Stronghold Crusader Extreme - PC - Review
Playing Stronghold Crusader Extreme is an exercise in masochism. I’m used to losing frequently in most things I play with my family, but at least I get compensated socially. Here, there is no compensation. You just lose, lose, lose, at least in the Extreme scenario mode. The original Stronghold Crusader that is included is easier and still has some charm to it, but anyone can pick up a copy of the original for much cheaper than this new retail version. That makes for a very limited audience for this game.
In Stronghold Crusader, there is a good balance between fighting and building. The main emphasis is on fighting rather than economics, but it is paced well and players have a chance to improve their armies by making the necessary money through economic means. The beginning scenarios in the campaign mode start players out fairly slowly and while there isn’t a real tutorial (the tutorial option is only a short descriptive list of a few buildings and other features, specific to that mission), there are several good walkthroughs available online.
As in most strategy games of this ilk, the original Stronghold Crusader involves trying to make money quickly, in order to quickly build up armies, in order to defend against the enemy armies. This works fairly well and it offers a good balanced mix of strategy, which is why this game garnered above average reviews several years ago. Unfortunately, that same amount of fun isn’t present in the Extreme addition. The gameplay isn’t balanced at all, and the computer opponents have too much of an advantage immediately into the game. The beginning of every campaign is insane because of the instant threat from advancing enemy armies. Players don’t have any time to build up their armies and must almost immediately defend with what pitiful units are available.
What makes this instant threat of attack so bad is the fact that it takes forever to build up enough resources in the workforce and in the materials to build up the fighting units. It takes a lot of stone to build a castle, and a lot of wood to buy anything, and a lot of manpower to run the buildings. It’s hard to figure out how to increase the workforce, too. I got behind in my labor pool in one game, so built several houses to bring in more workers. Lots of women and babies appeared, but no added workers. I ended up disbanding my army to release workers, but that is no solution when they are needed to fight! I gave up and began the scenario over again, but not with much more success. Needless to say, the enemy prevailed. Players better than I will probably fare better, but only if they keep preserving. I don’t have the patience.
And, the graphics are pitiful. I’m the last person to put the look of a game ahead of the gameplay, but this game looks like the games I was playing back in the 90’s. These graphics couldn’t have been all that great six years ago, when Stronghold Crusader was first released, and they look really lame now.
There is a map editor, but it’s not all that much fun to build a map with these blocky images.
For anyone who wants to play Stronghold Crusader and doesn’t have a copy, I suggest that they pick up a bargain copy of the original game. Stay away from this edition, it will only frustrate.
Review Scoring Details for Stronghold Crusader Extreme
This game isn’t any fun, because it is too hard. Losing all the time is not a good thing. In strategy games of this type, the enemy units shouldn’t attack so quickly. Players are set up for failure and it’s almost impossible to win. This isn’t strategy when there isn’t much of a chance.
The graphics are very bad and dated.
The music is the only good thing about this game.
The game is extremely difficult, hence the name, I guess.
Concept? What concept? There isn’t anything new in this game, except for the difficulty level and the new maps.
I didn't get to play the multiplayer option, but would imagine it would be a little better playing real people than the computer. The game would still look bad, though.
This edition of Stronghold Crusaders is one of those games that leaves us to wonder, what were they thinking? If I liked a game in the past, I’m going to like it now, but even so there should be improvements. This is not to say that there should be lots of changes. I didn’t like HOMM V as much as HOMM II, nor did I like Caesar IV as much as Caesar III, because the designers changed too many things. But taking the good features and enhancing them is the main reason behind any new edition. Or, at least it should be. It was evidently not the reason this time.