I made the mistake of pre-ordering Stronghold 3. The early previews looked good and I was really hoping for a return to form for the series. Sadly the game is a bug-ridden mess. Here’s my Stronghold 3 review if you want to know more. The only saving grace of having pre-ordered through Steam is that I got the original game for free. With the new release being such a disappointment and my craving for some castle building fun unfulfilled I fired up the now ten year-old original.
Stronghold is still great fun. The visuals may be slightly dated but aside from the effects it doesn’t look bad next to Stronghold 3. The animations are charming and the characters have….well…character. Compared to the black and white concept art with serious voiceovers in Stronghold 3 the intros in the original are positively awesome, animated characters have conversations, the voice acting is better and the bad guys are comic book evil.
Ultimately games aren‘t about the visual anyway, yes it’s good to have a nice looking game but gameplay is king. It’s the gameplay that hooks you and keeps you playing into the wee small hours and that’s exactly what Stronghold did. The levels get bigger as you progress, the missions have more possible strategies to them and the balance works. The economic branch isn’t so great but the military missions reminded me of exactly why I got addicted first time around. The whole experience was a great deal more fun than the frustrated hours I spent trying to get into the latest release which is paced all wrong and has serious balancing issues. Even little details such as the way your blacksmith would change shape to latch onto the defensive wall in the original show a greater attention to detail and a higher overall level of polish.
If you’ve been let down by Stronghold 3 then I strongly suggest dusting off the original and playing it again. A good game is a good game regardless of when it was made. There are a few old classics that I return to every few years because none of the new pretenders to the throne ever seem to deliver. The other one that springs to mind is Dungeon Keeper. It is funny how some people will never play older games. You wouldn’t hesitate to watch a classic old film simply because it was dated visually so why apply that logic to a game? Assuming you can actually run them (which is admittedly sometimes an issue) you can find hours of fun with the best games of yesteryear.