by Howie Howard
previewed on PC
The wait is almost over!
Back in 1999 computer game developer Firefly came out with the hit castle building RTS game Stronghold. They followed this game up with an equally successful sequel named Crusader. Between the 2 games there were over 1.5 million copies sold. Reason enough for us to say that the spring release of Stronghold 2 is highly anticipated.
Some background information
The original game was a type of Sim City in the Dark Ages with castles and knights and an assorted enemy hoard that had to be fought off. That's right, instead of building a city, you built a castle, complete with the necessary out buildings that are needed to produce anything a medieval lord would require.
There were plenty of exciting things to do and you'd rarely found yourself bored with the game. As in most RTS games the starting player was required to start the game at the lowest level with a minimal amount of resources. This meant one or two buildings, some gold, a small pile of building materials and the weakest military units, such as archers and spearmen. The player had to meet goals such as providing the king with a certain amount of baked goods or armaments. Once this goal was met the player would move on to the next scenario. Of course the next scenario was harder and required more planning, more gold, the ability to gather more raw materials and be able to produce more useable products and a stronger castle or Stronghold. Nothing was given. You had to create the production chains to produce everything from raw materials, turning them into finished goods. This was usually a two or three step process.
When you produced a spear for example, you could then train spearman, but not until you built a building in which military could be trained. A well run economy was required to build up your forces and production capabilities to meet the deadline set in the scenario. Once you got through a chapter of the campaign which involved being successful in a small number of individual scenarios against a lesser enemy, you would capture his land for your own. You would then move on to a stronger foe and have harder scenarios to complete. Plus you moved up to stronger military units and bigger castles.
Out with the old, in with the new
The game continues the winning formula of its predecessors, but with many improvements. The most noticeable is the game engine. The previous two games were based on a then fine looking 2D engine. Stronghold 2 will employ a dazzling new 3D graphics game engine that is able to create a far more vibrant world. Firefly didn't stop there though.
Many new game elements were added, along with a much more involved game system. As manager of your castle, you'll find yourself asking 'what in the world can be done to control all of the waste my people and industry are producing?', 'how do I deal with this awful rat infestation' and 'my people are getting diseases such as black plague that I just can't explain!'. Then there are those pesky criminals that keep robbing the vault. How in the world can they be controlled? In this new game there is a solution to every problem. Want to control waste? Build a sewage system. It might even help control the rats and disease. Plus there are now new units that will be able to cure the sick and heal certain military units. Criminals can be taken care of with new working gallows, stockades and other medieval methods.
There are new and improved military units that can be used in the same way as the previous games. However they will have new weapons and equipment, including a rich variety of siege equipment. The combat system has also received an overhaul. Troops can now be assembled into formations. No more of this big gaggle of clumped up fighters. There are new 3D combat environments and the enemy AI is promised to be much more intelligent and cunning.
The improvements and enhancements don't stop there however. Firefly intends to have an enhanced multi-player mode where you can play scenarios against friends. There is a castle life mode or scenario that goes along with the regular scenarios. You will be able to fight duels through castle keeps and watch every move the inhabitants of your castle make. You will actually be able to look inside buildings and see medieval life unfold in front of your very own eyes! No more guessing what the baker, the candlestick maker or the drunken old bartender is doing. There is just so much more to this new game that there isn't enough space here to describe it. If Firefly delivers on all of its promises, I'm certain that this new release will not disappoint. Let's hold a grand feast in honor of this upcoming game release. Oh, yeah? You can hold a feast in the game too!