Fans of the Stronghold franchise will be pleased to know that the upcoming Stronghold Warlords is looking good and has some new and interesting features. Set in East Asia this time around, the RTS City Builder tells the story of famous historical leaders including Genghis Khan, Qin Shi Huang, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
The last time we got our hands on a demo was this time last year, when the game was in its very early stages. Now Firefly Studios has given us access to a full and challenging new demo level, allowing us to get a better picture of how this new title plays compared to its predecessors.
As with all games of this type, gathering resources is essential. During the demo, we were able to collect some stone and wood but didn’t have enough of either. We were also short on iron. This meant that we needed to rely on conquering other Warlords and frequently requesting goods, to keep our supplies stocked up.
We’ve previously seen the Warlords system but this time we got to fully explore the advantages of having conquered our neighbors. Each Warlord has their own base and if you can raise an army big enough to take control, then you’ll gain access to valuable resources.
The most important thing we learned early on was that the type of Warlord you conquer can make or break the game. Ox Warlords can offer help with goods and labor, while Mouse Warlords will help with rice and Pig Warlords offer aid with food and diplomacy. The one you really need to pay attention to however is the Tiger Warlord who offers you reinforcements. This military support can turn the tide of a battle and you’ll definitely want them on your side when possible.
Planning the order in which you conquer Warlords can make a huge difference. You’ll need to judge what they can offer, as well as the layout of the map, in order to give yourself the greatest chance of success.
You’ll also need to invest time and resources in protecting your Warlords and ensuring they stay under your control. Especially since most of them don’t appear to be able to defend themselves and your enemy has the same goals as you.
Ready For Battle
As we got ready for battle, we were also able to test out some of the new siege units. Each unit moves as you’d expect and has different advantages. The fire carts are quick and efficient from a distance, while the catapults are sturdier but much slower when relocating.
Our favorite unit remains the fire ox, although the cheap and nimble oxen do have a learning curve and a risk. It’s essential to plan its route well, as once it’s set off you can’t stop the chaos but the enemy can cause premature explosions if they’re quick enough to hit it en route.
In terms of warriors, you can choose to produce vast numbers of low cost but badly equipped fighters, better equipped but more expensive warriors, or a mix. In order to really get the best army, you’ll need resources to craft extra weapons and arm your troops with the strongest weapons and armor. These can come from resource gathering or from conquered Warlords.
Defenses And Decisions
The demo also shows off some of the defenses, and as you’d expect from Stronghold, they involve building a large number of walls. There are also gates and towers, both manned and unmanned.
Since the location your base occupies can be very small, with hard limits in place on where you can build, strategic thinking is essential. You’ll need to prioritize and carefully balance building an army, defending your base, and ensuring you have enough resources to survive.
So far the game still feels like it has the heart of Stronghold but the new setting brings with it unique units, vibrant scenery, and a brand new way to play which adds a new challenge to the franchise.
The level was challenging in places, ensuring you really had to work out how everything came together in order to succeed. If this is setting the tone for the finalized game you can expect to have to learn the new units and how they interact quickly, as well as ensure you use the Warlords advantages.
Gaining and keeping Warlords under your control adds a new aspect of gameplay that’s as challenging as it is engaging. This offers a great new dimension to gameplay and combined with the East Asian setting it gives the franchise a huge boost in both content and looks, removing it from its brilliant but blandly colored roots and offering new challenges to RTS fans.
Stronghold Warlords looks set to bring new life and new challenges to the much-loved franchise and we can’t wait to see more.
Stronghold Warlords is due for release on January 26, 2021 on Steam.
NEXT: Interview: Firefly Studio’s Co-Founder Simon Bradbury On Stronghold’s New Direction And Playing With Gunpowder
- Game Previews
- Stronghold Warlords
Helen began playing games at an early age with her first computer being a hand-me-down Sinclair ZX Spectrum. It didn’t put her off… She is all grown up now but is still a gamer at heart, especially when it comes to The Sims and other strategy and simulation games.
She juggles the daily demands of life with a family and somehow still finds the time to indulge her two passions in life, writing and gaming; sometimes both at the same time.
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