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Posted on Dec 11, 2006 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Stronghold Legends – Game Review (PC)

By Jamison Lanum

Passed Inspection: Three separate campaigns with unique legends. Fantasy units vary up the gameplay.

Failed Basic: Unpolished and unbalanced gameplay. Graphics are not up to par with industry standards.

Starting out as a castle simulator with real-time strategy elements set during the medieval time period; the Stronghold franchise has entered the mythological realm, discarding any historical remnants and even its castle building roots out the window. While this move at first seemed great; it eventually turned out to be an unpolished, unbalanced, fantasy RTS that just doesn’t match up against games such as Warcraft.

In Stronghold Legends players can play in 24 missions spread over three campaigns that are each accompanied by a distinct playing style and Legend: King Arthur, Siegfried, and Vlad the Impaler. While the bulk of armies will still be made out of pikemen, archers, etc; Legends includes several fantasy units such as the Frost Giant, which Siegfried can call upon to smash down castle walls and stomp on puny foot soldiers along with many other creatures of Norse Mythology. King Arthur’s units consist of the knights of Camelot along with the powerful but frail wizard Merlin. Finally, Vlad–modern day Dracula–is able to summon baddies such as vampires and catapulting werewolves which can bypass castle walls.


At first this was all great until further play testing showed an unbalanced mess that is frustrating to play with. Common sense would say that dragons would be a powerful unit; not easily taken down by archers, however in Stronghold Legends this isn’t the case. Another example is the Creeper. Creepers can scale castle walls and attack archers rather efficiently. The only problem is that the unit that kills creepers is underpowered and very slow to attack resulting in a significant loss of manpower. The worst part about these underpowered units is that these beasties are very costly, often times outweighing their usability.

Legends also features many bugs and feels, at times, severely unpolished. Artificial Intelligence problems include ranged units attacking the closest opponent rather than targets designated by the player. At other times running animations almost come to a complete halt, resulting in units running in slow motion and being dismantled by the opposition. Units also will go and patrol for no reason at all and will sometimes leave the battlefront altogether.

On a good note Legends has done away with resource gathering missions, relieving some of the micro managing that went on in previous installments. They’ve also streamlined their interface a tad, making it easier to navigate. Along with that is a great learning curve and cool-but underpowered-hero powers such as Merlin’s Dragons Breath and Sir Bedivere’s War Cry that sends castle walls tumbling down.

Stronghold Legends also ships with a trails mode that is essentially a set of skirmishes that increase in difficulty. Skirmishes can be enjoyed online as well as off however don’t expect a lag free experience. Multi-player consists of a maximum of 4 players competing in either Deathmatch or Capture the Flag game types. These would be more enjoyable if more players were allowed to be in the same game and if the matches didn’t lag as bad. A map editor also ships in case players want to try their hand at game development.

Although Firefly Studios has made the switch to 3D graphics, they still look a little dated. Tree pixels constantly cut into each other and the basic units are made up of a very low count of polygons resulting in ugly, angular shaped warriors with the same blank stare on their face. There is not any distinction between the three campaign units other than the color of their shirt. Collision detection has still not made its way into the game and goes back to the purple mass of soldiers colliding with the yellow mass swinging away with no sign of hit detection whatsoever. Any redeeming qualities can be found in the special units that look fairly crisp and have smooth animations in contrast to everything else. Most of the environments look great except for the large expanses of ground that are mostly covered with dark textures that lack detail.

The audio in Legends is nicely done with some fairly good background music that really helps bring the setting to life. For the most part the dialogue is OK, however several times things were said by the narrator such as “They’re attacking our castle walls” and “Our Keep is under attack” although none of those things were actually happening. The other sound effects in the game are great such as several of the Hero’s powers and the sound of foot soldiers charging the enemy head on letting out their battle cry.

Stronghold Legends definitely could have used a few more months at Firefly and probably would have turned out to be a solid title. Sadly, this is not the case and the game is barely distinguishable from cheaper fantasy RTS games. Hopefully they’ll return to their roots in their next iteration and make the Stronghold name fun as it once was.

Armchair General Score: 55%