by Sergio Brinkhuis
reviewed on PC
To balance to the game’s frantic pace, the economical aspect of Stronghold Crusader 2 has been kept simple. There are no overly long production paths, deliveries of goods to your granary and stockpile occur frequently and taxes flow in steadily as long as your peasants have food in their bellies. I found a lack of free peasants to be more of an obstacle than the availability of weapons or food.
Walls, towers and other defenses build instantaneously. As long as there is stone, cash and iron available in your stockpile you can build to your heart’s content. The only other restriction on adding to your castle’s defenses are enemy units in the vicinity. Once close enough, these prevent you from building anything new, though they do not stop you from spawning new defenders. It all fits perfectly well with Crusader 2’s focus on action and those looking for a jolt of adrenaline are well served indeed.
Yet it also highlights one of Stronghold 3’s shortcomings. You see, breaking down walls is almost as easily done as building them. A pair of trebuchets that hurl stones just out of reach of defending archers will make short work of the stone bulwarks that make up your castle. No matter what variety of defenses you add, they are too far away to be destroyed unless defenders sally out of the gate. Add a few catapults and walls are down in seconds. Perhaps it is a little too easy. The art of siege warfare is hardly an art when it takes little skill to batter down a stone wall. Granted, the speed is kind of exhilarating and you’re constantly on the lookout for potential attacks, but it also puts the value of castle defenses in question. Against an AI player, walls are fairly effective and provide protection long enough for you to respond with a quickly raised army. Human players, however, will focus on the weakest section of your castle and have armies flooding into your courtyard in no time at all.
Even if walls go down a little too easily, Stronghold Crusader 2 is quite enjoyable. For a large part, this is due to the highly polished interface. Whether you are plopping walls, gates or buildings, everything snaps in place smoothly. Existing wall sections automatically mend potential holes when you add new towers or defensive platforms, farmable land - which is scarce, you’re fighting in the desert after all - is clearly indicated and when you forget to provide a mine with an ox tether for transportation you are warned of your negligence accordingly.
That same smooth flow in doing things is found in buying and selling resources, creating new units and giving orders. If there is one thing that is detrimental to a fast-paced strategy game it is struggling with an inefficient interface but there is no such struggle here. Anything that you feel you should be able to do, you actually can. The only potential hiccup occurs when repairing partially destroyed walls which sometimes require you to change the camera position to get right.
Castle building joy
I started off this review with shoving Stronghold 3 under the rug. Lifting up the rug’s corner and comparing the game to Stronghold Crusader 2, I’m oh so happy with Firefly’s latest. I would not recommend it as a single-player game. It simply doesn’t have enough flesh on the bones to be played that way for more than a few days. Fortunately, Crusader was never meant to be played alone. It is a multiplayer siege fest that excels when played against human opponents, offering a unique yet merry kind of chaos only found in Stronghold games.
Unique, fast-paced castle-building action the way it was meant to be
Unattractive as a single-player game, value of building castles is somewhat questionable