We take a look at the upcoming real-time strategy game from FireFly Studios.
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Gathering of Developers showcased several of its upcoming games at an event in San Francisco yesterday, and its upcoming city building real-time strategy game, Stronghold, was shown for the first time. Your main purpose in Stronghold is to successfully construct and maintain a castle in the time period that stretches from the 11th century to the 15th century while keeping citizens happy and your enemies out of the castle walls. Like a real-time strategy game, you start out with a few general peasant characters, who you must assign tasks to, and a low amount of primary resources, such as stone. After building a structure to gather resources, you're then able to build some of the more complex structures, such as towers, bakeries, reinforced walls, and breweries, while taking into account the personal tastes of your citizens.
Keeping the people of your castle happy takes more than just building the right structures - you also have to be an efficient leader. A number of resources can be manipulated to directly affect the mood of the citizens. For example, you can raise or lower taxes, increase or decrease the amount of food circulating in the population, and give your citizens gifts such as free ale and food. Of course, raising taxes and limiting the amount of food available to your population will quickly lower your approval meter, which is displayed onscreen near a portrait of a villager. FireFly Studios, the developer of Stronghold, continually stressed that it wanted to emphasize the city-building aspects of constructing and managing a castle. To this end, there is a somewhat hands-off approach to individual units within the castle - you aren't able to interact with regular units as much as you would in a typical real-time strategy game. However, as you begin to create and place troops and prepare your castle for attack, Stronghold's real-time strategy elements quickly surface.
Nearly all of the battles in Stronghold's single-player mode take place within the immediate area of the castle. When an enemy approaches, you will be able to see its forces amassing just outside the castle walls, which then gives you an opportunity to place soldiers, preferably archers and pikemen, on different sections of the castle walls and on the towers. Once your enemies decide to attack, they will begin by placing ladders up against the castle walls, but in the meantime, your archers will be firing while they set up, and your other soldiers will be pushing the ladders off the walls, causing the individual enemy soldiers to run away. Enemy troops can also tunnel underneath the castle and detonate explosives, causing a portion of your castle walls to collapse, but you can counter tunneling by building additional objects in front of the tunnel or by constructing a moat around your castle. Interestingly, the moat is one of the few objects that takes any kind of time to construct, as other structures simply appear with no building time at all.
Though the version we saw was very early in its development - the development team had just completed most of the user interface - Stronghold brings an interesting mix of real-time strategy and city building. Stronghold is due out in the fall of 2001, but we'll have more on the game in an upcoming preview.