to create intricate fortifications with properly connecting objects. In Stronghold 3, you simply draw your walls in any form or shape, add towers and you’re done. Walls will properly connect and can be beautifully curved should you want them to be. If it sounds too simple, don’t worry, there will be plenty for you to plan and tweak to keep you entertained for hours while building the perfect castle.
Walls and other objects will also be governed by physics. FireFly uses Nvidia’s PhysX engine to create destruction like we have never seen in any of their games before. To demonstrate, a catapult was pointed at a house which – after a few shots – fell apart into dozens of pieces, each following the path of the projectile hurled at it. A stone tower was given similar treatment and - while not fitted with stone-like behavior yet - also dropped like a box of cards after being bombarded a couple of times. And it’s not just buildings that can turn to rubble, siege engines too can be destroyed into a pile of wood on the field.
That same engine is used to breathe some life into the otherwise stick-like soldiers occupying the walls. To demonstrate, Eric put some soldiers onto a wall and had archers fire arrows at them. When hit, they tumbled off the walls like rag dolls. Fun to watch and certain to provide lots of entertainment when there are hundreds of soldiers on the wall you’re firing upon.