Stronghold HD Review

The story of the Stronghold series is a Greek tragedy, a tale of a once-great RTS that fell from grace through buggy sequels that were met with increasingly negative reviews and fan feedback until its reputation was deader than Agamemnon, Hippolytus, and Antigone combined. But developer Firefly Studios has decided to return to the series’ roots by re-releasing its first two entries in HD to fit today’s higher resolutions, and while tragedies may have been all the rage back in ancient Athens, in modern Hollywood, everyone loves a good comeback story.

Stronghold HD
Platform: PC
Developer: FireFly Studios
Publisher: FireFly Studios
Release Date: Nov. 1, 2012
MSRP: $5.99

Originally released in 2001, Stronghold is an RTS set in medieval England that focuses on both the militaristic and economic aspects of castle construction and management, mixing strategy with sim. The player takes on the role of a lord tasked with establishing a stable economy and a strong military to defend his castle from invading armies and destroy enemy fortresses.

Stronghold opens with a cinematic that sets the tone for the campaign and actually made me laugh. While other RTS titles tend to surround themselves with pomp and gravity, Stronghold greets the player with a nudge and wink, not taking itself too seriously, but without devolving into absurd farce.

The cinematic is presented in its original (tiny) resolution, and while it wouldn’t be fair to expect a new cinematic for this HD re-release, the sea of empty screen space surrounding the video does remind the viewer that this game heralds from ye olde times.

Once loaded into the game, players can choose to play the 20-mission military campaign, the 8-mission economic campaign, a Siege, an Invasion, an Economic mission, or simply enter Free Build mode. Siege and Invasion missions are one-off scenarios similar to what you’d encounter in the military campaign, with goals that involve either surviving waves of enemies or conquering an enemy castle, while the economic campaign and missions give you goals that involve accumulating a given amount of specified resources before a timer runs out. As for Free Build mode, it’s self-explanatory: construct the castle of your dreams.

A robust but simple-to-use map editor allows you to create your own missions and maps that can be shared with others. Factor in a multiplayer mode, and these features grant Stronghold tremendous replay value.

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