With all of the browser games out there right now, it’s not too surprising that so many people tend to avoid Stronghold Kingdoms. My best friend avoids it like the plague, stating that it’s just another ‘Farmville.’ Okay I’ll admit that it has many of the same fundamentals as Farmville. You have a village, you build farms, you harvest crops, etc. So basically, we have a situation where you need to ask this question: what would Farmville be like if you could murder your neighbors? In Stronghold Kingdoms, you actually get to find out.
Stronghold Kingdoms starts out much like any other browser strategy game, thought I’d like to point out that it doesn’t play in a browser; it has its own client, which runs pretty well on either PC or Mac. You begin with a small village that has nothing but a stockpile and a town center. From there, you build your wood cutter’s huts, your stone quarries, and every other building that’s available to you in the early game.
There are a few significant differences between this game and the Real Time Strategy that you might be used to. First of all, you can’t directly control units, which might be disappointing to some, but I found that it took an unnecessary burden off of me. You also cannot expand your stockpile physically, only through research. The third major difference is that you don’t need to build oxen to carry stone from the quarry to the town center, which quite frankly saves you a lot of room in your village – you’re going to need it.
As you start building, your structures will only take a few seconds to complete, which gives you plenty of leeway to establish a properly functioning village. After you get established, however, you’re going to notice that the completion time for every building jumps ups up. Eventually, it will take you 10-12 hours to complete a single building no matter how complex or simple it is. Over this point, I’ve seen a lot of people quit the game, but I would like to point out that it speeds up significantly over time, especially as you get more villages under your command.
Your starting village is pretty cool but you’re definitely going to want to expand as time goes on, especially if you wish to generate more revenue. Once you reach the right level (you need honor points to level up, gained through combat or positive popularity) you can research ‘command,’ which gives you the ability to take a second village. Upon taking that village you can choose the type of village you wish to build, and the options include:
- Mountain Peak
- River 1
- River 2
- Salt Flats
- Valley Side
The type of village you choose will determine what goods you can produce. If you were to build on a River 2 setting, you would be able to produce (catch) fish, and you could also build silk docks that are critical for advanced banqueting. Considering that you can only own a few villages per level, and there a ton of different types, you can easily see how players would depend heavily upon trade, making this a true social game.
Building an Army
As with any strategy game, you have the option to build an army and if you’re in a relatively small parish, you’re probably going to want to take advantage of it. Over time, wolf lairs and AI castles will pop up in your parish, which will annoy your citizens and even attack you – the only way to fix it is to deploy troops and get rid of them. The only problem is that early on you won’t be able to muster enough troops to even take on a wolf lair. In addition to that, the only way to build troops is to make sure you have the appropriate production facilities in the village. Pole turners, armorers, and blacksmiths are just the tip of the iceberg, and they only produce a certain number of items per day. This makes it necessary to trade for arms with other parishes and puts more emphasis on teamwork.
When you start the game, you’ll be placed in a parish that contains a certain number of villages and a steward. Like any political system, the steward is chosen by player votes, but he or she must have a village in the parish. Also, like any other political system, the vote can be influenced by outsiders, meaning another village can send monks to swap the vote to another player in the Parish, changing the balance of power, and perhaps making it easier for an invading army to take over, as the proper steward would no longer have access to the garrisoned troops.
If you want to survive, you’re going to trade with other parishes, get the goods you need, and keep moving forward. Right now, I’m constantly trading food for banquet supplies, but there are a ton of other things I need, and everyone depends on something to continue their upward journey.
Join a Faction
I currently reside in the H.C.C.A faction in the Great Lakes region, and while we’re not at war with anyone, we recently faced quite a few problems due to a high level player in our midst, not even in our faction, being constantly under attack. After he simply gave up and left, I was put in charge of my Parish, giving me almost exclusive control over the entire thing. Thankfully my faction doesn’t seem to mind. Belonging to a faction is much like belonging to a guild; there’s plenty of community and we help each other to succeed – something that is much needed in what would otherwise be an extremely barbaric game.
Choose your World
Just like any other MMORPG, the game has multiple servers, and the two primary types are standard and Global Conquest. I personally play on Global Conquest, which allows you to occupy an accurate map of the entire world, but many people choose to play on the classic servers that are simply a map of Europe.
The last thing I’d like to do here is give a shout out to player ff531 – sorry you lost your parish, but it’s still here waiting for you (please come back).
Gameplay – 8/10
The game has a pretty medium learning curve, but you’ll catch on pretty quickly. If you seek the help of other players, you’ll probably find yourself moving up the ranks pretty quickly. I will say that all of the features and functions can be pretty confusing at first, but don’t worry, you’re going to get the hang of it and I’ll become second nature to you. This game is far more complex than most browser games, and it relies far less on cash shop gimmicks, so I’m pretty happy about that.
Innovation – 7/10
There’s a lot to be said for Stronghold Kingdoms, given that it came out in 2012 when browser games were barely in their infancy. In many ways, I feel that Kingdoms influenced developers, but unfortunately, their non-reliance on the cash shop didn’t rub off. If you were to look at Kingdoms today, you probably wouldn’t see too much innovation, but if you look at it in context, you’ll see that it really was the pioneer.
Community – 9/10
Kingdoms brings one of the most helpful and fun communities I’ve ever seen in an MMORPG. Most players are helpful, and my faction has always been more than willing to aid me in warding off potential enemies. The only reason the game loses a point here, is that most players don’t participate in the chatroom, making communication more than a bit tedious at points. You need to communicate through the in-game mail system, which is can be efficient but slow.
Many modern gamers aren’t really going to like the graphics, but I tend to enjoy them because the simplistic 2D images make it an easy game to play in the background. The art is very well done, and it’s also very immersive. On the subject of immersion, the sound is excellent. The village has its own set of audio, which includes the sound of tools being used, pigs snorting, sheep bleating, and the occasional murmur of villagers. If you switch to the world map you’ll hear the wind blowing and waves crashing – also, there are sounds for each building that you click on. They really didn’t have to go the extra mile here, but they did.
Value for Money 8/10
Generally speaking, this game would cost about $7.99 per month for premium access, but you don’t need it. If you play a premium token you’ll have access to a wide variety of features, which include the ability to move your buildings, get better market deals, trade while offline, etc. If you’re always running the game in the background, however, you won’t need the automation that a premium token provides, though you might want to buy card packs that give you a significant advantage. With cards you can add some extra resources to your stockpile, bring in troops, speed up research, or give yourself untold other advantages that make your stay in Kingdoms easier. Unfortunately, this also gives the game a bit of a pay-to-win element.
Overall – 8/10
There isn’t much negative to say about this game; it does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and it does it without forcing cash shop purchases on you. It’s free, so you don’t have much to lose, but spending money can give you an advantage. Stronghold Kingdoms really led the way for the now common browser-based strategy genre, but to this day it remains strategically deeper than most.
+Easy to Learn, Difficult to Master
+Low System Requirements
-In-Game communication can be Lacking
Related: Firefly Studios, Free to play, MMORTS, Review, Steam, Strategy, Stronghold Kingdoms