by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
A mind at ease
Firefly Studios have a lot riding on Stronghold Crusader 2. They have a reputation to repair, they know it, and they are eager to prove their medieval mettle. We met up with Firefly mercenaries Nick Tannahill and Paul Harris at Gamescom to see where the game stands. With two weeks left before release, the guys were obviously excited to be able to show the game one last time before sending it out into the world, and they had every right to be - Crusader 2 looks great.
You’ve read all the previews, I’m not going to tell you what you already know. Instead, let me put your mind at ease as they did with mine.
What was old, is new again
Many of the problems with Stronghold 3 revolved around its 3D engine. The studio had always built their games on 2D engines and going 3D turned out to be too far of a leap. Things may have panned out badly, but the team gained invaluable experience for their next project.
Where Stronghold 3 tried to be fully 3D, Crusader 2 applies 2D logic and mechanics to a 3D engine. The most significant implication of this is the return of grid based building. Grid tiles are kept small so that you will barely notice, but it does mean that things tend to look a little square. On the upside, building castle walls is as easy as drawing a line from point A to point B. Strengthening the wall is just as easily done: just draw a new line next to the first. And because each wall section sits within a tile, tiles line up beautifully, creating solid walls that easily connect so that the game recognizes the new structure as a single entity.
Yep, that means you will not be struggling to get your archers on walls again and that there are no unnatural gaps between wall sections. Destroying walls actually destroys them and it is heartwarming to see small bits and pieces fly when catapults are battering away at them. Towers crack, wobble and collapse rather than fall to the side in unnatural chunks.
The I went back in AI too - it was nowhere to be found in Stronghold 3 - and enemies will be pounding at your walls before long. Don’t expect to easily fend off these attacks, or even to be attacked in the same way by every character in the game. Each has his or her own personality, changing how they build, attack and defend, forcing you to rethink your strategies all the time. And being a Crusader game, these smarts
Skirmish with a mix of AI and human players is back on the table too.
Bringing it all together
I wasn’t worried before - I had seen quite a bit of Crusader 2 already - but it was still good to see my trust in Firefly was warranted seeing its progress so close to its September release. The game ran smooth, gameplay was as fast as you would expect from a Crusader game and the AI responded well in both offensive and defensive situations. Adding new defenses, ordering units about... everything looked and worked without any hiccups no matter how much action took place on the screen.
With Crusader 2, Firefly is set to redeem itself two weeks from now. If you’re still weary, then by all means wait for the reviews. If you are eager to jump in on launch day, then take my word for it: you will not be disappointed.