Stronghold Crusader Extreme Hands-On

Capturing the Holy Land has never been easy. Now it's even harder.

Whereas most expansions try to, you know, expand upon the core gameplay elements that made the base game popular in the first place, Stronghold Crusader Extreme goes in a slightly different direction: straight uphill. Developer Firefly Studios upped the difficulty in the new Extreme missions to such a terrifying degree that only the most hardcore need apply. But, says Firefly, that's the point.

We got our hands on the new expansion that will also feature the original Stronghold Crusader in addition to the limited edition content in addition to the new Extreme trail. That's a lot of content for a six-year-old game, but a solid bargain at only $29.99. That's assuming, of course, you can get past the first mission.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.

The first stop on the Extreme trail pits you against a malevolent Saracen bent on your destruction. No surprise there. You may be taken aback when a hundred mercenary stone slingers tear your quaint little hamlet apart within the first five minutes while you're simply trying to construct a working dairy farm. We adjusted game speeds. We built walls. We built a rock quarry. We hired slingers of our own, all to no avail. Firefly wants the Extreme content to "provide a stiff challenge to any hardened Crusader player." In that, it has most definitely succeeded.

Thankfully, the original Crusader content provides a nice starting point for new players. You can jump into a peaceful castle creator mode and assemble your own personal Camelot without worry of impending jihad, helping you to master the different resource chains. A skirmish mode teaches you the art of battle as you develop weapons, train a variety of soldiers, and utilize siege tactics like tunneling. There's also a selection of objective-based historical scenarios that act almost as a tutorial for the main single-player mode, the Crusader trail. There, you'll utilize all of your economic and battle strategies to make your way through 50 missions against a number of AI opponents, each employing their own brands of devious tactics.

So far, Crusader Extreme has been a fun challenge. Resource management, strangely, is one of the most interesting aspects of the game as there is a very limited amount of fertile farmland to be found in the arid regions surrounding the Holy Land. The result is something akin to the great Oklahoma land rush, as you sprint to claim plots of land before your enemies. As your society grows it will become increasingly difficult to keep the population happy. You'll need to continually increase the food supply to feed your new subjects, so you may need to cut rations. To fund the war effort and conscript highly trained knights and archers, you'll be forced to raise taxes. You can keep the population in line, however, by building a gallows, cesspit, or chopping block in the town square. More benevolent rulers may opt for a communal garden or a dancing bear as positive reinforcement, but where's the fun in that?

We noticed a few minor interface issues. It's particularly tedious to have to construct stairs to a tower that allow your archers to enter. While you're struggling to line up the construction icon just so, your AI opponent is efficiently plotting your demise, not having to deal with any such interface issues.

All the pretty horses.

Visually, Crusader Extreme would be a great-looking game, if this were still 2002. The 2D graphics are definitely dated, but they do not detract at all from the gameplay. Firefly boasts that Crusader Extreme can handle 10,000 units onscreen, and while the result is something like an army of pixelated ants marching toward Jerusalem, it does lend the game an epic feel when battles eventually reach such a grand scale. It's also worth noting that more than one editor has stopped by my desk to comment on the lovely palm trees swaying softly in the wind, an effect that may or may not have inspired the foliage of Crysis. The sound remains a strength, with a fine epic score and effects that complement the action onscreen.

Hardcore players may appreciate the ridiculous challenge of the Extreme mode, but it seems unfair to charge $29.99 for the Extreme trail plus content these players mastered six years ago. On the flip side of the coin, Crusader Extreme is jam-packed with things to do and looks like a solid value for new players. We'll have a full review later this month.

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Discussion

42 comments
numbersss101
numbersss101

It will be very funny if the whole army is in the castle when suddenly a building catch a light and all the soldiers inside burn to death :P

DamageIncM
DamageIncM

LOL, what's with the graphics from like around the year 2000... I'm guessing this game is like revived from being an old hit or something. But still, it's just yuck, even compared to like the original Roller Coaster Tycoon or other similar RTS-games to this one or anything like that. lol Sorry...

Norwegicus
Norwegicus

Are they making an expansion for this old thing? Why not just spend time on stronghold 3? Thats what i am waiting for.

yzmoto66
yzmoto66

I can't handle all of your B.S. It's thirty bucks not one thousand. Anyone who has taken the time to play and LEARN Crusader knows how great the game is. If you look at the screenshots and discount the game without trying it you will be at a huge loss. Its the best RTS you can buy. And, it's half the price of horrible RTS games that lack any sort of depth at all. Buy it.

amitthegreat
amitthegreat

Crusader is the best RTS game I've ever played, even AOE or DOW is not ever close for its dynamic gameplay. Can't wait to get my hands on this expansion. seems more challenging than ever..... :)

benwrong
benwrong

xmen1414 the original crusader game did not come out in the 90s and 5 years ago this was a great RTS. The original stronghold and stronghold crusader 2002 were great games and i still play them often. I can tell i am getting old when people think a game from 5 years ago is really old. Sadly this is just a gimmick to get more cash from a great classic game. Anyone who would pay even 10 bucks for this is getting ripped off since its just some new missions and a crap load of units on the screen and nothing new from the 2002 game. the game has tools you can do most of that stuff with for free built in the game so why would you pay even a penny for this.

Tharros89
Tharros89

Hmm iffy if you ask me. Outdated. And yes it may support 10, 000 units. So does can Medieval II - and that looks about 100 times better.

IronKid89
IronKid89

well when i first saw the title i was like OMG!! Crusader 2 the old one used to be my favourite rts game at that time.. but come on 30$ for a couple of new missions and harder difficulty for a old game? -.- L.A.M.E i expected better from firefly, ah well i hope they use the money they make to develop a crusader 2 :)

ninjasam
ninjasam

I'd get it if it was 20 bucks. I had this game and I have to say its the best RTS I have ever played. I think its even better then Starcraft, simply selecting 12 units at a time simply isn't enough.

Mega-Tom
Mega-Tom

Is it just me or does the 2 pictures in this artical remind me of Where's Wolly? I think I will buy this game and look for him all day haha, nah on a serious note this looks crap. :)

nyranasaurus
nyranasaurus

i would still play the original..X-com made in 1995.Y?? because its a bloody good game.It doesnt need the graphics.

xmen1414
xmen1414

i don't think i would play this game if some way said they would kill me to if i didn't! That looks horrible!!! IT is like from the 90's! (i edited it, my post said it was posted on december 31, 1969!?!?)

Breedlovin
Breedlovin

Man, this looks sick. Complete chaos FTW...

13ozzy
13ozzy

I cant even beat some missions in the original Crusader,(I'm not that good to be honest) HOW DO U EXPECT PPL TO PLAY THIS...... (look at the pictures above)

poscaldious
poscaldious

Why charge so much for a few extra missions when there's far harder ones for free on stronghold fan sites?

Vasot
Vasot

Eeeeek Graphics look like old C-R-A-P in this game Is it made in 2008 or in 1998

Scn64
Scn64

looks like a scene from Where's Waldo

rockatanski
rockatanski

Those enourmous amount of 2d units just look like painted repeated textures on screen. Stupid and ridicolous. But I must admit, this was my favourite RTS at the time :)

Crzy1
Crzy1

I remember this game when it first came along, it was really fun from what I remember of it, not sure how well it would hold up now. May pick it up for a bit of nostalgia since my original disk has long since vanished.

Kanaric
Kanaric

This game looks really lame and confusing... and yes I do enjoy 2d games and games with "massive battles". The battles dont look massive ont his, it looks like a blur of sprites mashed together..... L A M E.

giyanks22
giyanks22

They need to lower the price a little. Considering it is nine year old 2D graphics, same basic gameplay, a few new missions, and a little more difficult. I will be hard pressed to spend $30 on a game that I probably won't be able to beat with out cheats.

User-
User-

ThickFreak Why would you want a game THIS hard? Yes man it`s very hard

ACAblackpanther
ACAblackpanther

looks good to me. i borrow the original crusader from a friend a few years back, but he wanted it back sooner than i wanted to give it back. maybe i'll buy this...

BimC
BimC

Outdated

addybhai
addybhai

Hi, I will wait and see. Unless it is good and can be played at all difficulty levels, i won't take it. Wait and See approach

ThickFreak
ThickFreak

Why would you want a game THIS hard?

CajunPyroMan
CajunPyroMan

For related games in the category "universe" Gamespot lists the old-school Crusader shooters and not any Stronghold games. OOPS!

markimsoad
markimsoad

the first game is freak and fantastic :)

greyknight93
greyknight93

The First Stronghold Crusader was h best RTS EVER made, And this will be its successor. I never got to play the extra content much, the original game is so perfect for any gamer, and the new extreme may be hard for some...but the pros will attempt to defeat it. Bring it on.

IDarkNight
IDarkNight

Stronghold is very funny. The ambient is excellent but the gameplay in the multiplayer mod it's very bored. I have the hope this game will very funny :P The graphics look very good

Shalafein
Shalafein

wow those battles look massive.