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Stronghold Kingdoms Review



Stronghold Kingdoms Review

 Genre: MMORTS

 Publisher: Firefly


Play Stronghold Kingdoms

The Good

 Small download size
 Well populated and decent features
 Decent visuals

The Bad

 Waiting times

You may have played a lot of MMORTS games  but our guess is none have been exactly like Stronghold Kingdoms

For a start, I’m sure this is the first time I’ve had to make a download, with the majority of the genre being browser based for easy access by less savvy players (and the Facebook crowd, of course). It’s also one of the first that’s been so specific, American players won’t know how cool it is to be able to pick where you live from a map and find yourself building a village within a couple of miles of your actual home. It’s a small thing, and it has no bearing on the game itself, but still it instantly invests you in your own stronghold because it almost feels like you’re playing a role in local history. From the calming music to the nice graphics and constant movement on screen, sometimes it’s enough to make you completely forget you’re playing an MMO Real Time Strategy game at all.

Founding an Empire

I really can’t stress enough how cool it is to be able to set up a village in your local area. The first screen you’ll come across, depending on what server you choose, is a map of the UK and the option to choose where to found your new village. Split into counties, there are more than enough places to choose from and, upon selecting a county you’re finally taken to your village – a place that (if you’ve chosen somewhere local) you might even recognise. All in all this process takes a few minutes and is far less involved than creating a character, although a lack of customizability is a little bit off-putting. Even my very least favourite MMORTS games have allowed you to pick your very own advisor (usually from a choice of beautiful busty babe or constipated knight, but the choice is there) and it seems odd not to be able to choose. 

Stronghold Kingdoms review


Art and Music

Stronghold Kingdoms looks pretty good, in a stylized sort of way. The colours are rich, the building and terrain detailed. My favourite thing is that, on the main village page, it never seems static. Animals mill about, people get on with jobs and it gives the impression that your little village is “making do.” As your village gets bigger, so do the activities and you come to quite care for the people under your digital care. Other screens are less interesting and, in some cases, far less interestingly designed. The county selection screen looks thrown together in Paint and it reminds me of the old free games you used to be able to download in the nineties, the sort that somebody has put together in their bedroom using notepad.  Musically, they’ve picked the right tone; mixing epic scores with pieces that feel of the time. It’s a bit annoying to hear the epic stuff when nothing is happening and the quiet stuff when there’s something exciting going on, but you can’t have everything I suppose. My only other complaint is that music tends to just end mid-note, rather than fading. It’s jarring to listen to and, frankly, annoying.


Learning to be a Bumpkin

The tutorial is short and sweet and leaves you asking questions. I had my own for my Stronghold Kingdoms review. It talks you vaguely through building resource buildings, starting your castle, levelling up and pleasing your villagers. You’ll find yourself promoted from Village Idiot to Bumpkin, a promotion that I’m actually quite proud of, and, as everybody knows, when you’re a Bumpkin the world is your oyster. The tutorial has you build a castle with no real indication of how big to make the walls or what shape to make it. As a result: three and a half hours of waiting for it to finish. You’re told that a battle is imminent and then you’ll be forced to wait for the castle to be built to see the result of that imminent battle. While you’re waiting to see what happens at the castle you’re left with, well, nothing to do, and you’ll find yourself probably longing to boot up other games. While I completely take the blame for being overly ambitious with my castle, it’s fair to say that the tutorial didn’t exactly explain what was necessary for this portion of the game.

Waiting for Anything

And that’s the point when it’ll hit you: you’re definitely playing an MMORTS. Every move you make, every piece of research you do, will have you sat waiting for something to happen. It probably could have been a browser game and would have benefitted from Facebook support and the like, for people who are doing other things and want to see their village grow over weeks rather than hours. As a result, playing Stronghold Kingdoms in the short run isn’t very rewarding and you’ll probably find not a lot happening and, more annoying, not a lot to do. In the long run, being part of a passionate community and building towards a goal together is probably enough for people willing to play it in stages. Still, the waiting around IS a problem inherent in the genre and it’s something that it’d be nice to some crafty developer break out from, it certainly didn’t happen with Stronghold Kingdoms though.


Battle stations

When I finally got to the battle, my role in it was far more passive than perhaps I’d have liked. I watched back the video and saw as a set of enemy soldiers slowly walked towards the arrows being fired from my stronghold. They walked closer and, as they did, became filled with more arrows, eventually keeling over and granting me a victory. It was hardly a battle for the ages and as soon as I saw the enemy I decided that actually it was a little bit dull. But I think this is another one of those “I’ve only just started” things, that I’m getting the short end of the stick because I’m a beginner with a small castle and no friends (incidentally my status in real life is remarkably similar). Take a look at the capital, however, and lines of soldiers are majestically lined up constantly on the lookout for potential enemies to slaughter. That sort of battle, well, that could be something special.

Stronghold Kingdoms review


Stronghold Kingdoms review


It’s difficult to say that Stronghold Kingdoms isn’t worth your time. The download size is small, for an MMORTS it’s nicely feature-laden and open and there’s enough people playing it that if you play MMOs for the social aspects you’ll probably be quite impressed. On the other hand, there are other games out there, and I’m thinking about Ministry of War here, that manage to do at least as well without the download and without such obnoxious waiting times. As a result, I played Stronghold Kingdoms constantly in two minds about what exactly to reward it when it came to a score. It’s decent, but it rarely surpasses the “passable” level, offering an enjoyable, hollow (but pretty) experience not at all suitable for everybody. Give it a shot; by all means, just keep expectations low.

© 2012
M. Growcott

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