Here is our Stronghold Definitive Edition Review.
**Reviewed on PC**
Stronghold is a game so old that this is the second “Definitive Edition” FireFly Studios has released in the last 20 years. The last one was 10 years ago and featured an HD upscale and some improvements to the 2001 original and its expansion pack Stronghold Crusader.
Now in 2023 just shortly after the 20th birthday of the original, we get the Definitive Edition which is the 4K update with a reworked UI, some quality-of-life changes, a new campaign, and new online capabilities. We've played some but the release remains largely the same, so instead let's talk about how Stronghold holds up 20 years after its release.
Stronghold Definitive Edition Review
After 20 years Stronghold is still Stronghold. If you expected a from-the-ground-up remake of the original release then I'm sorry to disappoint; at the same time, it's just proof that outside of the visual improvement, it never needed one.
But let me tell you why it's worth your time anyway.
Stronghold is a legendary city-building RTS that combines the joys of managing an up-and-coming community with medieval warfare. In singleplayer you get to pick between different modes of play which will test your ability in both of these categories.
The economic missions have you play out a rags-to-riches story while dealing with all sorts of issues while the sieges let you test your brain and brawn against enemy castles. Then there is also the campaign which features different scenarios that will test your knowledge of both to varying degrees.
Definitively still the Same
Depending on the mode you're playing, you'll have a vastly different experience. You either have to make do with the troops you have, create a sustainable castle that can weather any storm, or try your hands at creating a paradise on Earth.
And no matter what mode you're playing, Stronghold's mechanics just work. It's a very simple game that allows its various systems to click into each other to create a beautiful tapestry of mechanics that never grows too complicated.
But it if was just for that, Stronghold would just be an above-average RTS with some city building sprinkled in for flavor. It's the visuals, sounds, and overall vibe that put it above and beyond. Stronghold shines when you watch the anthill that is your castle operate when massive armies clash or walls crumble under siege weapons.
I'm the first to admit that there is not much depth to this game once you get the hang of it. City building is incredibly easy and your tactical prowess boils down to good positioning and taking the right risks at the right time. But that doesn't change the fact that this game just feels good to play. This might be an awful way of putting it but trust me on that one.
The visual overhaul is fantastic and remastered music is as flawless as it ever was. But the real meat of the Stronghold experience lies in its multiplayer and creative suit which finally got proper integration for Steam.
Multiplayer in Stronghold is both the best and worst game you'll ever play. Yours truly happens to be an expert on the subject matter, as my friends and I have been playing grudge matches for the better part of 15 years.
The new Steam integration makes it easier than ever to find someone to play with, and matching up with friends was never easier. Matches can be played with up to 8 people on premade and costume maps and can even be played in teams.
While your average match won't reach the high-octane action of your typical Starcraft 2 match, hearing your rivals cower in fear as their hopes and dreams crumble will never get old.
About Skirmish and Bots
But the one thing that hampers this more than excellent remaster is the absence of single-player bot matches or letting them participate in multiplayer matches. While the original didn't have this mode either its absence is duly noted.
And from what I can tell, it is probably way too hard to retroactively engineer these bots for a game that was never built to feature them in the first place. And considering the pricepoint of this Definitive Edition as well as what is on offer already, you can't complain about a feature that wasn't there to begin with.
Sure, Bots and Skirmish would be nice and there is still more content to come as outlined in FireFly Studios roadmap. Hopefully, if more people mention this, we get to see something like Skirmish again but I wouldn't bet on it. It's the kind of feature that might simply outscore the scale of this project.
Gaming development do be complicated.
Stronghold Definitive Edition – 8/10
If you've never touched Stronghold before, at this price point this Defintive Edition is a steal. Not only are the retouched graphic somehow even more charming than they've ever been but the little improvements underneath the hood improved what is already a timeless release.
This Definitive Edition just goes to show what a standout the original was in the first place. The only complaint we can file is that this opportunity wasn't used to bring the original Stronghold up to speed with its standalone expansion which still surpasses it in almost every regard.
But regardless of what your feelings towards bot matches are, the Stronghold Definitive Edition is undoubtedly the definitive way to revisit one of the best RTS' ever made.
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