by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
Invest the Time, cont.
The accessibility is further hampered by a complete lack of consistency when it comes to presentation. It is almost as if parts of the game were built by independently operating teams and melted together afterwards. Medieval theme elements are mixed with modern ones, in-game overlays look more like poorly designed miniature websites, sorting options vary from screen to screen, some buttons open an external browser…the list goes on and on.
Stronghold veterans will be familiar with many of the gameplay mechanics and, with that background, will have an easier time acquainting themselves with the unfamiliar ones. But whether you are new to Stronghold or just new to Kingdoms, you will almost certainly have to go online and read up on what everything does. If you don’t, you will end up making many wrong decisions.
None of these gripes are game-breaking and the official Wiki will answer pretty much any question you might have. Yet it is a chaotic experience that wreaks havoc on the player’s ability to soak up the game’s long and impressive roster of gameplay elements.
Invest the Money
Pretty much everything you can do in the game can be sped or buffed up by throwing a playing card at it. There are cards that increase the walking speed of your armies, put the fire under your masons so that they complete your castle quicker, get instant defenders and lots, lots more. The effects are often significant, though they do depend on the level of the actual card. You will get some cards for free but Stronghold Kingdoms works hard to motivate you to use your real life money to buy some more. You can also buy premium tokens that enable you to cue building assignments and research so that they continue while you are away and assign an AI governor of sorts that will carry out certain orders on your behalf.
The game is entirely playable without spending any money at all but anyone playing beyond the first few hours will almost certainly feel compelled to spend some real cash to get ahead a little quicker. In fact, I would not be surprised if many a veteran has already spent more on Stronghold Kingdoms than they ever did on all of the regular Stronghold games together.
Onto the Walls!
I have only touched upon some of the main elements that make up this fascinating game but there is a lot more to Stronghold Kingdoms than what fits into a review. I could discuss diplomacy and factions, trade and foraging and much more, but there should be some stuff for you to discover for yourself. What I should mention is that the game is not designed to be played for hours at a time but rather to be played at a leisurely pace, probably requiring no more than an hour a day of your time.
The original Stronghold was a groundbreaking game. It was not the first castle building game, I think that honourable mention goes to Castles, but it was the first one that did it well. Stronghold Kingdoms does deserve the honour of being the world’s first castle building MMO and it does -despite its presentation- do it well. The game’s depth and scope go beyond that of the regular Stronghold games and is guaranteed to keep your mind firmly lodged into medieval times for a long, long time.
A level of depth that goes beyond the normal Stronghold games.
Chaotic presentation, difficult to get into.