The real-time strategy genre may no longer enjoy the same popularity it once did. At the end of the 90s and the beginning of the new millennium, in fact, products of this type raged on the world of personal computers. Many players, even the youngest, have approached the world of video games thanks to unforgettable masterpieces such as Age of Empires. Among the many studios capable of carving out an important space, the Londoners of Firefly Studios undoubtedly deserve to be remembered. Warlords is the latest addition to a historical series which debuted in 2001. How does the series behave, twenty years after its debut, and after a postponement caused by the health emergency? Here is my Stronghold: Warlords review on PC.
ASIAN MIDDLE AGES
The Firefly Studios series has always chosen to represent a historical period that is very complex to define. The Middle Ages is characterized by particular nuances based on diachronic and diatopic phenomena. To explain it better: the Japanese Middle Ages differed greatly from the Italian Middle Ages. Both countries have experienced many, sometimes unpredictable developments over the course of a thousand years.
The Middle Ages of Charlemagne are not the same as those of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. As you will see in this Stronghold: Warlords review, it deals with the Asian Middle Ages. It does this both by moving in time and in space. The time span moves from III BC to the Mongol invasion of Genghis Khan. The campaign follows the events that took place between China and Japan.
Take note that the game puts you in command of various generals and leaders who really lived. Unfortunately, these diatopic and diachronic variations will represent nothing more than a background. The beating heart of the work, in fact, will be its playful soul, halfway between a management and a strategic one of war.
It seems appropriate to open this review by trying to explain to newbies what Stronghold: Warlords is. Under the canons of the series, the title of Firefly Studios lives on two very distinct souls. The first is that relating to war and conquest. They are the clashes with the opponent, the assault of the walls, and the construction of imposing defenses around your fief. The second is its management component.
This is the cultivation of rice and vegetables, extraction of minerals and stones, and trade and diplomacy. Unlike in other real-time strategy games, the Stronghold series player will always have to keep their subjects in a state of relative happiness. Take note that the options to manage are many! From the amount of taxes with which to harass workers, to the number of houses to be built, to the type of rations to be distributed among the inhabitants of your town.
How these rules work is much easier to understand than to explain. The real challenge, however, will be trying to master resource management in order to have the victory over your opponent. In a nutshell, the resources are obtained in two different ways. The most important of which is the construction of buildings used for this purpose. A sawmill will get you the wood you need, a rice field will get you rice, and so on.
Take note that you can use resources for the construction of other buildings or to moderate the happiness of your subjects. By raising taxes, your consent will decrease. But it is possible, for example, to remedy this by increasing the number of rations distributed among the population or various other indicators that the game puts at your disposal.
The system, in its complexity, can guarantee many satisfactions and received a new variant this time around. I am talking about the Warlords. These are powerful heroes that you will have to defeat within the map. By upgrading your ranks with special points, you can get various bonuses, such as extra resources or new men.
Precisely in the light of an overall satisfactory and multifaceted management sector, the war component makes little sense. Basically, the elements to offer satisfying clashes are all there. You can upgrade your units by purchasing new equipment, building walls to prevent the enemy from entering your possessions, or using ladders to overcome the opposing walls.
In the end, however, whoever sends the highest number of men against the opponent will always win in Firefly Studios’ title. Remember when, as a child, you wreaked havoc during a game of Age of Empires by composing stratospheric armies? Here it is. The unit limit does not exist. By waiting for the right moment, you can create truly boundless armies.
This is a significant imbalance, which ends up making all the mechanisms described in the previous paragraph useless. If you add to this a campaign that is all in all boring and devoid of both narrative and playful flashes, what remains is only a couple of modes. The Free Build mode will allow you to have fun with the funniest component of the game.
This is the one related to the construction of enormous castles, with no enemy to bother you. The Skirmish mode will instead be a trivial deathmatch against one or more opponents. Take note that there is also a multiplayer mode to try with friends. However, overall, the contents of Stronghold: Warlords are a bit thin and there are several balance problems related to the fight to manage.
Take note that the technical sector of Stronghold: Warlords is not to be thrown away. The game moves a fair amount of polygonal models at the same time without too many problems, even on not particularly powerful machines. The frame rate is always fluid, and the level of detail is more than sufficient. One thing I didn’t really appreciate is the artistic direction of the Firefly Studios title. The settings seemed a bit repetitive to me, both in the campaign and in the Skirmish mode.
I strongly believe that the soundtrack, in a real-time strategy, is a fundamental aspect to keep the player glued to the screen. You know the soundtrack of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos? Here it is. Stronghold: Warlords flute melodies aren’t too bad either, but they lack musicality and cannot create a convincing atmosphere. In addition, they are also very similar to each other.
Do you want to try Firefly Studios’ Stronghold: Warlords? What do you think of my Stronghold: Warlords review on PC? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below. Are you interested in more games? Check out our reviews for Lost Words: Beyond the Page, Loop Hero, Two Point Hospital: Jumbo Edition, Harvest Moon One World, and Control Ultimate Edition.