Score: 8.0 / 10
friend of mine went to Scotland a few years ago, and when he came back,
he asked me what games were good, as he was gone from the world of
computer fun for a good three months.
I suggested the original Stronghold, and when I explained to him
that it was a castle building sim, he flipped out saying that he had
been wanting such a game for many years.
Also, seeing some of the castles in the UK made him even more
interested. About a week
later, I asked him how the game was, and he said it was hard with a
I can attest to the difficulty in the newest installment of Stronghold,
entitled, Crusader. It's
hard! On the plus side, it
is not frustratingly so, as with some dedicated play, most gamers will
likely find it to be a rewarding challenge.
Unfortunately, there is no customizing the difficulty 9for the
most part) of the single player game.
The game is set during the Crusades. The game takes a neutral stance about the whole subject and merely presents events in the game as history. I would advise all gamers to go through the tutorial as there are some slight nuances that set Crusader apart from other strategy titles. The first minor annoyance I found when learning the game in the tutorials was the way in which camera control was handled. By holding down the right mouse button, a menu of camera options is
opened up. Unfortunately,
the way the game is designed it makes it difficult to see behind
buildings and objects without first accessing this menu.
My advice would be to learn the hotkeys as there is no cheat
Stronghold Crusader is historically focused on the crusades as it's background for bringing gamers to the intriguing world of castle building, and siege warfare. Gamers have the opportunity to repel
attacks on their castles
and to lay waste to their
enemy's castles. Moats can
be dug, drawbridges can be built, boiling oil can be poured, and
battering rams can be used. There
are also lots of creative units such as ladder bearers who place ladders
for your soldiers to scale over enemy walls, engineers that build you
siege weaponry, and tunnelers that will dig under enemy walls.
game isn't entirely focused on battle though. To recruit soldiers, you
need a healthy and growing population.
The way in which the game handles resource collection is fairly
standard with the creation of different types of farms and mines.
However population growth is interesting in that you can
influence the rate at which your population grows based on your
decisions as a ruler. For
instance increasing rations and having low taxes will increase your
popularity, thereby increasing the rate at which your population will
grow, in turn making it faster for you to recruit units.
inclusion of a ruling dynamic to the game lends a lot of originality to
the way the game is played and sets Crusader apart from the formless
masses of RTS games. The type of decoration that is placed around your
castle can also affect your popularity.
For instance placing many imposing things such as gallows, and
rabid dogs will decrease your popularity but will increase the pace of
your workers. On the other
hand placing things such as banners, and gardens will increase your
popularity, but may slow the production of goods.
are quite a few play modes in Crusader; more than one would normally
find in a strategy game. Most
players will likely begin in the campaigns where gamers can replay some
of the historical campaigns of the Crusades.
The game slowly eases gamers into the gameplay dynamics with
different campaigns allowing players access to different units and
buildings. As a credit to
the developers, the campaigns are quite varied in their objectives, and
do not always feature the bland task of wiping the enemy off of the map.
play mode is one with is a trail of 50 missions to complete.
Perhaps the ultimate single player challenge, gamers will have to
fight their way through more and more difficult missions featuring
tougher and tougher enemies, in order to reach the end of the trail.
there is my favorite mode, the castle builder.
Here gamers get to exercise their medieval interior decorating
selves. With no enemy to
worry about, gamers are able to build up their ultimate castle, and then
trigger custom events, for further challenges.
Finally there is the requisite multiplayer mode that is fairly
pedestrian these days.
primary drawback I found to the game was the interface.
The menu buttons for each of the building category types were
confusing. Often times,
they would lead to sub-menu items.
This made some buildings and units difficult to find.
Setting governing policies, and trading goods was also conducted
in the same window, and this created some confusion as I would have to
stop and think at some points about how to get to a building that I
wanted to build.
the interface could have been better, it didn't become so much of a
burden that I could not enjoy the game.
With all of the different siege weapons, and interesting units
available some huge battles can be created.
The visual feast of these battles is also complemented by some
nice graphical touches included in the game.
For instance, when highlighted each building displays a movie of
the units working for that building in a small window beside the user
Aside from some minor accessibility issues concerning the interface, and camera control Stronghold Crusader is a very good game. Gamers will find a lot to like about it; I know I did. Most RTS gamers could do a lot worse, and it pains me to think that this great game may get lost in the shuffle this holiday season. As always, though, so much gaming to do, so little time.
- Mark Leung
(December 15, 2002)
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