Stronghold fans looking for a return to the classic are in for a good time with the Stronghold: Definitive Edition. Between the nostalgia, new content, and graphic overhaul, it’s easily the best way to play the original. And if you’re new to the franchise, it’s a cheap price for a large chunk of RTS content.
After putting in a little over 30 hours, I’ve completed the main campaign, the new 14-mission campaign, and the 10-mission Castle Trail. Aside from all the new content, it’s almost comical how easy it is to overlook the many significant quality of life changes. It’s to the point where you’d assume they were always around.
While I can’t easily start the original without pulling out my Stronghold Warchest, I had to at least reinstall Stronghold HD. Immediately, all the quality of life changes in the Definitive Edition became much clearer. Settings as simple as changing the mouse controls, moving my camera with WASD, and plenty of other tweaks like improved UI scaling.
All these little changes made my return to the original Stronghold a delightful one that didn’t feel outdated. I was especially excited to complete the campaign this time around since I spent more time with Stronghold Crusader as a kid. For those who haven’t played Stronghold, the missions function well as a tutorial slowly providing more access to different buildings.
It starts as a simple RTS where your focus is on the city-building aspect as you get wood and gather meat. Over time, this develops into building massive castles and creating armies; while also keeping your people happy so you have workers. This is where Firefly Studios creates an excellent blend of city building and RTS action.
It’s just a matter of how you manipulate the game to have a functioning society that can also defend itself. I always like to generate as much food as possible so I can give my people large rations for some easy popularity points. And then balance out that popularity boost with taxes so I can afford resources or recruit archers.
Every campaign mission has its’ own challenges as you deal with building limitations and often not having the resources you need. This consistently creates a complex experience where you have to get creative or struggle with what little you have. I definitely enjoy mastering the city-building side of the Stronghold: Definitive Edition most.
This leads me to the mission types that I don’t enjoy quite as much, offensive sieges. Instead of building a castle and army, I have a limited amount of soldiers to besiege an enemy castle. I like the idea of this, but it’s a pain when my army is too small. Instead of having a fun chaotic siege with a massive army, it usually becomes a painful cheese-fest.
I bring this up because returning Stronghold players will recall certain missions that are enough to end their run. Despite Firefly making balance improvements to the original campaign, missions 15, 18, and 21 are still brutal. There’s nothing pleasant about archers inaccurately shooting at an enemy for five minutes.
Fortunately, the new missions in The Jewel Campaign are designed much better in comparison. Whereas, the Castle Trail missions are a bit rough and don’t have difficulty options to ease the challenge. I quickly learned how painful pitch pits are when I’m on the receiving end of those flames.
There’s nothing worse than telling my army to retreat from a large fire and the pathing walks them right back into it. While issues like these are likely the original game showing its’ age, they’re still unfortunate. Especially during the siege missions where I desperately need every unit.
That aside, I can’t speak much on how the multiplayer is since I haven’t had a chance to test it. However, it’s much more accessible than having to enter my phone number in Stronghold HD. I have noticed the large influx of players has supposedly led to server issues at launch that Firefly has been addressing.
And finally, there’s one last topic to address that will continue to haunt Stronghold. Unfortunately, fans looking for a skirmish mode where they can battle against AI bots won’t find it here. Firefly noted on the Steam forums that they had limited resources to create the much-coveted mode. But, at least we got Steam Workshop functionality for player-created scenarios.
Stronghold: Definitive Edition | Closing Thoughts
Firefly Studios successfully polished Stronghold into a modern experience while also delivering new content. Fans of the franchise are in for a treat as long as they don’t mind a few familiar annoying quirks. More than anything, I’m curious to see where the new campaign goes since they stopped it midway through for DLC.
Review Score: 8.5/10
Stronghold: Definitive Edition was provided by the developer via a Steam code.
Jeff is a journalist with over 10 years of experience writing, streaming, and making content about video games. With an associate degree in journalism, he’s a sucker for RPGs, survival games, roguelikes, and more.