Stronghold 2 Review

Stronghold 2, like its predecessor, is a castle building and management game. When it comes to sequels, you expect to find improvements to gameplay that build on and enhance the play of the original game. In Stronghold 2’s case you get a new 3D engine and new structures for your medieval fortress, but you also get a host of bugs and other issues. Perhaps this is more a return to the Dark Ages than a new Renaissance in castle sims…

Your first clue that something is amiss will come when you first start the game – Stronghold 2 has some amazingly long load times. The first time you start it you may in fact think that the game has crashed at the load screen. It’s not just the initial load that takes a long time; every time that you load a scenario you will be stuck with a long wait. The load times are measured in minutes in Stronghold 2 rather than seconds, and all the time spent staring at the load screens quickly becomes tiresome.

Your home is a castle.

Once you finally get the game started you’ll find that you have two campaigns from which to choose, the simply named Peace campaign and the equally simply named War campaign. The former will give you economic goals to achieve while the latter is geared towards clashes with enemy forces. In either case you’ll need a healthy peasant economy so let’s look at the game’s take on industry during the Middle Ages first…

At the center of your economy is the peasant. When you build housing peasants are generated but they won’t go to work right away and you can’t command them to do so. Rather you need to place other structures and then the peasants will automatically employ themselves, one per structure. OK, so far, so good, but there are some problems with the way the game implements this scheme. First of all there is no way to assign more than one peasant to a structure and you can not reassign a peasant from one structure to another. Therefore you need to be careful about exactly how many structures that you build and in which order as the only way to move peasants around once they’ve been assigned is to delete existing structures.

Another problem is that before structures can begin producing goods a peasant must physically walk from your castle’s keep to the structure and peasants are never in any particular hurry to get anywhere. Since peasants also tend to work slowly in the game, you can experience some long delays between the time you create a structure and the time it actually produces goods. And the problem is worse the farther the structure is from the center of your castle, which is often the case with structures such as the hunter’s shack. If a structure requires raw materials to produce goods, then you will be facing some major production lag because the peasants need to meander around gathering any needed resources themselves. As an example, take the weaver’s house. A sheep farm must first take some time producing wool. The sheep farmer must then walk the wool over to your storehouse. The weaver in turn must walk to the storehouse to pick up the wool and return to the weaver’s house. After additional time passes the weaver must then walk the cloth back to the storehouse before you’ll see it appear in your stockpile. Needless to say, your economy moves at the speed of a glacier and can be just about as much fun to watch.