Hey all I’m back with a game from a genre I don’t get to play very often, that of real-time strategy. Today I’ll be reviewing Stronghold: Warlords!
Plot: The plot of the game comes from various snippets of history from a few Far Eastern countries, like Vietnam and ancient Mongolia, plus China and Japan. It’s pretty historically accurate to the best of my knowledge, although I’ll admit I’m much more of a mythology nerd than I am a History nerd. There are a few suspect things, like the fact that you can field Ninjas that actually run up walls and Spiritual Monks that deal area effect damage.
Gameplay: I really enjoyed playing through the “story” missions, and had a bunch of fun fielding tons of troops to overwhelm my enemies. The balancing act between gaining more money from taxes and keeping your population happy so you have a steady stream of people to fill roles is pretty decent, but I just usually ended up building tons of farms and didn’t really worry all that much after I got a steady stream of food and the normal tax rate was sufficient for my needs. I also never ran into a Unit Build Cap while I was going through the story, although there is one, especially if you play in multiplayer.
That being said, there are a few issues that do detract from the fun compared to other more classic RTS games like StarCraft. First, it was difficult for me to order around multiple groups of troops easily with hotkeys. I also struggled with using the attack command to move troops. This meant that I ended up commanding just a giant mass of troops and wasn’t able to actually take advantage of strategy as much as I’d like.
Secondly, the battles were trivially easy (in the story modes) once I amassed enough ranged attackers, particularly the basic Archer unit which had the best mix of move speed and range of all the units that I was employing. Once I got a hundred Archers I could pretty much conquer everything, and only had a dozen or so of the most basic melee unit, unarmored spearmen to move in formation with my army of archers in order to take initial attacks off my archers and I’d just reinforce the army with ever more archers and occasionally a spearman.
Finally, the scripted battles of the story mode missions on occasion confused the heck out of me. For example, in the final mission of the first campaign, you are defending a city against an incoming army. I built up my wall and manned it with dozens of archers to the point that none of the enemies ever breached the first line of defense.
But as I’m slaughtering the latest wave of enemies I get an in-game message saying that defeat is imminent and I’m to hold off the enemy so my NPC “King” can run off like the city was going to fall. I was building myself up to have to face waves of unending enemies, and didn’t even realize I had already finished the mission because I had just been steadily making more and more archers to man my walls, and although I thought it was going to get harder, it never did.
Music: The musical score is nice, but not amazing. Then again I wasn’t expecting Final Fantasy quality scores so while I wasn’t amazed, I wasn’t disgusted or disappointed with it.
That being said the voicework is very well done and has units voiced by native speakers of various Far Eastern languages, like Chinese, Vietnamese and Japanese. So the authentic nature of the voice acting is a huge plus. The only downside is that the units aren’t voiced in each of those languages, but that each unit has lines in one specific language. For example, the Samurai unit is in Japanese, while I believe the basic blow-gunner unit is in Vietnamese, which can get confusing for your ears when you try to command multiple groups of troops.
Overall: A fun new addition to the RTS genre that lets players field huge numbers of units, which is always pretty fun to do. It may not be the best RTS out there, but it’s a solid game with a unique flavor.
For those who like: RTS Games, History, Controlling large amounts of units.
Not for those who don’t like: Any of the above.