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Stronghold 2 Deluxe (PC DVD)
- Ultimate castle sim with non-linear interactive storyline
- Lord over true-to-life medieval berg
- experience siege-warfare and castle-life
- Entertain with jousts, lavish feasts, and tournaments or rule with an iron fist
- Brand new soldier types, siege weaponry, and castle defences
- Breathtaking medieval setting in beautiful 3D
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Stronghold 2 is the third instalment of the Stronghold franchise. The original Stronghold was the first and only game to combine a castle sim with siege-warfare RTS. Stronghold 2 will be the first to bring the franchise to 3D. Players will be able to build and develop numerous types of castles and defences while watching their peasants go about their every day lives. Players will see medieval life in all its forms from festivals and jousts to drunken wenches serving their lord dinner. Players will also be given more control over the strategic aspect of the game.
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This game is every bit as good as the original, maybe even better, it's certainly easier to finish as the original Stronghold's campaign was notoriously hard and I still haven't finished it all these years later. Stronghold 2 deluxe begins with an easy installation. The game actually comes with a little game to play while waiting for the main game to install. It's worth playing this game (and it can be played whenever the disc is loaded into the drive), it's just a small game fending off invaders by firing arrows and other things at them from a tower wall. This game though gets you into the mood of stronghold.
The main game begins with an opening movie that's more like a trailer than an opening game movie. When you start the game you'll notice lots of options. The main game has two campaigns, a peace campaign and a war one. The peace campaign is meant to be played first as it sets up the main characters and introduces the main concepts. The game has a tutorial mode too which helps introduce the idea of estates, but you DO learn all this through playing the main campaign mode.
The peace campaign is best to start as it's not too difficult but still plays out a very good storyline for you to get used to controls. There are also very different tasks to complete so you do get into the story and get used to the whole wealth that stronghold 2 has to offer. The peace campaign also has a little warfare but nothing taxing, more like an introduction.
The war campaign is the main game that most stronghold fans will enjoy. There are many chapters to play though, and each chapter can have several different missions making the gameplay time of the total campaign very long. The story also forks at the end allowing you to choose one of two different paths, making for even more gameplay.
There are other modes of gameplay in this game too. One is individual scenarios. There aren't many shipped with the game but enough missions to enjoy playing after you've completed the main campaign, again split between waring missions and more peaceful missions.
There is a mode where you can defend or take siege of real life castles such as hastings in a simple campaign where you travel around Europe taking hold of the different castles. (I'm sorry I've forgotten the name of this game mode-will edit when I have it). There is even a little information about the real life castles before you play them.
There is a mode called kingmaker. This is where you can play multiplayer games, although you can also play kingmaker with cpu opponents. Kingmaker allows you to choose character who will play and how much money they start with. You can have from 1 to 6 characters playing on any map (although this is limited to which map you choose). There are various maps to play from blank squares where everybody has an equal area, to maps of Europe or Britain. Each player starts in their own estate and can claim other estates as they play. The whole point is to build up your own castle defences and keep hold of your estates and ultimately eliminate all rivals until you are the last one standing on the map. This is a long game, especially with lots of players at the same time, but the fun thing is that you DO get a warning when another player is going to attack, for example you'll hear Sir William yelling to you that your time has come...and shortly after you'll see his troops attack.
Kingmaker mode is actually really fun, and I didn't realise how much I'd enjoy it until I started playing it. It's a great new addition to stronghold which didn't exist in the original game.
There is also a free sandbox mode where you can create the castle of your dreams. You can create as much as you want you have access to all buildings and can stage an invasion of your castle to see how your defences hold up but it's on your own terms, no pressure.
Now, in case you are confused I'll let you know about the gamplay. Stronghold is all about building a castle and managing it while avoiding and fending off attacks from other players. Sometimes you will have to attack another's castle or forces instead. The game has a lot of details which for new players will take a bit of time to get used to (which is why I recommend the peace campaign first) but it IS well worth the effort. This version is a little tougher as you don't just build food and resources buildings and then make weapons and armour and train troops. You also have to deal with rats and gong (a medieval word for poo). Gong and rats have a negative impact on your kingdom and you have to get rid of them and keep citizens happy enough or they will leave the castle. You also have to deal with crime in this game. Every now and again a peasant may turn criminal and you have to place posts so they can be caught, tried and then punished in true medieval style...either nicely such as the stocks or ultimately killing them such as beheading.
This may all seem complicated to a new player but the game recognises this and introduces all these concepts slowly. It won't just throw everything at you and hope you'll understand. Each mission you play will introduce something new and you'll find yourself understanding the gameplay very easily from just playing the campaigns.
The new things that set this game apart from the original are:
New story line with very engaging videos. Both game's storylines are great but something about the way this one was set out felt more engaging for me, maybe because each mission was different to the last.
Estates! This is for me the most fun part of the new game. The estates are areas of land beyond the one you occupy that you can buy or steal from a rival and claim as your own. These estates work to send your main land things, such as applea, weapons, etc. Estates can be tough to manage but they can also really boost your game, I really do feel they add to the gameplay.
3D, the graphics of 3D are actually really good compared with the original game and the camera on my vista pc spins around very quickly. There's no lag issues like with so many 3D games. And you can really zoom in very far to see all that is happening.
There are new ways to gain troops, no longer do you just rely on money to buy a knight but you need kingdom points. These are gained through holding feasts, jousting evens, having statues in your land, etc. The game explains this concept to you in the campaigns.
The gong and rats and crime, though tough to manage add another depth the game which I feel gives more realism too.
Kingmaker mode, I've already explained it but there just wasn't this type of gameplay available in the original stronghold. And you can play with friends via the internet or a LAN connection though I've never tried this so can't comment on it.
I'll be honest and say that I've had no really bad experience with this game. There is only one thing I can report that has been a problem for me and it only happened with one particular independent scenario. In one scenario there are a lot, and I mean a LOT of characters on the map. Your job is to claim lots of estates while working up to your rivals castle and all the while he's placing more and more troops on the map. In this game I did notice a lagging. It doesn't completely impede on gameplay but you do see that the camera spinning is a little choppy and the individual soldiers movements become a bit choppy. But for a lag it's not that noticeable. And I really haven't come across any more problems (weird in today's game world).
This game really is a great buy from anyone who wants to try a medieval sim. The missions are all very different that it will keep you entertained without boring you. And they are challenging enough to enjoy without the frustration of never finishing, which happened with the original. For fans of the original game I'd advise that this game is different, so harsh reviewers who've been upset with this instalment shouldn't be dissapponted, it's not supposed to be the same game, it's different and I believe better.
I'd really recommend this game to anyone, the music is fantastic, the game plays so well and anyone who wants to try a medieval sim should really have a go. It's rated 12 because of the death in game, nothing too gory but you do see little characters catching fire or having arrows through their chest...I know it sounds gory but it really isn't that bad and I think their screams are more disturbing than their animations.
It installs perfectly well on a vista 32-bit computer and you do need the disc in the drive while playing. I'd really recommend this game, just try it, at a cheap price it's worth it.
The good parts of S2D were the new upgrades to the castle life sim, and the ability to combine castle sim economics and combat in the free build sections which was sadly lacking in the original. Unfortunately, I felt that overall the graphics were dispointing, the game performance slow and the whole combat experience far less challenging and entertaining than the either of the original games. The AI element is predictable and weak which is particularly disapointing to solo players but may be less of an issue to multi-player regulars.
I shall persevere as I have enjoyed the economics/low level combat games that I have created out of the free build section, but will definately keep the original Stronghold games on my desk top.
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