Review by Jhedin

"A refreshing challenge..."

When I first checked out Stronghold, I thought it would be nothing more than a normal medieval strategy game. I saw the words ''Castle Sim'' on it, which is what truly caught my attention, but I didn't expect anything great. But that's what I got.

First, the game itself. It is SimCity meets Star(War)Craft. Not only do you have to raise an army to defend (or sometimes siege) the enemy, but you also have to make sure your economy in the town remains stable and that your people remain happy, or they will leave you, which means no labor, which means no peasants that you could use for soldiery. You keep your people happy by keeping them fed, not charging them too many taxes, and applying nice things to your castle town, such as gardens and statues.

Graphically, this game is definitely worthwhile. People look like people, and there is distinguishable detail on your various peasants, workers, and soldiers. The only argument I might have graphically is that sometimes your points of view (4 - one from each cardinal direction) don't always let you see what you need to, if it's in a shady corner or alcove.

The sound is also good, especially for if you use sounds for a signal like I do. The music changes automatically whenever enemy troops appear on the map. There are battle sounds, like the reassuring ''twang'' of a series of bows firing, and you can even sometimes hear the ''splat'' of a fallen soldier. Each person in town has something to say, as well, although many peasants are repetitive.

The gameplay is solid, and easy to control. You can easily highlight a series of your warriors and move them, and their grouping has no limit, unlike a game like StarCraft, where a group cannot exceed 12. However, in Stronghold, your group could probably hold up to 120+ if you so desired it. My only argument here is that sometimes it would be nice to be able to control your peasants, so that you can move them from harm's way, or show them where a good tree is or where all the game are. The building control is also good, allowing you to drag and build your walls, which is a nice relief on the hand.

Overall, Stronghold is a phenomal game with very many possibilities. There's a military campaign of 21 missions, an economic campaign of 5 missions, and there is also a free-build option. There is also a multiplayer option, and you can use your own premade maps on it, much like in the StarCraft Campaign Editor. There's also a ''Siege That'' option, which is rather fun. It allows you to free-build a castle that you can then put out for others to attempt to siege. With so many possibilities among the basics, Stronghold is a sure bet. If you like castle simulations, you should enjoy that. However, if you like strategy games, this is right up your alley. The strategy in this game is challenging without being impossible - a refreshing difference from many games that I've played. It takes a lot for me to name a game my favorite, but Stronghold is definitely my favorite PC game for now, and probably will be for awhile.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 10/31/01, Updated 10/31/01

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