Stronghold 2 Reader Review
If you’re not of the age to remember when living in a castle was the day to day business, then Stronghold 2, from firefly studios, will be the closest thing you can get to without literally building a time machine and travelling back in time. Besides what are the odds of the time machine actually working anyway? Trust me, I’ve tried and sadly failed.
But for real time strategy gamers and lovers of castles, and perhaps the odd time travelling weirdo, Stronghold 2 will have something for everyone.
Since the original there has been very little in terms of competition for the castle building RTS, well in fact there’s been none. While that may have led to a lack lustre game (how’s the saying go – ‘A little bit of friendly Competition never hurt anyone’) that’s simply not the case this time around.
Carrying on where its predecessor left off Stronghold 2 will turn you from a worthless freeman into Lord of your manor. Boasting new and improved graphics, game modes, map editor and a sandbox mode as well as the ‘come to expected’ new units, buildings and our favourite, more ways to torture those peasants that just won’t behave properly.
There is something for everyone. That pretty much sums up the variety of game modes on offer. For the gentler folk among us who perhaps think war is barbaric and brutal there is now a campaign that see’s you assisting the King restore the lands. Each mission will give you requirements to meet and these can range from the anything between gathering enough food for your own castle while having to stock one of your nearby estates with food as well, before the granary runs out, to gathering enough food fit for a king in order to throw a royal feast thus earning you valuable honour, which I’ll talk about later on. So if the gentler, peaceful way of life is for you and you enjoy the economic side of games then the peaceful campaign is right your alley.
Fear not those of you who crave War, for what would be a Stronghold title without the combat I feel so fondly of, after playing it for the first time in the original. So you don’t like the economic side of things to much, but prefer to spill some blood on the battlefield, then the second campaign is just for you. Through out this campaign you will follow the story of the missing King and along your way to uncovering the truths of the tale you will of course encounter the Lords that stand in your way. Of course there is only one way to deal with them, war.
Regardless of what campaign you choose, both do take a bit from the others boat so don’t go into the peaceful campaign thinking you wont encounter any skirmishing at all and vice versa, you’re going to have to do a bit of economic managing to make sure all your army is equipped and ready. The good news is, now lovers of both peaceful and war game types can now choose to play a campaign designed around their play styles.
Both campaigns are relatively long and as you’d expect get more and more difficult as you progress. Needless to say playing through either of the campaigns will bring you lots of fun, “hmmm I shouldn’t have built that there” and most definitely a lot of “oh well, maybe next time.”
Another game mode for you to pit your wits against is Siege, where you find yourself either side of the castle walls with the intent of either defending the castle or attacking it. Playing through this game mode will see you take control of real life castles including Hastings, Pembroke and many others for you to conquer or defend. Siege is most definitely worth a look at as it offers you the chance to take a break from the hard work that can be the campaigns.
The Kingmaker is similar to the siege mode but with one added difference, this time you build your castle before attacking. It’s pretty much like playing a multiplayer game but with CPU opponents instead. Choosing from a selection of maps a variety of options is available to you and you’ll have the ability to add more opponents, change the starting locations and even vary how much gold you start with. One you enter the game the race is on to build a large enough force to destroy your enemy but be sure you don’t neglect your defences as the computer will have the same thing on his or her mind, just like you. Once your defences are built, your keep enclosed behind 500 tons of stone, your archers are poised, flaming arrows at the ready, siege towers wait patiently for any troops to enter within their range and your lord sits comfortably in his keep enjoying a feast of Pigs, Eels, Geese and other food fit for a king safe in the knowledge he’s got 500 plus men waiting, ready to die for him. By all means that’s not to say you should wait for the enemy, if you feel your forces are adequate then strike the enemy you shall, venture off into their estates converting their town banners to bare your colours, thus expanding your empire even more giving you the option to send vital supplies to your castle, be it food, weapons or maybe a resource you’re running pretty low on.
Attacking the enemy takes a good bit of planning now as new units and wall defences mean you have to plan your route in advance, trying to avoid those rolling logs that quite literally can send half your forces into next week if you’re not careful. So you’ve avoided the logs, and other tower mountable defences such as falling stones.
All your old favourites are there as well such as pitch pits, moats, hounds and the brutal killing pits are as dangerous as ever. So you’ve navigated past the defences but now you’re greeted by stone walls, time to call in the engineers. Siege camps add a lot of dimension to the battle this time around and you will often find yourself calling upon the aid of your engineers. All the usual ways to knock a castle wall down are included, catapults, trebuchets and without forgetting the battering ram which can quite literally leave a wall with a gaping hole in it.
This is of course without forgetting that on top of these walls, towers and gatehouses you’re knocking the proverbial crap out of is in fact men. A well placed group of archers can rip your advancing squad of pikemen to pieces in quite literally seconds and those ladders you’ve had placed upon their wall, consider them knocked down before your advancing troops can get even near the wall. Did I forget to mention that while all this was going on you may also be contending with the siege towers that contain catapults and ballista’s which with the new graphics really do send your troops flying through the air, more on graphics later.
Building units is a bit more difficult this time around, as unlike in the first outing, you can no longer rely on peasants and gold to build yourself the units you require. This time around you require honour, and its honour you gain through various ways. Simple things like feeding your peasants more than one type of food will gain you a little honour that you crave for. While other options are available to you such as feasts, in which your lord sets down to dine in his keep accompanied by some distinguished guests. Depending on how much food you provide will depend on how many guests are invited and in turn how much honour you receive. While honour is needed to build quite a lot of your troops, for example you need to part with 12 gold coins and 2 honour to build an archer, a reasonably good feast can see you obtain up to but not limited to 100 honour. There’s plenty of other ways to obtain the elusive honour, such as building statues of yourself so with a little planning you shouldn’t find it too much of a problem acquiring the desired amount.
As you’d expect from a sequel, the graphics have been updated and also some very nice effects have been added, especially in the war department. Without going into the technical jargon that only a small handful of people actually understand I’ll just say that yes the graphics have been updated and now your castle looks even more detailed, which I think is what most people will be satisfied with hearing anyway.
The most noticeable change in graphics comes in the form of effects while in the midst of battle. Siege weapons such as catapults and trebuchet along with castle defences such as rolling logs now when they hit a successful hit onto units now causes the units to fly high into the sky a few good few meter’s away from where they were initially standing, casing either instant death or a fair whack of damage lost to say the least.
Overall the graphics are a nice improvement compared to the originals and are a pleasant view to gaze upon as you look out across your courtyard.
Overall Stronghold 2 is a fine addition to the RTS genre and contains enough to keep both the military and economic enthusiasts entertained.
However it does lack one or two minor things and its these that do bring the rating down. Lack of maps will be a problem to those Stronghold enthusiasts as you’ll soon find yourself having played through the entire selection.
When it’s all said and done Stronghold 2 is definitely worth checking out and if you are a fan of the RTS series then you will want to see about adding it to your collection.