I remember buying Stronghold 2 when I was a kid back in 2005, and it’s thanks to such games that I’ve remained a kid to this day. Firefly studio’s Stronghold series not only scratches that itch for managing a medieval realm, but gives the opportunity to perfect an impenetrable castle design.
The basic premise of any Stronghold game, is that you’re the lord of a plot of land, which you need to turn into a thriving castle. Resources such as wood, stone and food need to be gathered and refined, whilst the various needs of your peasants are met. In order to raise money for troops you’ll need to tax your people – this will make them unhappy so you need to sate their appetite for religion and ale to offset any ill feelings.
Stronghold has always been a satisfying series of games for people who enjoy strategy and management, but it isn’t without it’s vices. The Stronghold Collection is a generous package that includes the Firefly Studio’s five best releases. The bundle contains Stronghold, Stronghold 2, Stronghold Crusader + Crusader Extreme, and Stronghold Legends – the fantasy spin on medieval castle management. A fantastic value package at £13.99 on Steam.
It’s worth mentioning that Stronghold 2 and Legends have both just received ‘Steam Editions’. Updated visuals, functional multiplayer and workshop support all make for increased value, if you’re thinking of investing in the nostalgia of the Stronghold Collection.
As a kid I sunk countless hours into Stronghold 2, opting to go back and try the original and crusader editions further on down the line. As far as Stronghold and Stronghold Crusader go, they’re exceptional games – cult classics that have only improved through their HD reworks. The castle building and management is detailed, with siege tactics being nicely polished and balanced.
Stronghold 2 and Stronghold Legends are also excellent games, but despite the fact they’re later entries in the series, there are a few issues worth pointing out. The issues you’ll face are for example, the unsatisfying siege warfare – where you’ll end up throwing troops forwards through a gap in the wall. AI players are also quite dumb, building a small castle around their keep – opting to direct small waves of troops your way until they muster up the courage to send some siege units out.
Despite this criticism, the games in the Stronghold Collection are without a doubt the most successful of the series. This is for one simple reason – they’re the most fun. Although they are slightly rough around the edges, the Stronghold series has always been able to get away with it (apart from Stronghold 3). You see, the fact that you begin the game with nothing but a keep and some devoted serfs, makes it incredibly satisfying come the mid-game when you’re sitting atop a mighty castle.
Graphically, the series has never been ground-breaking. Even the latest entry to the series – 2014’s Stronghold Crusader 2 leaves a lot to be desired in the visual department. Rough and bland textures are abound in Stronghold 2, whilst Stronghold Legends boasts a mixed bag of bizarre and colourful fantasy-like textures. Visual options such as bloom and SSAO are quite poorly rendered, making it look like everything in the world is about to catch fire.
Music and sound has always been solid in the Stronghold series, with voice actors giving off a sarcastically comedic edge to the clichéd medieval lingo. This is quintessential of the stronghold series – a fun and sometimes tongue-in-cheek attitude towards itself; never taking things too seriously.
It’s hard to give a concise overview of a series which spans 16 years in video game history. The Stronghold series doesn’t ever stray far from its tried and tested formula. Some might argue that the formula needs to be tested more rigorously – especially given how rough and ready the games can be at times. For me, the Stronghold series is rooted in nostalgia, and will forever be a source of fun – possibly the best facet of personality a game could want really.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.