This game didn't quite sit right with me to start with, I'll admit. |
The problem is that, while you recruit troops and build fortifications and set up resource-gathering chains and so on, making it look very much like a real-time-strategy game, Stronghold is not a real-time-strategy game.
It is a castle-defence game.
The differences are extreme, but because most gamers will have an instinct about how to play RTSs by now, you'll probably spend some time getting taken apart by the PC before you manage to start winning.
Let me just give you a rundown of how defending a big stone castle in the Middle Ages worked. Two words: Tank. Rush.
That's really all the tactics the enemy have, be it historically, or in the game. They throw a HUGE mass of troops at your defensive position, set up a couple of immense rock-lobbers and all you can do is hope that your archers kill them all before they breach your walls. If your walls are breached, you hope and pray and cry that you've got enough troops to fight off the attackers so that they need to retreat and you can mend the breach. If the walls are breached and your troops start to falter: You. Are. Finished.
Your defenses, other than the obvious examples of archers and crossbowmen include men with pointy sticks, who will be killed in large quantities, men with spiky metal balls attached to chains, who actually get to wear armor, and swordsmen, who get to wear huge, heavy suits of full-plate armor so they can easily be totally riddled with crossbow bolts as they trudge towards the castle. The spearmen are mainly useful for destroying the siege-ladders which runners will prop up against your walls in order to allow the invading forces a way in to the castle walls.
Apart from the fighting units, you can build traps, such as spike pits, flaming pitch -ditches and moats to slow down and kill the enemy forces. While the game features an intricate and complex chain of supply, with four types of food-supply, two building materials and a satisfyingly detailed model of your citizens' happiness levels, it only extends into keeping up castle defenses.
Stronghold is a game that can leave you mentally exhausted after playing a level, desperately shoring up defenses, fending off invaders, deploying troops and managing the vast supply system that holds the whole thing together. It isn't a pleasant game, but it's an immensely satisfying one, and it has an occasional moment of welcome humour. If you fancy a challenge, put this one at the top of your list.
Note: Check out the 2016 HD remake on the developers' site, linked below!
Reviewed by: Frosty840