by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Under the rug
Hi there, welcome! Before we get started I need to finish a quick chore. Could you help me? If you hold up the corner of that rug over there I will get the broom and sweep Stronghold 3 under it. Good, that's done and... dusted I guess! Now we can focus on some great castle building action as Stronghold Crusader 2 is finally here, and it is all that it was promised to be.
There aren't many castle builders out there. The last one I tried was Citadels and it wasn't worth the bytes it occupied on my hard drive. Fortunately Firefly Studios had something to prove and poured their hearts and souls into Stronghold Crusader 2.
If you remember, the "Stronghold" games are castle builders with a strong emphasis on city management. The original Stronghold Crusader retained that castle building side of its older brother but leaned heavily towards skirmish battles, downplaying city management in favour of faster-paced gameplay.
Stronghold Crusader 2 follows right into its predecessors footsteps, and you will know this for a fact mere minutes after you start your first game. Whether you start a custom skirmish, a campaign game or go online against a human opponent, the chances are that your first clash starts almost as soon as you've chosen a site for your stockpile and granary. It's an eye-opening moment that forces you to kick your ass into gear and not sit back until your enemy is utterly defeated.
If you are playing against a human opponent, the pressure usually keeps piling on. While Stronghold 2’s AI is alright, it’s not likely to blow your mind by developing alternate strategies after failing the first time around. It will adapt to the perceived strength of your castle’s defenses though. Upgrade thin walls to formidable towers, for instance, and attacking armies with a greater number of siege weapons will start arriving at your door. That is pretty much the extent of the AI’s cleverness, which means that you won’t have much trouble dealing with the AI in one-on-one sessions, or even in one-on-two matches. Things start getting more interesting when you up the player count beyond two, and I really started working up a sweat pitting myself against five AI players. With a maximum of eight players on a map, there is more than enough challenge in the single player skirmishes.
The AI battles are a great way to train yourself up to the point where you can compete against human opponents. As with any multiplayer game, things change dramatically when you throw a human or two into the mix and Stronghold Crusader 2 is no different. Now your ability to fend off attacks depends on the strategic prowess and creativity of your sparring partners, and this really is the only way the game should be played.
Unique, fast-paced castle-building action the way it was meant to be
Unattractive as a single-player game, value of building castles is somewhat questionable