Review by NameUsedBefore

Reviewed: 10/24/01 | Updated: 10/24/01

A Fabulous Castle-Sim

Wow. This game is just truly amazing. It takes its likings from the old '93 Stronghold, but not really much. Actually, only the structure is taken. Anyhow, onto the story...

Its around the early Middle Ages, the country (England I presume, they never truly say, but it looks like it) is in chaos. Why? Well the the king has been captured in another country (I say France) of course. You, a rag-tag faction, must unite the country. This will (of course not) not be easy. You have a four lords facing up against you. One is a scrawny touchy man. His force is about as strong as yours is. He's dubbed The Rat. Its for obvious reasons: He's from a relatively poor family, was very diseased and disrupted once he came to power, and, like said earlier, has a small faction like yours.
Then theres The Snake. He's very tricky and tries to pay people off with bribes. He sets up traps and is untrustworthy. He lost an eye to your father and has pledged to his fellow knights that he will kill all of your family branch before he rests.
Whats next? Oh yes, a really fat guy called The Pig. He's fat, barbarious, and isn't used to defeat. He likes to torture people... to the max. He's not a very good general, still, he hardly ever suffers defeat. The mainstay of his army is the maceman. He has large quanities of these troops and many others, thus he usually overwhelms any foe facing him.
The most dangerous, and serious, liege, is The Wolf. Like his name, he is very dangerous and has his own little area to the north. He is a true lord. Very dangerous, can be trusted rarely, and has a army of knights and swordsmen. Oh yeah, and their the most powerful units in the game, heh. So your surrounded, now what? Well, onto the gameplay of course.

The gameplay is a pretty awesome spectacle. Early on you have very small forces, and really aren't an owner of a county (faction) yet. You face deadly wolves, and food problems. After awhile, you take on a nearby lord, bringing the tinyish brawn of a twelve your old with you. Luckly, he has the strength of a mere child. Of course this adds up to a 'Score one for the home team!' cheer.
Your towns are really dramatic and lifelike. You see hunters stalk their pray, then fire their arrows into it taking it to the netherworld. Their friendly dogs go run ahead of the hunter doing what it dogs do, be best friends (Ha-ha). The animation is very smooth and creative. You have tanners taking cows to their work, then slaughter it for its hide. You see your lord inspect some nearby troops. Its all there and its just plain awesome to watch.
Food gathering is usually made up of a long string of chores to do. Bread for instance: First you must grow some wheat, then take that to a nearby mill, then it travels to the storage, where the baker comes to pick it up who then takes it back to his bakery where he bakes it. Then...(Breathe...) he takes it back to the granary for consumption. Tedious? No. Its pretty simple. Most things take quite awhile for you to grasp them. Wood for instance: You must chop down a tree, then chop it until you get a block 3x, then after that three times, you saw it up into boards and take it to the storage. It goes like this: Hunters are great for beggining, but lack in quanity; Cows are a fast and great source of food, but require a quite of bit of time to get up and running: You must breed up to three cows to start-a-milkin'; Orchards are fast, but must be grown and just really aren't that great... As good as a cow farm, just that you don't need to breed cows (where you see grow up in the stable... awww, so cute). Bread is the best but requires quite a lot of buildings and work to get it up and running. But once done, it comes in the biggest quanities and the fastest.
You need to chop wood, gather iron, or skin some cows to get soldiers. After those are down, your fletcher, spear turner, or armorer gets ah workin'. After they make what you asked them to, they take it to the armory. Where you can use that bow or mace or whatever to make a soldier. But some things require more then just one object: Macemen require a mace and a leather vest. You also need peasants (people who don't have work...slackers...)to become that person inside the vest and holding that mace.
Bowmen are your main soldiers for almost the whole game. Macemen are quite valuable and pack a nasty punch. They also have brutal crushing and breaking sounds in battle. Swordsmen and Knights are the most powerful units, being able to take on hordes of your weak spearmen. These men are soley made for armageddon. Engineers can be used to build shields,bastllas (giant crossbows),catapults that can chuck cows for disease, battering rams, and trebuchets (Huge boulder throwing catapults). Diggers are used to dig tunnels and scream out a jolly 'Into the blackness!' before they start their descent that has no return. Seriously, they go in, under a tower, then collapse the tunnel, killing them and hopefully destroying the wall or tower. Laddermen are virtually useless, and should be used as fodder. Their laddermen, you know what they do. Monks are pretty strong and cheap. But they can only take one hit from an arrow. Which is pretty bad once you start playing the game (you'll understand). To sum up the units you have: Spearmen, archers, crossbowmen, swordsmen, engineers, laddermen, knights, pikemen (used soley for defense), monks, diggers, and some more that for some reason I really can't think of.
Building your castle is great. You get to build up the structure and place walls and towers. Also for traps you've got oil ditches to light up with archers, stakes hidden in the ground covered with sticks for camoflaouge, and attack dogs, which are pretty weak. You also have cauldrons of boiling oil as a nice touch (and historic of course). These men (engineers) that hold them give out nice demonic screams of 'Burn them! Burn them all!'.

The sound? Great, excellent. The music is truly outstanding. Orchrastras are magnificent. You've gotta hear it to believe it. The sounds of battle are brutal. Men screaming on fire, sounds of brains and helmets being caved in with maces, and people letting out choking sounds when hit with arrows. Its all brutal and just cackling fun. The graphics are somewhere between cartoonish and serious. Hard to say. Anyhow, their great and the animations are very sweet. Now that I'm running out of time, I must close this up. This game is truly outstanding and very medieval (of course). It shows the true side of the age. I'd give it a 91%. You'll love the intro and end... I think if you like the Sim City games and/or wargames (or like history or the Medieval Age), you should get this as it is a must buy for those kind of groups.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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