Stronghold Regains Its Strength

Stronghold Crusader Extreme has simple graphics, but it is challenging.
Stronghold Crusader Extreme has simple graphics, but it is challenging. (Gamecock Media)
Friday, May 30, 2008

No series has had as many ups and downs as Stronghold. When the original game came out in 2001, it revolutionized medieval real-time strategy games and became the gold standard for castle-building and siege-warfare-type titles. Then Stronghold Crusader arrived a year later emphasizing warfare instead of economy building, and it, too, was a bestseller. But when Stronghold 2 tried to add a clunky 3-D interface, plus an overly complex domestic management component, its popularity plummeted. The weak Stronghold Legends likewise didn't help the series make a comeback.

So developer Firefly Studios has gone back to basics. And we mean back. Stronghold Crusader Extreme is basically an enhanced version of Stronghold Crusader. As such, graphically it looks like a six-year-old game. But given that the two-dimensional interface was vastly more popular, this is not too much of a problem. The game also features bigger armies. Some battles have 10,000 troops on the screen at the same time. There are so many soldiers that sometimes they blend into a massive blob. If you can manage that type of battlefield chaos, you are truly worthy of the Crusader Lord title.

In addition to getting the original Crusader game and all the follow-up packs, including Warchest, the new game adds linked missions. These "extreme" missions seem almost impossible. Even hardcore players will be challenged. Try starting with nothing and building a castle in two minutes before thousands of barbarians come pouring over the hill.

To help you, there are new tactical skills. Skillful management of these special skills can provide a ray of light in an otherwise dark situation. But even then, the extreme missions are difficult. If you are new to the series or just a little rusty, play through the original Crusader missions included with the game before you even think of tackling Extreme.

Stronghold Crusader Extreme has everything Crusader did, just more of it. With a $30 price tag, this is one title no strategy gamer should miss.

-- John Breeden II

Stronghold Crusader Extreme Teen; Windows XP/Vista ($30) Gamecock Media Stronghold Crusader Extreme Teen; Windows XP/Vista ($30) Gamecock Media

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