Stronghold: Crusader

Besiege and Conquer, but with less charm.


A nice and cozy desert castle before a siege.

Neither sequel nor expansion pack, Stronghold Crusader is a standalone follow-up that uses all the same technology as the original, but concentrates a bit more on the battles than on strategic castle-building. The main course consists of four loosely linked campaigns, each with five missions. You’ll switch sides along the way, taking turns as the Europeans or Arabs, which gives you a healthy appreciation of each side. The most challenging missions revolve around the same economic puzzles from Stronghold – building the appropriate structures in the right order, quantity, and location.

A good reason to pick this up is the Crusader trail missions, which let you fight through 50 linked games, each more grueling than the last. A terrific unscripted build-and-battle mode is also included, pouring down some good AI along with the boiling oil. This game adds seven new units, including wall-scaling assassins, lightning-fast horse-archers, nimble slingers, and devastating fire-throwers

The overall presentation is a mix. Crusader’s music is dark and gorgeous, but the 2D graphics are quite muddy. Trying to build elegant geometric strongholds with a 2D isometric view can be a daunting task, even with the helpful ‘flatten’ option enabled. And problems that plagued Stronghold are still problems here, particularly when an enemy besieger does a beeline for that one invisible gap between the mountain and your castle wall.

It’s best not to ask too many questions when the brutal sieges are in full swing. Although not enoying the same quality campaign as the first game, Crusader still has plenty of action and castle building to suit the average fan of the series.

System Requirements: 300 Mhz CPU, 64 MB RAM, 750 MB HDD, Win 9x/ME/2000/XP

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