Stronghold (2001 video game)

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Stronghold (2001) Coverart.png
Developer(s) Firefly Studios
Publisher(s) Take 2 Interactive
Gathering of Developers
Designer(s) Simon Bradbury
Writer(s) Casimir C. Windsor
Composer(s) Robert L. Euvino
Platform(s) Windows, Mac OS X
  • NA: October 19, 2001[1]
  • EU: October 21, 2001
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Stronghold is a historic real-time strategy game developed by Firefly Studios in 2001. The game focuses primarily on conquest and expansion through military pursuits, but also provides space for economic strategy and development. There is both an economic and a military campaign to be played and both are discussed in the game manual. In the English version the game takes place in Medieval Britain around the time of 1066; however, since there is not always a time limit, scenarios can continue hundreds of years beyond that date.

As well as earning many favourable reviews from reviewers such as PC Gamer and GameSpy, the game continues to boast a large community, who edit and create various material through the in-game Map Editor/Scenario Creator.[2]

Because of its popularity, the game spawned several sequels: Stronghold: Crusader (2002), Stronghold 2 (2005), Stronghold Legends (2006), Stronghold Crusader Extreme (2008), Stronghold 3 (2011), Stronghold Kingdoms (2012) and Stronghold Crusader II (2014).


In Stronghold, the player takes the role of a lord in a kingdom. The goal is to create a stable economy and a strong military to defend against invaders, destroy enemy castles and accomplish the mission objectives.

Stronghold contains several modes of gameplay, with both combat and economic missions. The main game mode is the military campaign, which is based upon a map of England. The backstory to the campaign explains that the King was captured and held for ransom while invading a neighboring barbarian kingdom. Four Lords take control of the Kingdom, dividing it into their personal territories. The player is represented by a young, inexperienced commander, whose father is killed in an ambush by one of the villains. He is helped by two lords remaining loyal to the king. The player has to regain control of the Kingdom by reconquering counties from rival lords one by one. The player has to defeat each of the four Lords in the campaign, receiving help from the King once he has been successfully ransomed mid-game. An economic campaign is set after the main campaign, where the player re-constructs parts of the Kingdom. The player is set goals to complete against a variety of obstacles, such as bandits and fire.

Other game modes are single mission combat and economic scenarios, where the player has to complete either military or economic goals. A Siege mode is included in the game, where the player may attack or defend several historical castles. Free build mode is another game mode; here the player has the option of building a castle without any objectives. More scenarios can be created for the game using the built-in map editor.


Stronghold does not use a "rock paper scissors" system for game balance, instead opting for a "soft-counter" system.

Combat in Stronghold is based on a strength and hit point system. There are a variety of unit types in the game, with each successive unit being stronger, and hence more expensive, than the preceding unit, in general. Even though the expensive units are stronger in combat, all units have abilities that are necessary to defend the castle, both melee units (such as the basic spearman and the stronger swordsman), and ranged units such as archers. The game also contains support troops such as engineers, who provide additional combat options such as constructing siege engines. Unlike some other strategy games there are no counters for units, and units do not take up space, allowing them to overlap each other. Several non-combat characters can fight against enemy units, although most have no ability to fight. Injured soldiers remain injured for the rest of the game -there is no healing system- and it should be noted that since the Lord is the central figurehead of the player's kingdom, despite being a powerful fighter, should he die, the game is automatically lost.

Simulated fire[edit]

Fire plays a main role in the Stronghold storyline, as in certain missions, igniting pitch is almost necessary for survival. Also, there are certain trigger events that start fires. Fires spread very quickly, and a flaming building can ignite people or other buildings. Fires will only go out if all sources of fuel are consumed, or if the fire itself is extinguished by fire watches. Fires can spread over small boundaries of water.

In most RTS games, fire appears on buildings as an indicator of damage; for example, if a building is damaged enough it would catch fire, but not necessarily sustain damage from that fire. In some games, such as Starcraft, some buildings damaged to a certain extent will catch fire and continue to take damage from it until they are repaired or the fire destroys them. In Stronghold, buildings that are damaged by siege weapons or are torn down would not catch fire; instead, they lose hit points until they collapse, with the indication of damage being visible signs of cracks and damage throughout the building. However, boiling oil pots, if destroyed, would start a small fire where they were built.

Contrary to many RTS titles, where fire plays a secondary, "eye candy" role, fire in Stronghold is an actual gameplay element. For instance, the player is subtly encouraged to build wells against enemies that like to use fire attacks.

Map editor[edit]

An in-game map editor was included with the game. Rather than incorporating a proprietary scripting language, the editor has a WYSIWYG interface designed for use by all users.


Aggregate score
Review scores
AllGame4/5 stars[4]
CGM3.5/5 stars[5]
CGW4.5/5 stars[6]
Game Informer9/10[8]
PC Gamer (US)82%[13]

Stronghold was a commercial success, with global sales of 1.5 million units by 2004.[14] In the United States alone, Stronghold sold 220,000 copies and earned $7.8 million by August 2006, after its release in October 2001. It was the country's 95th best-selling computer game during this period.[15] It received a "Silver" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA),[16] indicating sales of at least 100,000 copies in the United Kingdom.[17]

The game received "favorable" reviews according to the review aggregation website Metacritic.[3] The graphics were praised by a number of reviewers; GameSpot said of the graphics, "The buildings look good, but not great, and the same can be said of the units", adding that "The animations are well done."[9] IGN disagreed to a degree, saying "Animations are a bit choppy", and commented on the overall state of the graphics: "This isn't the prettiest game ever by a longshot, but it's good enough that your eyes won't burn."[12] GameZone gave high praise to the graphics, saying that the environments were "wonderful" and commenting on the good animation of the characters.[11]

GameSpot did not say much on sound, but noted that the "Soundtrack is dramatic."[9] GameSpy was neutral on its review of sound, saying that "...the music is nice, if not especially memorable", but also commenting on the "poor voice acting."[10]

Stronghold was a nominee for Computer Gaming World's 2001 "Best Strategy Game" award, which ultimately went to Kohan: Immortal Sovereigns. The editors called Stronghold "extraordinarily creative and unique".[18]


The initial success of the game led to several standalone sequels.

Stronghold: Crusader[edit]

The second installment, Stronghold: Crusader, was released in September 2002. The gameplay is similar to the first game, but with enhanced RTS elements and with all maps and missions set entirely in the Middle Ages in the Middle East. The focus was radically influenced by fortification and siege technologies developed during the Crusades. The entire campaign, as well as the 'Conquest Trail' game mode, takes place during the Third Crusade.

Unlike the original Stronghold, however, there are four separate, linear campaigns. The game does take history into effect: Saladin and Richard I of England are present as the game's AI characters for the player to side with or against, together AI personalities. In addition, the player is allowed to play either as an Arabic lord or as a European king with little effect except which units the player begins.

A combination pack of Stronghold and Stronghold: Crusader, called Stronghold Warchest, was later released with all patches applied, new maps, and a new campaign trail and AI characters in Crusader.

Stronghold 2[edit]

The sequel, and the third game in the series, Stronghold 2 was released in April 2005. The game engine was enhanced to provide full three-dimensional graphics. Other changes include new military and peace campaigns and the addition of crime and punishment. It also included many new characters and changed the walls and towers that can be added to a castle. However, the series' unique real-time map editor was replaced with a still-life one.

Upon its release, many players were outraged by the game's frequent crashes, lag (even while playing offline on a computer with exceptional hardware) and overall bugs. Firefly Studios paid much attention to the gaming community's complaints, and promised fixes in later patches, the majority of complaints stopping with patch 1.2. Patch 1.3.1, released on Oct. 28, 2005 brought a "Conquest Trail" to the game, similar to that of Stronghold: Crusader. Stronghold 2 Deluxe was later released, containing all patches and new content.

Critically, the game has received generally mixed reviews, whether from the bugs present in the initial release or the gameplay. To promote Stronghold 2, a ten level Flash game was created, called Castle Attack 2. The aim of the game was to balance building a castle and defending it.

Stronghold Legends[edit]

The fourth game, Stronghold Legends, contains 24 missions, spanning three different campaigns: King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Count Vlad Dracul, and Siegfried of Germany. This sequel contains a new feature that allows the player to control human and mythical armies. Creatures like dragons and witches can be created in Stronghold Legends.[19]

Stronghold Crusader: Extreme[edit]

The fifth game, Stronghold Crusader Extreme, is largely the same as Stronghold Crusader, but with an expanded unit cap, allowing thousands of units to be on screen at once (instead of hundreds in Stronghold Crusader). It also includes an updated version of the original Stronghold Crusader game with new AI and maps.

Stronghold Kingdoms[edit]

Stronghold Kingdoms is the first MMO-style game developed in the Stronghold series. In this free-to-play game players can anticipate a world filled with elements from the first game of the series.

Stronghold 3[edit]

Stronghold 3 is a 2011 real-time strategy computer game developed by Firefly Studios and published by SouthPeak Games. The game is the seventh in the series after several spin-offs, a remake and an MMORTS. It is the sequel to Stronghold, released in 2001, and Stronghold 2 released in 2005. Unlike previous games in the series which were published by Take-Two Interactive, the game has been published by SouthPeak Games, the new parent company of Gamecock Media Group, publisher of Stronghold Crusader Extreme.

Stronghold Crusader II[edit]

Stronghold Crusader II is the latest title in Firefly Studios Stronghold franchise of "Castle Sim" RTS games, and was released on September 23, 2014.[20]


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  2. ^ "Download Central". Stronghold Heaven.
  3. ^ a b "Stronghold for PC Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  4. ^ Allen, Christopher. "Stronghold - Review". AllGame. All Media Network. Archived from the original on November 15, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  5. ^ Sones, Benjamin E. (January 8, 2002). "Stronghold". Computer Games Magazine. Archived from the original on February 7, 2003. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  6. ^ Wilson, Johnny L. (February 2002). "Stronghold" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. No. 211. Ziff Davis. pp. 78–79. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  7. ^ Bye, John "Gestalt" (November 1, 2001). "Stronghold". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on December 4, 2001. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  8. ^ Brogger, Kristian (January 2002). "Stronghold". Game Informer. No. 105. GameStop. p. 94. Archived from the original on February 27, 2004. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c Dulin, Ron (November 2, 2001). "Stronghold Review". GameSpot. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Harker, Carla (November 12, 2001). "Stronghold". GameSpy. IGN Entertainment. Archived from the original on February 6, 2005. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  11. ^ a b Lafferty, Michael (November 2, 2001). "Stronghold Review". GameZone. Archived from the original on May 3, 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Adams, Dan (October 26, 2001). "Stronghold". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  13. ^ Preston, Jim (January 2002). "Stronghold". PC Gamer. Vol. 9 no. 1. Future US. p. 70. Archived from the original on March 15, 2006. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  14. ^ van Autrijve, Rainier (December 2, 2004). "Stronghold 2 (Preview)". GameSpy. IGN Entertainment.
  15. ^ Edge staff (August 25, 2006). "The Top 100 PC Games of the 21st Century". Edge. Future plc. Archived from the original on October 17, 2012.
  16. ^ "ELSPA Sales Awards: Silver". Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association. Archived from the original on February 21, 2009.
  17. ^ Caoili, Eric (November 26, 2008). "ELSPA: Wii Fit, Mario Kart Reach Diamond Status In UK". Gamasutra. UBM plc.
  18. ^ CGW staff (April 2002). "Games of the Year: The Very Best of a (Sometimes) Great Year in Gaming (Best Strategy Game)" (PDF). Computer Gaming World. No. 213. Ziff Davis. pp. 78–79. Retrieved July 23, 2018.
  19. ^ "Stronghold Legends". Firefly Studios. Archived from the original on August 22, 2008. Retrieved February 2, 2009.
  20. ^ "Stronghold Crusader 2 is Out Now!". Firefly Studios. September 23, 2014. Archived from the original on October 2, 2014. Retrieved July 23, 2018.

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