Stronghold Legends Updated Impressions - Dragons, Giants, and Storming the Castle

Firefly Studios hopes you'll have fun stormin' the castle in this upcoming fantasy-themed strategy game.


If you like catapults and guys running around on fire screaming, then boy, do developer Firefly Studios and publisher 2K Games have a game for you. Stronghold Legends will be the next game in the developer's castle-building Stronghold series, and it will have just as many ways to die horrible medieval deaths. However, the new game will also include high-fantasy elements, including witches, vampires, and fire-breathing dragons, which, as it turns out, basically means lots of new ways to die horrible medieval deaths.

The new game will offer three brand-new campaigns in three new settings based on world mythology: a setting based in the chivalric times of King Arthur; a setting in the frozen Norwegian wastes of the great Nordic hero Siegfried; and a setting in the dark realm of Vlad the Impaler, also known as Count Dracula. The game will have about twice as many different military units than previous games have had, since Legends will also include wizards and dragons to go along with the series' more traditional ranks of swordsmen, pikemen, and the always-powerful archers.

That first step is a doozy. Stronghold Legends will introduce fantastical creatures and sorcery to its castle-building gameplay.
That first step is a doozy. Stronghold Legends will introduce fantastical creatures and sorcery to its castle-building gameplay.

Apparently, each of the three different chapters will have a different breed of dragon available, but in all cases, dragons will be incredibly powerful military units that can make short work out of most enemies on the ground, even the aforementioned powerful archers. Because dragons will be exceptionally powerful, they'll also be incredibly expensive to recruit for your side. Fortunately, dragons, like some of the game's exceptionally powerful hero characters (including Merlin the Wizard) won't simply fall over and die if they're defeated in battle; they'll instead retreat from the battlefield and, after a certain amount of time, return revitalized. In the meantime, you'll also have units like ice witches, who can freeze your enemies dead in their tracks; vampiric creepers, who can climb walls and convert your enemies to your cause; giants that can smash walls and send enemies flying; and King Arthur's knights, who will have extraordinarily powerful abilities, such as detecting all traps in an area or healing all nearby allies instantly.

In addition to having huge battles in the single-player campaign, Stronghold Legends will offer various multiplayer modes for up to four players, including head-to-head deathmatch, king of the hill, "capture the estates" (a mode in which you must capture and hold as many "estate" locations on the map as possible), and an economic battle that focuses primarily on developing your castle's and peasants' economies. However, most missions in the single-player campaign will allow for shorter periods of economic development, since combat will be the focus of the campaign--so rather than focusing on baking bread, you'll be focusing on recruiting armies of frost maidens, polar bears, ice dwarves, and giants from your barracks.

From what we've seen, Legends' maps will generally be much larger than those of previous games (about twice as big as the average map in previous games) and will be populated by vast 3D castles and equally vast armies of tiny 3D swordsmen, who are just waiting to be roasted by dragon breath or frozen solid by ice magic. As we've seen, the game's powerful fantasy units don't just make the traditionally history-focused Stronghold series more interesting; they also add new depth to the gameplay by challenging several of the established conventions of the series.

Archers on walls are tough to beat, unless you bring some magical powers with you.
Archers on walls are tough to beat, unless you bring some magical powers with you.

Previously, archers mounted on your fortress' walls were a supreme defense--they could quickly and brutally cut down most foot soldiers before the poor saps could even mount their siege ladders. Legends will have ways of either converting enemy archers or reaching them quickly, such as with fast-flying units that can rain destruction on them, or with instantaneous magical attacks that can be used from a distance. More importantly, the game will include new ways to penetrate castle walls (which previously had to be breached using ladders, or chipped away at with siege weapons), either by smashing through them with fantastically powerful monsters (or magical powers), or by clearing them by using units that can climb or fly. Some units will also have the ability to build tunnels that can be used for quick travel, even behind enemy lines.

Stronghold Legends is clearly attempting to expand on the gameplay of previous games in the series by adding some interesting new tactics and ideas, though the game should also offer much of the same solid economic strategy that armchair monarchs have come to know and love. The game is scheduled for release in July.

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