The medieval times are probably some of the most beloved periods in the human history. It’s when castles, siege equipment as well as numerous other technological advancements were made. The Stronghold series is one of the few games that bring us back to those times, with the help of an intense castle simulation game where we can actually control the daily life of a castle. The first Stronghold Crusader game was a cult hit and it still has a massive following more than a decade after its release, so the wait for a new Crusader game was indeed a long one. Thankfully, Stronghold Crusader II is here, but does it deliver on its promises? Let’s find out.
The game has a few campaign modes, but each one of them is short and with only a few missions. However, pretty much like in the first Stronghold Crusader game, the campaign modes are tutorial missions for the real battles which can be encountered in multiplayer or skirmish. The main story here is that a convoy of crusaders are arriving in the Arabian lands and they try to conquer the area. As you progress in the campaign modes you will encounter enemies like the Shah, Saladin and even the Wolf, which returns once again! Overall, we found the story mode to be really engaging and quite good, although there are some intricate plot choices here and there.
Just like in any other Stronghold games, Stronghold Crusader II requires you to mix castle management with army creation and castle attacks. You will usually play against one or more enemies, so one of the most important things is to create a good defense. The 3D graphics are working great in Stronghold Crusader II and they do allow you to build a castle much easier. Rotating the camera is fairly easy as well, so you can construct amazing castles in no time.
The main gameplay still requires you to build up your forces and train as many troops as possible in order to attack your enemies then win the game. However, there are some newly added units that will spruce up the gameplay quite a lot. For example, for the first time in the Stronghold series we will be able to recruit a healer which will help the units located near him to regenerate XP. Other new units include the Slave Driver, Sassanid Knight, Conscript, Sargent at arms and many others.
You can also place new buildings, such as the pig farm. The fear factor has been removed, and the way some buildings operate has also changed, for example the Church requires candles to operate, while the granary and stockpile have unlimited storage capacity so you don’t need to add more than one.
The major fun in the game comes from the Skirmish option. Here you can choose to play with up to 7 other AI allies which can be either your allies or your friends. Multiplayer works in a similar way, although this mode allows you to play against real people from all over the world. The interesting thing here is that each AI type has a certain way to construct his castle and attack, so no two game experiences will be the same.
Stronghold Crusader II features the best graphics in the Stronghold series, and while they are far from being perfect, they do look great and provide us with an impressive way to build our castles, then check out their daily life. Everything from the houses to churches and unit models are really detailed, not to mention the fact that the maps themselves do bring that feeling of authenticity that you always wanted from the Crusader sequel.
The soundtrack is filled with themes from the older games and newer tunes as well, all with an Arabic feel to it. Voice acting is also using sounds from the previous games, but this makes it feel authentic, while also staying true to the origins of the series. Overall, both voice acting and soundtrack are decent, with enough things to stand out from time to time.
Stronghold Crusader II is one of the best strategy games that have appeared this year. Constructing and defending your own castle is very rewarding and you simply cannot find a better simulator in this regard. If you want to successfully simulate the life in a medieval castle, then this is definitely the title you are looking for!