Stronghold 2 Updated Impressions - Honor and Sieges

Find out how the new honor system will reward you for living the good life in this medieval strategy game.

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With Stronghold 2, developer Firefly Studios is looking to expand its popular medieval strategy series to whole new levels. The first Stronghold games let you build up a medieval economy and a castle, which you then had to defend against invaders before going on the offensive. With Stronghold 2, Firefly is introducing a new 3D graphics engine, a vastly upgraded economic system, and a number of other new features. We recently had an opportunity to learn new details regarding Stronghold 2, including how the concept of honor plays into the game.

In Stronghold 2, a man's home really is his castle.
In Stronghold 2, a man's home really is his castle.

First off, it's important to note that there will be two different single-player campaigns in Stronghold 2. There's the path of war, which plays out like the single-player campaigns from the earlier games. In the path of war, you must battle it out against your opponents, defending your castle and then laying siege to your enemies' castles in return. Then there's the path of peace, which is an economic campaign with a storyline. Instead of having to constantly worry about attack, you can focus on building up a medieval economy. There will also be a free build mode, which is a sort of sandbox mode that lets you build up an economy completely independent of outside forces.

In both modes, honor plays an important role. Basically, you earn honor points for "living like a lord." In other words, one of your goals in Stronghold 2 will basically be to have your noble character live the good life, which means that you have to build up the economy to provide the luxury goods that every member of the upper crust expects. This also means doing things that a good lord is expected to do, like attending church regularly and being a good role model for your peasants. When you do things such as throwing grand feasts and accumulating a large library, you earn extra honor. You may also earn honor by accomplishing mission objectives. Each scenario now takes place on a huge map divided into distinct estates, and will feature numerous primary and secondary objectives that you can accomplish. For instance, in one mission, a group of warrior monks is trapped by packs of wolves. Ride to the monks' rescue, and you'll earn honor points as a reward. You can then use those honor points to purchase new military units, such as powerful knights, or to buy a village estate on the map. If you purchase a village, you gain all the resources that it's harvesting, but you must also defend it.

You can also use honor points to promote yourself to the next level of nobility. This means you can go from being a freeman to a yeoman, or perhaps from a squire to a knight. There are multiple levels of nobility in the game, culminating in duke, earl, and king. Every new rank of nobility unlocks new kinds of structures that you can build or more-powerful military units that you can recruit. One thing that promotions won't do, however, is instantly promote all your military units to the next rank. While you'll be able to build new units, all your existing units will remain the same when you're promoted, which eliminates one of the tactics in most real-time strategy games of suddenly transforming an obsolete force into a cutting-edge one.

This lord broods on how to crush crime.
This lord broods on how to crush crime.

We also had a chance to see the new siege warfare in action, and it looks impressive. Gone are the old Stronghold tactics of throwing hundreds of spearmen against a castle's walls to chisel away at them. If you try that in Stronghold 2, you'll end up with hundreds of dead spearmen with nothing to show for it. Now you must build siege equipment, such as catapults and trebuchets, to knock down thick castle walls. Batter away at a wall with boulders and it'll crumble and collapse in a cloud of dust, opening the way for your footmen and knights to charge in. And now, in order to take a castle, your men must battle their way to the top of the main tower and hold it until the flag changes, which means that you no longer have to slay the defending lord. Indeed, he may even escape.

The combat in the game takes full advantage of the new 3D terrain. For example, archers get an advantage from occupying the high ground, so an effective tactic is to place them atop a hill and have them rain arrows down from afar. This is sure to be a valuable tactic in the game's multiplayer component, which will reportedly support up to eight players in online play. The development of Stronghold 2 is rapidly progressing, and the game is currently scheduled to ship in April.

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