reviews\ May 3, 2005 at 8:00 pm

Stronghold 2 - PC - Review

Stronghold 2 is a very entertaining castle-building RTS that is not only beautiful, but is also loads of fun to play. In short, you micromanage supply lines to gather resources and build equipment to make your castle thrive. In addition you can build weapons and armies for battle to either protect your land or attack a nearby enemy. The two campaign modes are either combat or economic oriented. There is also a skirmish mode or if you just like to free build, you can do that too.

Though Stronghold 2 looks very similar to Stronghold, there are plenty of added weapons, traps, and commands that will entertain fans of the original. If all the new tools and gadgets were not enough, the new 3-D look will have any RTS fan foaming at the mouth. The new camera angles make the game so much more enjoyable than the original, not to mention add to the ease of gameplay. NO MORE BLIND SPOTS!

The visual effects are quite impressive. You can tell that a lot of detail went in to the animations of the town’s people, the environments, and the battles. I liked how the water splashed against the rocks and formed a mist on one particular scenerio. Although everything may not be highly detailed, there is enough there to simply zoom in and gaze in awe at your castle and the workings going on. Watch the townspeople chopping down trees, tending to the sheep, hunting wild game, spinning wool, and the list goes on. Watching the enemy fall victim to your traps can be quite entertaining, and enough cannot be said for watching a group of archers taking down a small band of enemy swordsman from a watchpost.

Some of the battles that take place are mind-boggling. They can get immense and really give the feel of epic proportions. These big battles immerse you into medieval gameplay and should please any Middle-Ages RTS fan. The added camera angles or top-down view allows the player see the game from every perspective. Not only is the game fun to watch with these angles, it makes playing the game easy as there are no blind spots.

The AI of the game leaves something to be desired. Not only is it predictable over time, it can be frustrating when your armies do not quite respond to what you intend them to carry out. In addition to the AI bugs, there is lot of things that need to be tweaked. At the time of the review there is already one patch out that has a bunch of fixes on it, and there are reports of more on the way.

The musical score is right out of the period and the sound effects had me believing that I had taken a step back in time to a medieval period. The voice acting had its moments, but could have been a bit better. In fact there were times it was quite comical. I do not think it was meant to be that way, but needless to say it was. In either case, it did not take away from the gameplay whatsoever.

You find Internet games hosted by Gamespy quite easily and it is simple to either create or join a game. Most of the games found are skirmishes and are extremely challenging against real players. This takes the enemy AI problems right out of the picture. These games will surely keep Stronghold 2 off the shelf and keep players intrigued enough to keep on playing.

Overall the game still needs a bit of work but is still a lot of fun. Future patches are in the works so hopefully all the bugs will be worked out. This medieval RTS is truly fun to play and was worth the wait.

Review Scoring Details for Stonghold 2

Gameplay: 8.0
It is a breeze to get started and there are helpful hints to aid those new to the genre. The manual is detailed and quite honestly one of the best I’ve seen. The game played great except for a few minor glitches or an occasional crash. Some future patches should remedy this.

Graphics: 8.5
Some of the maps were a bit bland, but this was not really even noticeable once you had a few buildings built and your workers started leading productive lives. The care that went into the character animations is nicely done and is worth taking a closer look at with the aid of 3-D zoomed-in camera angle.

Sound: 8.0
The sound effects and music were true to the period and sounded pretty darn good. Some of the voice acting could have been a bit better, but was decent enough.

Difficulty: Medium
There is a good variety of games that range from easy and hard with many levels in-between.

Concept: 7.0
We have seen this type of game before, and it is much like the original Stronghold. There are tons of more options and better graphics so it is definitely worth having.

Multiplayer: 9.0
Games can be played played online via Gamespy and are a breeze to set up or join.

Overall: 8.0
I really enjoyed this title and would highly recommend it to any RTS buff. The game still could use some polishing, but Firefly Studios claims they will fully support the game.


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