Written by Svenevil.
The first Stronghold was a massive RTS/castle building hit in 2001, but its sequels had a hard time repeating that success. I liked Stronghold Legends, others enjoyed Stronghold Crusaders, but nearly everyone hated Stronghold 3. Now Firefly tries it again – with Stronghold: Warlords. This time the game takes place in East Asia.
The Stronghold games might look like Age of Empires, but they play quite differently. They put a much higher emphasis on building your economy (and of course your castle). It is not enough just to construct a building that will operate all alone as in the Age of Empires. Stronghold uses a more “realistic” economy model with more dependencies during the operation of your buildings. Mechanisms interact with each other, and a tiny problem in one place can lead to all your factories standing still and your peasants leaving your kingdom. A lot more micromanagement is necessary for the economy to flourish. It plays a bit like The Settlers, while the combat still is like Age of Empires, only with your troops being even more stupid and dying faster than flies.
And then there is the castle building aspect. This was quite detailed in the original Stronghold but has been toned down in later parts. You can still build a nice castle with cool castle defenses in Stronghold: Warlords (and have to do so during some missions), but having a strong economy and defeating your foes on the battlefield is more important than building a fortress, at least in multiplayer. And Genghis Khan cannot build a castle at all… might be historically sound but what does he do in a game called Stronghold?
Make your peasants happy with a low tax rate, enough food (vegetable, tea, meat, clothes) rations, and (luxury) houses to live in. You don’t want them to linger around in your keep. After placing your stockpile you can send your peasants to collect resources. Build rice & vegetable fields, cut bamboo trees, then build weapons workshops to equip your army. When you have enough arms, train your peasants to become soldiers. Or just hire some mercenaries, if you have the money. Then attack your foes. Enemy warlords can be subdued and forced to send you regular shipments of gold, or you can give them other orders when you have enough diplomacy points. They can help your economy or support your military – but you also have to protect them from your enemies. Your lord is extremely strong, but also quite slow. You can take him into battle, but don’t let him die. I always liked the regicide game mode in the Age of Empires, even though the king was such a weakling – in Stronghold: Warlords your king can fight like a real hero!
Over 30 missions in five campaigns lead you from Vietnam to China, Mongolia, and to Japan. If you ever wanted to lead Genghis Khan’s hordes in real-time battles, you can do it here. You start as Thuc Phan, a leader from Vietnam who lived BC, while the last campaign in Japan plays during the time of the Tokugawa shogunate around the year 1500. China offers military and an economic campaign.
You cannot really expand your territory, you can just conquer some smaller warlords, who will then send you goods. At least until they are conquered by your enemies again. You cannot build on their territory, and they are more of an annoyance than a real help, most of the time.
Graphics, performance, and tech analysis:
The scrolling is smooth, ultra-widescreen is supported, the visuals are crisp, even the animations are nice. The map can be zoomed in and out and rotated in all directions – not bad! The enemies are dumb as bread. Even your own troops and workers are dumb – bad.
Stronghold: Warlords may not be a masterpiece, but it is certainly not the worst part of the series. A novel scenario and no technical embarrassments combined with the typical Stronghold gameplay lead to one of the better real-time strategy games of the last years.
Seems they removed 3440×1440 support with the launch version. Now you play with black borders on the sides with an ultrawide monitor…
Written by Svenevil.
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