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Download Stronghold

Stronghold
 
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Stronghold, not to be confused with the castle building strategy game of the same name, is an interesting game set in the AD&D universe. At this point you may be thinking I'm talking about a RPG but no, this really is a strategy game. Stronghold runs in real time and displays each 'tile' of the land in 3d, complete with citizens wandering around and crops growing, seasons changing and monsters and characters battling. This really is quite amazing especially considering how old the game is, it all looks pretty good and there are quite a few different buildings to construct and a nice variety of monsters to fight. Everyone in your kingdom has an opinion of you as their ruler as well as their own suggestions, click on anyone and you'll be given a more than adequate view of their current status and thoughts. Your aim is to build up your empire and then defeat the other monsters or strongholds. Enemies vary from very stupid creatures like giant bats who just flap around attacking things to evil wizards who construct their own buildings. Your own people can be 'attracted' to training, building or recruiting. Surprisingly you can train any of the people in your empire and they will gain levels and new abilities, including spells and suchlike. This means that with a bit of micromanagement you can train up a powerful group of characters and use them to deal with your enemies. Somewhat strangely though the characters in your empire don't seem to conform to the AD&D rules too closely. I'm no expert but some characters are clerics by race, whereas others are elves. I suppose they just decided to simplify it into general types, I mean the game is quite confusing as it is so clerical elves might have been a step too far!

Stronghold is an ambitious game, it aims to put you in charge of just about every aspect of running a fantasy empire. It looks good, there is no doubt about that, but it is confusing as well. Balancing gold, food and housing is one thing but when it comes to actually grouping a party and sending them out to do something you'll almost certainly need to read the manual carefully and experiment a bit. My own personal experiences with it led me to believe that whoever designed the 'magnet' system of movement needed an extended beating with a +3 mace of sense seeing. That said, perseverence yields rewards and though you will still long to be able to just group select as you can in say Command and Conquer the system does make things possible, though never especially easy. Battles occur when your forces meet enemies and everything is pretty much automatic. You could send in some nearby reinforcements but chances are by the time they turn up everything will be over anyway. The battles are watchable though and there is a good variety of enemies. Character types sometimes play a huge part in combat, for instance an undead force will have little chance against your gang of clerics whilst a pack of thieves are likely to spot an enemy far faster than your other characters. This is pretty good and justifys the different character types as far as I am concerned, there is genuine tactical difference between them and though all you can do is watch the battles it is gratifying to see that different characters have different abilities. I should mention that 'you' the player also has an alignment that changes the victory conditions. Good players must simply attain high rank by seeing off attackers and building a huge and thriving stronghold, evil players must destroy everyone else and neutral players must do both!

Stronghold is more sim city than fantasy general, building a large fantasy city and seeing it flourish is pretty satisfying and the large variety of enemy forces is pretty good too. Combat is the weak spot, beyond being an interesting spectacle from time to time, and it all looks good enough despite the games age. Really the question is how much time and effort are you prepared to put into enjoying it? If you like a quick, straightforward strategy game - and there's nothing wrong in that - you will probably find Stronghold overwhelming and a bit fiddly. If you like a game you can really get stuck into and which plays more like a sandbox simulation than a hardcore strategy game you will almost certainly find months, if not years of enjoyment from this title. Personally, for what it's worth, I found it quite engrossing but wished there were better controls to move a party around since individual troops are not enough to make an impact. There's a lot to like in the game and if you like the fantasy setting, or AD&D especially, and you don't mind poring over the manual a bit then you will probably be completely lost in this game for hours. The learning curve is steep, probably more so than any game I've played recently and this might explain why it didn't do very well in terms of sales despite its nice appearance. If you are prepared to climb that curve though you'll find treasure awaits, just don't forget to pack plenty of provisions.

 

 

Part of the Dungeons & Dragons games Series


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Reviewed by: strangelove / Screenshots by: strangelove / Uploaded by: strangelove / share on facebook
 

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