Published on August 15th, 2011 | by Chris Hayes19
Stronghold Kingdoms Review
Stronghold Kingdoms is a new Free to Play MMO from Firefly Studios. Set in a medieval universe, it’s unique, and that’s refreshing to see. On the one hand, it’s a real-time strategy game that involves resource management, strategic maneuvering, and long term planning; on the other, it’s an MMO that requires good people skills and the ability to make good deals, trade smart, and generally get along with your fellow players. While it may not be the first RTS MMO to come along, it’s a refreshing fusion of old and new. It’s a strategy game from 10+ years ago that’s been refitted and retooled to meet the needs of today’s social generation. It’s an interesting system and it works well for the most part. However, there are a couple of bumps along the road to Knighthood.
When you first start Kingdoms, you are shown a map of the UK and Ireland, and are asked to choose a starting location for your village. Once you place your village, the work begins. As you settle in, the game takes on a distinct Stronghold flavor. Fans of the early games in the franchise will find a lot to love in this new title. The graphics, the music, the battles, and more are all reminiscent of some of the first Stronghold games. There are some changes however. Fans will find that the MMO aspects of the game have not just been laid on top of the Stronghold foundation, but have instead been infused into the DNA of the game to create a whole new creature all together. Perhaps the biggest change is that there is no main screen. Everything is relegated to separate tabs. The World Map, Village management, Castle construction and fortification, research, player to player mail, scouting reports, player information, etc. can all be found in their own tabs. For example, instead of having a main screen where you complete all of your orders and actions, then having submenus for information, location and other details, the developer separated information into a number of different panels. So, things like scouting and attacking are done from the world map panel, while village construction and resource gathering are handled in the village panel and castle construction and defenses are handled in the castle panel, etc.
Here we see a quaint riverside village. Hopefully it doesn’t get pillaged then burned to the ground. Unless of course you’re doing the pillaging.
While this may seem cumbersome, and overly complex for an RTS, it makes perfect sense once you start playing. Unlike most RTS’s, Stronghold Kingdoms is not a fast paced game. Far from it in fact. Rather, Kingdoms takes the term “real-time” strategy to a whole new level. Actions in the game world can take quite a long time. Sure, constructing a village building only takes a few minutes, but scouting can easily take an hour (round trip) if the destination is far enough away, and constructing castles will easily take days. This may turn many people off, but it really does work. It allows players to interact with each other, in real time while preventing players from losing their carefully built castles and settlements when they are offline.
Players don’t have to compete though, they can choose to co-operate, share resources, and help each other out. Players can create liege/vassal relationships with each other, with the liege typically offering protection, and possibly resources, in exchange for a fee. Becoming a vassal is a good way to get a head start early in the game when resources don’t come very fast, and just about everyone around could be a threat (so be nice to your neighbors).
You may have noticed that Kingdoms is Free to Play. That means micro-transactions. Well, thankfully, the micro-transactions in Stronghold Kingdoms consist of “strategy cards” that provide bonuses to the player. These are things like getting “x” amount of a resource without working for it, or doubling your castle production time for “x” amount of time, etc. They do provide assistance for those who want to build up faster, but everything can be done without paying extra. On top of that, everything (at least at this point) still feels fair. The worst that’s typically going to happen if somebody uses bonuses to pass you up is that you’ll be asked to become their vassal. Yes, they could attack you, but a smart player will have some kind of plan in place for that (typically by having allies near you to assist you in such an event).
Friends don’t let friends get besieged! Unless of course you don’t have any friends. Then you’re in trouble.
All in all, Stronghold Kingdoms is a solid, polished title (and I think it’s still in beta). The game provides everything that RTS fans from yesteryear love about strategy games, as well as a full compliment of MMO features like resource trading, player to player mail, and joint play. It’s not a game for everyone, and the long time management and deep strategy will turn a number of people away. But those who stick with it will be rewarded with one of the best strategy experiences available. I would urge any fan of the Civilization series, or anyone who is up for a slower, more deliberate strategy experience to give this game a try. At a free to play price point, there is no reason not to.
Head on over to the official site to get started.
“Real-time” strategy gameplay, allowing for full and dynamic player interaction.
An absolutely massive in-game world
Random encounters with enemy AI keep players on their toes, even if they are surrounded by friends.
Getting started can be hard if you end up with a bunch of cutthroats for neighbors.