If I had a dollar for every time I wanted to play an Age of Empires game with more resource variety and worse combat, I would probably have a dollar. Stronghold HD is the game to scratch that specific, if uncompelling, itch.
After the increasing failure of Strongholds 2 and 3, Stronghold HD takes the series back to the basics with a tried and tested HD re-release, the Blu-ray of the gaming industry. This revival of a great RTS classic provides a glance into the past, but what is seen there might not be so pleasant for those of us not in possession of a pair of rose-tinted glasses.
The controls are a bit fiddly, especially when it comes to wall placement and actually building awesome castles, the thing Stronghold prides itself on. The game mechanics can be unintuitive as well— peasants are free to come and go as they please (and they call this a feudal castle simulator, tut tut). A serf who isn’t happy with the quality of diet provided by his liege lord (that’s you) can simply pack up and, as they say in medieval times, “gette ye Helle oot of Doddg”. This can lead to frustrating situations, such as not having enough resources to build farms because ones lumberjacks are starving and leaving.
Villagers walk really, really slowly, as evidenced by the fact that I composed a large portion of this review while waiting for a single dairy farmer to deposit his cheese in the granary.
If there were any other bad things about the game, I probably didn’t notice, being so fascinated with the little men cutting down trees, sawing them into boards, and carrying them to the stockpile where they would be picked up by fletchers and made into bows before being taken to the armory and given to some hapless peasant. In the end, Stronghold HD is all about building a stable community and preserving the flow of resources. It can be boring, but in a very satisfying way.
There’s much more that could be said about the hilariously overdone voice acting, the awfully clichéd plot, and the economy-ruining wolves, but right now I need to go get the rights for Pong HD before anyone else catches on.