Saturday, December 1, 2007


I have a new addiction, and its name is Stronghold. I was introduced to the game by my brother over Thanksgiving break. It was made in 2001, and its graphics were probably state of the art at the time. Even by today's standards, they're still pretty good.

The game's concept is to build a medieval castle, and defeat your enemy. You have to make buildings to gather resources, construct walls and towers, and recruit troops. Unlike most RTS games, construction is immediate, which although not exactly realistic, it is very convenient. Most of the rest of the game however stresses realism. Unlike in games like Age of Empires, in which you spend food to get a unit, and then that unit never eats again, in Stronghold, your people need food at a constant rate. Also, the game shows just how powerful fortifications are. There is a significant for firing arrows from a height, so a small force of arches stationed on top of walls and towers can defend against a group of archers twice as large.

One of the most important aspects of the game is popularity. Your popularity determines whether civilians will want to stay and work at your castle. Civilians are necessary, because they're the one gathering resources, and they're who you recruit from if you need more soldiers. There are many factors that determine popularity. If you have a lot of food, you can give your peasants extra rations, which will make them happier. If you don't have much food, you can put them on half rations, which will make them unhappy, but will conserve what you have. Another is the tax rate, which can go from "Downright cruel taxes" to "Generous bribe". Yeah, if you're unpopular, and you have a lot of money, you can pay your peasants to work for you. I've never seen another game where tax rate can go negative. As can be expected, the higher the taxes, the more unhappy your peasants are, but the more money you get, which is necessary to recruit soldiers and build military buildings. Those are the two most important factors that affect popularity, though there are many more.

Although the game has multiplayer and scenarios, there is also a main campaign. Not unusually, but rather disappointingly, the campaign is very static. You have to win every mission, and what you do in a mission doesn't affect anything that happens later in the campaign. The plot is that a while ago, the king led a failed invasion and was captured. Then, several powerful lords rose up and divided the kingdom into their own domains. You work for a group of rebels still loyal to the king. As the game progresses, you attack and eventually defeat the various lords.

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