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If you’re wondering how much time has passed since the original Stronghold was released, I suggest you not to count it because there is a chance you will suddenly feel old. The first part of Stronghold was launched in 2001. Yes, almost two decades ago. But I’ll stop dramatizing and remind you that Stronghold Crusader HD isn’t that ancient and that this part was released just in 2014.
For those who are new to this exciting medieval series: Stronghold Crusader HD is a sequel to the real-time strategy Stronghold Crusader developed by FireFly Studios. The game’s story occurs in the medieval age and shows us a conflict of the Middle East where you still need to solve strategic problems and create an own town from scratch. Stronghold Crusader HD has all the content from the original Stronghold Crusader as well as from the Extreme add-on. The HD patch is just a small expansion that has the significantly improved graphics, lets you increase your army sizes, opens up new buildings and gives some extra missions.
Good news for those who already have Stronghold, Stronghold Crusader or Stronghold Crusader Extreme: you have a chance to upgrade your game to HD-versions absolutely for free. So don’t think for too long. Check my review and hurry up to try this new HD version by yourself.
I bet when you heard “HD” you imagined right away a beautiful sandy battlefield in a high resolution with a smooth animation. I don’t want to disappoint you but maybe in 2001, when Stronghold was released at first, this game was graphically amazing. However, it’s 2017, and you will likely feel like this game is a bit outdated when comparing its HD version graphics to modern standards. The reason is that there's almost been nothing done to improve the graphics. The textures were slightly updated, and the overall resolution increased, but it’s hard to notice. When you play the game in a full-screen mode, you’ll see a raw and slightly primitive animation and images that get blurry or pixelated occasionally. The user interface also feels old, and it’s not as intuitive as it could be.
The plus side of this game is that it loads impressively quickly because of its weight. Also, with the HD version, you get more control over your soldiers. You can zoom in or out and make the whole map viewable on the screen while zoomed out. However, even after zooming in it might be hard for you to see some small things like catapults for example. Depending on the way you customize your town it can look pretty alive and make the game for you even more interesting. Your citizens will do their business in a relatively accurate manner while you’re creating another strategic attack or defense.
Stronghold Crusader HD tells us a story about the Greek Emperor Alexius I who asked Pope Urban II for aid after Turkish armies occupied the Eastern provinces of the Greek empire and started getting closer to Constantinople. The pope called on the West European knights to help the Greeks in the east. Shortly after this, the first Crusade happened.
In Stronghold Crusader HD you play as the lord of a medieval castle and its surrounding lands, and your mission is to create from scratch and develop a complex economic and political system that will provide your citizens with food, weapons, and other necessary goods. You need to teach people how to fight, grow crops, watch the cattle. Be prepared to build watchtowers to protect your city, hunt to get venison from the woods, plant wheat in the fields for harvest and so on. Of course, you will have to do much more than that because the chains are complex. For instance, after you got the grain, you need to make flour from it, then build a bakery, produce bread and sell it. So whatever you do requires several consecutively connected steps. There is some economic chains and mission that set the pace and direction of your city development.
The game’s storyline doesn’t have any rapid extension, but there are four historical campaigns that are based on historic battles. The first mode offers you to play either for Europeans led by Richard I or Arabians with Saladin as a leader who is trying to push back the European invaders. Another game mode gives you 50 Crusader battles to complete and conquer the Arab lands. Such missions start out pretty easy but as you progress, their difficulty increases. New enemies and obstacles appear.
There is also a Castle builder mode which lets you not to fight and concentrate all your attention on city building and expansion which makes the gameplay more exciting and interesting to explore. Your primary goal in this game is to become the last survivor, except the case when you are playing a Castle builder mode. To complete this aim, you need to build up your city, improve your army and skills, and create the right strategy to break through the enemy cities and destroy them while protecting your city from external attacks.
Moreover, the gameplay requires from you not just a regular city planning, but it also requires from you to be a decent leader for your citizens, take care of them by feeding, taxing and supplying jobs. You can know how good are your leading skills anytime by checking the happiness of your citizens. So, make your people smile at a day time and fight at night.
Stronghold Crusader HD doesn't have a lot of keyboard shortcuts, but those that it has are pretty convenient to use. For example, you start the game with the task to create a group of troops who will protect your city. To form this group, you need to drag a selection box over the desired troop and then press Ctrl and any number from 0 to 9. This is how a group with the own number will be created.
If you need to give an order to any of your groups, press the number key to select a group of troops and press again to center the screen on that group. If you want to create waypoints, select the troop, hold down the shift key and make a left click on the map to create waypoints, just don’t make more than 9 of them. Spacebar flattens the landscape and buildings and allows you this way to see past obstructions, check all the walls of your castle and make sure they are complete. Another useful shortcut is the Enter key that opens up a chat window in the multi-player mode. There are more available shortcuts and interesting tricks that you can search later on separately.
Replay Value 5/5
Stronghold Crusader HD is not the game for one day and not even for one month. It will likely keep you in tense all the time and excite more and more as you progress. You start with a handful of archers and spearmen, having a few peasants and a small supply of resources to build up your Empire. You’re making a strategy, building your city and later on trying to attack your enemies and protect own lands from them. You never know when you will be attacked, but usually, you have about a minute to prepare before an overwhelming number of bad guys will try to destroy you. In between attacks you will barely have enough time to create new structures, improve some economic aspects and expand your lands before the enemy knocks on your door again. So Stronghold Crusader HD is a world of strategy where it's hard to get out if you’re already playing it.
Stronghold Crusader HD has already all of the content from the original Stronghold Crusader as well as from the Extreme add-on. So it doesn’t offer other in-game purchases because it’s a complete set of Stronghold Crusader series.
Stronghold Crusader HD has plenty of things to enjoy. Building up your city, managing it, taking care about its politics and economics, expanding your lands sounds pretty fun and exciting. A good balance of resource management and combat, as well as the standard elements of RTS games, make Stronghold Crusader HD even more enjoyable to play not only for hardcore fans but also for the newcomers to this game.
Stronghold Crusader HD makes you feel like a brave warrior and a powerful leader whose mission is to build a prosperous city, manage it, protect from enemies and expand own lands.
Pros : enjoying and challenging content;
four historical campaigns;
over 100 unique skirmish missions;
Cons : poor sound;
Replay Value 5