Stronghold. Now that’s a nostalgia drug, isn’t it?
We’re closing in on the end of 2023. What a year, huh? This week will feature my final GOTY episode, including my top five games of the year. While that happens, I still have time for a few more Bite-Sized Review episodes. I’ll be slowing down over New Year’s to get some rest and work on other, more personal projects.
So, Stronghold. Back in the day, these games were all the rage. Lots of missions, free building giant fortresses and all that funny dialogue — what’s not to like? While the series continued to evolve over the years, they never were able to capture the original Stronghold and its excellent expansion, Stronghold Crusaders.
Earlier this year, Firefly Studios brought the original Stronghold title into the 21st century with a Definitive Edition, featuring updated graphics, adjusted gameplay tweaks to modernize gameplay, and more. This is a pretty chunky remaster of the original game. After their rather… dare I say mediocre Stronghold: Warlords game a few years ago, I was a little nervous about how the Definitive Edition would become. Fortunately, they’ve done a lot right with this.
The big elephant of the room is the lack of skirmish mode. This might be disappointing for those who loved the extensive skirmish game mode in the Crusaders expansion, but this is a remaster of the original game, not that version. While this might be a blow, calling Definitive Edition lacking in content would be unjust. All the original missions are there, as well as a brand new campaign and a Castle Trail scenario rush for an extra challenge. Combined with multiplayer, a map editor and Steam Workshop support, that’s a lot of content. Firefly Studios has an extensive roadmap for the weeks and months ahead, offering a mix of free content updates and low-priced DLC in the shape of more campaigns! It is always nice to see communication like this, and given the low price of Definitive Edition at a very reasonable 15 USD, players get a lot of bang for their buck.
As for the game itself, it feels like the originals. While Stronghold Definitive Edition will never win any awards for looking great, the updated visuals and animation are still pleasant on the eyes, as well as the improved interface. Even for my sometimes janky eyesight, I had no problems negotiating my way around the map and knowing what to do. The voice acting is great as it always was, and the dialogue never ceases to make me laugh. While I would love a skirmish mode in the game, I’ve never felt like I was short on content. As a guy who loves the big sandbox maps and creating my gigantic fortress of doom, I’ve spent a lot of my time in Free Build mode. With other mission types such as Siege, Economic and Battle, there’s enough variation to keep people engaged.
Above all else, Firefly Studios have done themselves proud with this one. For a low price tag for today’s standards, Stronghold: Definitive Edition does exactly what it says on the tin. A solid remaster of the original game, improving the graphics and visuals while adding modern mod support and Steam multiplayer. It includes enough new things to keep things interesting. If all goes well, this will set the stone for a remake of Crusader as well.