Review: Stronghold 2

Store page (The Stronghold Collection) / View this review on Steam

I’m sure plenty of people playing the original Stronghold wanted to see their castles in full 3D. Who wouldn’t want a cinematic view of the besieging army from your own ramparts? Whatever those people were imagining, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t how Stronghold 2 turned out. And I’m not just talking about the graphics, either.

strong2-1

I will save us all some time and say right up front that if you’ve played Stronghold or Stronghold Crusader, you will be immediately put off by this game. There are many reasons for this, but the hideous new interface takes center stage. Fully 40% of the screen is filled by a chunky new UI at all times while also being devoid of useful information. You can no longer tell at a glance how your granary or recruitment is faring either, and the information that once once found on the ledger is now tucked away in the corners of the screen.

The UI is but window dressing for the impressively ugly graphics. I usually wait until the end to touch on those, but they are such an affront to the eyes that I cannot contain myself. The buildings are simple and blocky, your people are tiny messes of polygons, and the colors are blurred and murky. Worst of all are the nightmarish heads that pop up to talk to you, ghoulish abominations with sallow skin and beady, protruding eyes. You won’t hardly care about building a beautiful kingdom here because it simply is not possible.

strong2-2

You have two campaigns to choose from, a peaceful one and a warring one. Both have a number of scenarios that play out on the same map, carrying over your constructions as you progress. Strangely enough the peaceful campaign has you fighting battles sooner than the war one, and harder ones at that. Speaking of which, even if you can look past the offensive UI and graphics, the difficulty curve is sure to get you. Some maps that have you under siege will send enemies immediately, before you have the chance to get set up. Others place a strict time limit on you to produce certain goods, often ones you need to subsist and prosper. In both cases, the challenge far exceeds what most people will find fun.

Stronghold 2 is such a misstep I could almost believe the original was a happy accident. Everything that worked before is either broken, slowed down, or redesigned in a far inferior way. There is literally no reason to suggest playing this, outside of morbid curiosity or a case-study in how not to pursue a sequel.

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