Dynamic Patching: Taking the Chastity Belt Off Stronghold 3

I have lead my villagers to victory in the face of the Jackal’s overwhelming numbers. Despite the Jackal’s better equipped and armored forces, my pitchforked armed farmers-of-death (peasants) and my archers in tights, have fended off his advances. I have enjoyed the first eight missions of the combat based campaign of Stronghold 3 but if there hadn’t been a timely patch, I would of waved the white flag within the first mission.

I would not have gotten up to this point in the military campaign of Stronghold 3 unless a major patch had come out a week after its release and taken the chastity belt off its game play. Prior to this patch’s release the game was one frustrating encounter after another. The real battle was not between you and the Jackal’s men but between you and the games glitches and bugs (Did you know wolves can climb ladders?). I was starting to believe the Wolf, the main nemesis of the Stronghold series, was going to defeat me before I ever met his men on the battlefield.

Thankfully Firefly Studios and publisher 7Sixty quickly realized they had a route on their hands and if they didn’t act quickly all their efforts would fall to the onslaught of negative reviews. 7Sixty made their publishing debut with Stronghold 3 and I can imagine that first impressions were something they wanted to go right – they have a lot of treasure and to a point, their company’s future invested in this games success. For awhile it appeared they too, would be defeated by the Wolf before they even stepped on the battlefield. Hope does remain for their success and this quickly released patch supports that hope for both 7Sixty and Firefly.

The core game mechanics of Stronghold 3 are strong. The additional elements added to the third game in this series add to the depth and fun of this game, when everything else is functioning correctly. The concept of needing a candle maker to stockpile candles for church services, to in turn increase the happiness of your populace, is a welcome addition to a game that thrives off what OCD game play. Having a sheep farm to produce wool so your tailor can provide you with clothes may seem tedious to some but to those who enjoy what I call step-to-step RTS game play, it is a joy. All these additions are welcomed but missed when the basic game mechanics are lost.

The improvements promised to us in the months leading up to Stronghold 3 are there. Firefly managed to cut back the problems with micromanage when it came to getting assigned peasants to do the tasks you, as lord and king, assigned them to do. Lumberjacks cut wood, farmers bring in hops for the brewers and those who work at the stone quarry get a good work out in the process of providing stone that will be used in their village’s castle walls. The physics engine does make crumbling wood walls fun to watch, even when they are your own. Dynamic housing that scales, visually and occupancy wise from large to small, based on the proximity from your main keep is a new challenge to your inner city planner.

Upon release I thought I was going to see the passing of the games fictional King, publisher 7Sixty and my desire to play Stronghold 3 within in a week. Instead, similar to the fall and rise depicted in the games military campaign, I was given renewed interest and vigor to continue my play through. During Stronghold and Stronghold 2’s heydays, digital distribution did not exist nor did automatic updates/game patches. Herds of nerds had to wait months and even years for game saving patches to be released and by that time it was too late, for the gamer and the company behind the game. Thankfully, during the age of digital downloads and daily updates, games with faults at release will live to take the throne again. If Firefly and 7Sixty continue to strengthen the castle walls of Stronghold 3 then it will still have the chance to fend off early critic attacks and receive the Abbott’s approval.

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Heisting My Salary

Still on the job hunt after four months I have decided to go a desperate route, make a career change and take back some of that bailout money through a more direct method. I am practicing to be a bank robber and an all around selfish Robin Hood and I have the perfect trainer in PAYDAY: The Heist.

PAYDAY: The Heist, from developer OVERKILL Software and published by Sony Online Entertainment, is Left 4 Dead turned “left 4 loot”. You and three other criminally gifted cohorts are smooth operating, TARP stealing and lethal when necessary, band of brothers. You are the most active members of Occupy Wall Street.

LR: Unique enemy units the Shield, Cloaker, Bulldozer and Taser.

The four of us (Dallas, Hoxton, Wolf and Chains) operate as a team looking to score money through differing heist scenarios, all while wearing masks that are a mix between those worn in the movie Dead Presidents and Point Break. From the token bank job in the scenario First World Bank to the corrupt stealing from the corrupt in the map Panic Room – where you lift a cash filled safe room out of a five story meth lab – each map requires a different approach. Also, adding to the suspense is the lack of a tutorial that walks you through the how-to-does and what-to-does. Should you try to stay inconspicuous as long as possible or should you go all Val Kilmer in the movie Heat and lay down covering fire to open up your escape in the map Heat Street?

PAYDAY: The Heist has a leveling system that unlocks new weapons, team helping drops and passive perks, but where it sets itself apart is in how you level up. There are three different class trees but instead of picking a class and then leveling up within it, you level up in each class depending on your style of play. If you hit head shots with your rifle on a regular basis then more unlocks become available under the Sharpshooter class. Lay down ammo bags on a regular basis then you will see more unlocks become available in the Support class. Have a Warcraft ogre like blood lust and an extreme hate for boys in blue (and special police units) then you will open up more mayhem enabling unlocks in the Assault class.

I am not ready to go pro in the heisting business as of yet (I only have 10 hours of practice) but give me enough time and I could, I mean Chains could, be visiting a local Bank of America very soon.

Whose behind the mask? Is it Patrick Swayze or maybe Robert De Niro? Could it be the infamous Mandingo?

Don’t Stranglehold My Stronghold Please.

In the first Stronghold, from developers Firefly, I found out that I had an intense hate for Rats, Pigs and Wolves – Snakes, I’d go back and forth on. Now, whenever I eat pork I do so with a little extra venom. It was also in Stronghold that I was able to live out my desires to siege castles like they did in my movie memories of the eighties.

In Stronghold 2 I became as frustrated as an over taxed peasant and as angry as a King without a full coffer at the tedious process of just collecting wood, let alone defending a castle. I couldn’t even bring a friend along to help me out in co-op, so we could suffocate in agony together.

With Stronghold 3 releasing on October 25th, 2011 I am hoping Firefly will cut the noose off its castle building, kingdom reigning medieval simulator. From the information provided by Firefly it has every intention to do so. Some key issues that are being addressed are:

  • A better visual and visceral combat experience (with humor).
  • Step away from the over complicated issues that Black Plagued Stronghold 2 (Just collect wood you worthless peasant!)
  • Much improved and now adaptable castle building (see Trinigy Vision Engine) – no more distorted castle walls or frustrating denials of placement.
  • Housing will visually match its surroundings depending on location/distance from main keep.
  • Incorporation of in-game physics thanks to the Havok engine – now walls will crumble and troops will fly when they are hit by a two ton boulder.
  • Day/Night cycles, where visibility is dependent on in-game lighting from new building options.
  • Multiplayer options through Steam.
  • The Wolf is back!

The visual and physics updates are exciting but the ease of multiplayer, rather co-op versus or group vs. group, will be much appreciated and very welcomed by the Stronghold community. For during the days of Stronghold and Stronghold 2 multiplayer was a trial of patience and usually you ended up playing the role of the court jester for thinking you would actually play a satisfactory game against a friend or anyone. Just like how the invention of gun powder changed the overall picture of castle sieges so has cable/DSL and online gaming stores/digital distribution networks changed the fluidity of multiplayer. Stronghold 3 will be the first in the series to be released in the middle of the direct download and social gaming grouping options by making Steam its priority launch pad.

So who is afraid of the big bad Wolf? Perhaps I am (because of a wolf’s ability to hunt in the dark) but I will gladly let him put my neck in a stranglehold while I enjoy the Renaissance of improvements that will makeup Stronghold 3. Lets hope publisher 7sixty’s first release blows our houses down on October 25th, 2011.