|Publisher: MacSoft Genre: Strategy & War|
|Min OS X: Any Version CPU: G3 @ 350 MHz RAM: 128 MB Hard Disk: 750 MB|
“Close the gate! Archers to your posts! Prepare the vats of boiling oil; we’ll burn as many of them as we can! Knights, steady your horses, if they manage to breach the walls, eviscerate them! Oh yes, we’ll teach them not to invade our castle…”
- The last words of General Phillips, just before suffering an arrow to the face.
Well, for the most part, Stronghold is a fine addition to our platform. However, it does have its rough edges and share of lazy peasants. Read on, as we scale the walls of Stronghold!
I’ve always wanted to live as a knight in a castle, loyally serving the king, visiting the local tavern, attending the weekly public beheading and bravely going to battle against invaders. Yep, THAT would be a sweet life. Sadly, the last time I went around in a suite of full plate mail, ordering the serving wench (sorry, mom) for a mug of ale (ginger ale), I was sent to a special hospital for 2 months. I was forced to give up my dream; I resigned myself to the fact that I’d never taste castle life. At least, my dream was dead until recently… Stronghold has come to the Mac OS, courtesy of those crazy jesters at MacSoft. In Stronghold, players are promised a delicate mélange of gaming genres, but is such a thing possible? Can a game be a “ruler sim”, city builder and real-time strategy (RTS) powerhouse all at once? Can Stronghold balance all these genres or is it a jack-of-all-trades, but master of none?
Gameplay: A Horse, a Horse, My Kingdom for a Horse!Stronghold is a hybrid of several game types, ruler sim, city builder and RTS. I want to first say that I like Stronghold VERY much. However, it does have flaws that prevent it from blossoming into the truly great game that it should be. Parts of it are insanely cool, while others are so annoying that I want to find each of the game’s designers and punch them in the face. First, we’ll look at Stronghold’s shiny points, then we’ll look at its darker side.
There is certainly a great deal for the player to do in Stronghold. The game features an extensive story based single-player Military Campaign, various single-player Military missions, an Economics based Campaign, single Economics based missions, multiplayer action, a free build mode and a map-editor.
The single-player Military Campaign is quite enjoyable. Stronghold’s story unfolds as the king has been captured while invading the Barbarian Highlands. With his loss, various nobles swoop down to snatch the throne. One such noble is your father, a good man with good intentions. Sadly, while traveling to a meeting of the nobles, your party is attacked by a group of unknown raiders and your father, as well as most of the group is slaughtered. Bruised, beaten and wanted dead, the group heads for cover, hoping to re-gather and perhaps exact vengeance on those who murdered your father.
The missions start off easy enough, gathering food, building basic structures and hunting wolves; all ways in which players can familiarize themselves with the game. Then, things get interesting. Enemies start crawling out of the woodwork, seeking to put down your rebellion and continue on with their nefarious deeds. One such enemy is Duke De Puce (nicknamed “The Rat”), he’s a cruel Lord, hell-bent on gaining power. He’s the player’s first taste of siege warfare, it is against him that the first castle is constructed and defended.
In a nutshell, Stronghold is about building a sturdy castle and defending it from wave after wave of attacks. There is a story built around each mission, but actual gameplay usually involves being sent to a location, building a fort or castle and making a stand against an enemy. Well-placed archers are key to a good defense; they’re the castle’s first line of defense. Archers can be placed on walls, in towers and even armed with flaming arrows. Motes are another way to thwart unwanted guests; they keep invaders at bay until they’re turned into flaming Swiss cheese. Of course, my personal favorite lines of defense are the pots of boiling oil and incendiary ditches. If the enemy gets too close, there’s NOTHING more satisfying than dumping a vat of boiling oil atop their pathetic heads. Incendiary ditches are also a fun way to keep enemy soldiers or those “save the whales” people from knocking at the castle gate. These ditches are dug around the castle at key points, filled with a flammable substance and covered with grass, hidden from unsuspecting trespassers. By the time an intruder notices, it’s far too late, flaming arrows are sent flying toward the ditches, causing them to explode and burn anyone unfortunate enough to be in the area.
Of course, if the castle walls fall, which they will from time to time, the player has many inner defenses. There are spearmen, macemen, pikemen and swordsmen, all waiting to cut down attackers and defend the Lord of the castle. If the Lord is killed, the enemy wins and the game is over, even if the player has their entire army left.