Imagine, if you can, being sat at a computer, the game’s living breathing tutorial (i.e. “The Designer” giving you moment-by-moment instructions. It’s wonderful to have help when the game’s team are pitching you against their developer. What you never consider however, when reassured that you’re playing against a developer who “isn’t very good,” is that this individual is still better at the game than everybody else who comes to their booth and manages to talk and play with the team.That match – unfortunately – did not last long.
The ever friendly team over at Firefly Studios has themselves a handful of computers playing an Alpha build of this potentially addictive RTS. Regardless of the fact that this game’s presence at EuroGamer is a multiplayer build, the game is by no means multiplayer only. When Stronghold Crusader II hits the shelves, it will be complete with single player campaign and skirmishing, as well as up to 8-player multiplayer.
One thing of note about Stronghold Crusader II is that players will have the ability to play co-operatively, and I don’t mean two strongholds teaming up to bully a third. No, what this game does, or will do, is offer players the ability to play as the same town; a feature not seen since Age of Empires II – a game from 1999. After 14 years, plays can once more share control; team up with a buddy and take control of the army, while they manage the economy. Heck, if the map is big enough, you could even have your own base but pool your resources.
Digression aside, Stronghold Crusader II has itself a satisfyingly steep learning curve. That is to say, the learning curve is neither too steep, nor the game pace too slow. Games from the worlds of Strategy have the remarkable ability to consume ridiculous amounts of time, and when first playing a new strategy game – notably that has the pacing correct – much of that time is spent mastering the incinerates of gameplay. This is very much the case here; much of the gameplay and UI design is extremely intuitive, with a couple of other minor functions that could be explained in a single sentence, or very quickly pointed out in a tutorial.
After playing, the team expressed their eagerness to further develop the visuals of the game, which even now are impressively detailed. The video below, while from Gamescom last month, should give an impressive impression of how the game looks, as well as the freedom players are given to rotate and zoom in on the map. This aesthetic is only going to get better, as both the models and animations are going to be reworked to improve the overall appearance.