Review by ArabArcadia

"I threw away my Legos after playing this well done game."

I wish I could give this an 8 and 1/2 because it really deserves it. Only a few technical flaws keep this game from achieving nirvana.

Stronghold is an ingenious blend of real time strategy (RTS) like Warcraft and castle building and maintenance similar to, well, um, a game where you build and maintain things. Stronghold is great because these two features blend so well. For example, building the strongest fortress in the world will mean nothing against invading armies if you don't have the troops to man the castle's defenses. Putting archers on the walls could mean the difference between breeches and victory. But archers alone will not save the day (or castle). That's where your foot soldiers come in. There is nothing like the experience of having your mounted knights charge forth from the gates while arrows wiz above them and intercept the enemy before they reach the castle walls. Will it hurt? You betcha! But boy is it satisfying.

Stronghold takes this formula and adds plenty of depth to keep the gaming strategist thoroughly entertained. A powerful strong hold requires an equally healthy economy which will have you scouring the land for food, wood and stone. However, the micro-management of your economy rarely causes any headaches since the game has a pretty intuitive resource management system. Once the appropriate buildings are made, the game takes care of collecting resources and depositing them to their appropriate location. The only thing you have to worry about is supplying a population to work, and this can only be done by expanding and keeping safe your acquired territory.

The Campaign mode is good fun and the game does have plenty of other modes of play like strictly economic games (which I find boring) and siege games (which I love). Whether its storming a castle or building one, there is a lot of fun to have with this game. The best feature, however, was the campaign building mode. This mode allows you to create your own little scenarios. You can create the natural terrain, place troops, build castles or towns, and let the chaos ensue. I made a whole bunch of maps with this feature and love challenging myself with smaller castles and troops against nearly invincible invaders. Good fun, indeed.

The only problem is that the isometric view (though I love it and think it suits the game perfectly) can affect the building of your dream castle. You can't build anywhere and you might often find yourself limited (or aided) by artificial boundaries (like the edge of the map). Who needs a wall when enemies can't leave the map? Look past this, and other minor graphical problems and you have one great game.

I can't comment on multiplaying because I don't swing that side of the tree. I like single player games and try not to waste my dime on internet connections. However, I can say that the game AI is plenty smart and defeating your enemies is a rewarding experience.

In conclusion, don't be fooled by what others say. This game is more realistic than most RTS games out there (walls here make a difference). Considering that you can find this cheap now-a-days, there is really no excuse not to get this game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 07/15/03, Updated 07/15/03

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