Stronghold Legends PC DVD-ROM
Published by 2K Games
Developed by Firefly Studios
Release Date: Out Now
We were impressed with the original Stronghold and its rather unique mix of resource management and battles. The game has often been described as a castle simulator and to some extent this is true. After Stronghold we had Stronghold Crusader which was more of a standalone expansion rather than a sequel and yet again it was an impressive effort from Firefly Studios. With two entries in the series and with two hits under their belt, great things were expected from Firefly when Stronghold 2 was announced. With Stronghold 2 however, many felt the bubble had burst. The game was a system resource hog that was released with a few serious bugs. Patches arrived and improved the situation somewhat but for many the series had lost its appeal. Can Stronghold Legends restore the fans faith in the series?
Stronghold Legends sees the series turning away from historical accuracy and heading for the realm of fantasy. The game has three campaigns which are based on the legends of King Arthur, Siegfried and Vlad the Impaler. As well as the three campaigns there is also a custom skirmish mode, a mode to allow you to play user created scenarios (an editor is included) and a mode called The Legends Tales. There are three trails in all and they play out like a chain of skirmish missions. The single-player game has much to offer then and the multiplayer side of things is also covered, with support for both LAN and Internet play.
Those looking for a return to the game play style of Stronghold and Stronghold Crusader are going to be in for a big disappointment. The reason for this is that for some reason Firefly have decided to make Stronghold Legends a combat heavy experience and it just doesn’t feel much like a Stronghold game at all. The mission objectives are nothing to do with economic achievements and even though there is some resource management to perform, it’s always for the sake of keeping a well supplied army. The days of the Stronghold series being regarded as a castle simulator appear to have long gone.
Does it cut the mustard as a combat heavy RTS? In short the answer would have to be barely. Going back about five or six years ago, the game would have fared better but by today’s standards it all seems quite basic. The three armies in the game are all too similar with the normal troops being practically identical on each side. Some mythical units have been thrown into the mix (such as wizards, dragons, giants, dwarves etc.) and these certainly make things more interesting but they aren’t as powerful as you might have hoped for. The missions aren't particularly inspiring either as you seem to move from one objective to another with little room for doing things in a different way.
Graphically the game also disappoints. The same engine that was used for Stronghold 2 appears to have been used for Stronghold Legends and it’s not aged at all well. Both the maps and the units are rather low on detail when compared to the titles that have arrived in the genre over the last year or so. The benefit of this is that you don’t need a stellar PC in order to be able to enjoy the game. Our review PC, which has felt the strain with a fair few PC titles over the last six months or so, had no problems with the game and even during the most hectic of battles the frame rate remained constant. The interface, whilst perfectly accessible, looks a little chunky and could have looked a bit more modern.
Stronghold Legends is OK for deaf gamers. That said it could have been better. The game’s tutorial is fully subtitled which is good news as it’s rather short and does a good job of introducing you to the game. The introduction to the campaign chapters is shown in text. The briefings and objectives are shown in text too and both can be recalled at any time. Important notifications in the campaign are also shown in text. Other modes don’t fare so well. There’s quite a bit of speech in The Legends Tales mode that isn’t subtitled for instance. Comments that your units make when you give them orders are not subtitled (as per usual in an RTS) but this isn’t much of a problem.
Firefly obviously have their reasons for wanting to change the Stronghold formula but it’s disappointing nevertheless. Stronghold Legends could have been released as an expansion rather than a sequel and perhaps it would have been better if it had. The game offers a typical RTS experience of yesteryear rather than being the next generation castle simulation that many fans of the series would hope for. The problem is of course that fans of the series are the ones most likely to take a dislike to the game and if anything, it will appeal more to those who didn’t appreciate what the earlier Stronghold games had to offer but who are likely to see the name Stronghold on the box and dismiss it as a game that isn’t their thing.
Those expecting Stronghold Legends to remain true to the series' roots are going to be disappointed as this latest title in the series can't be described as a castle simulator.