Stronghold Crusader was Firefly Studio's follow-up to the previous year's hit release, Stronghold, and, like it predecessor, it retained the core 2D RTS and city building gameplay while introducing new game modes, units and features such as a Skirmish mode, mercenary units and multiple campaigns. This strategy game requires some serious castle managing skills as well as military skills. You will first need to build an economically strong castle in order to make your people like you and stay in your castle. Later on you can start recruiting them as your soldiers.
The game features Skirmish mode (you can play normal skirmishes against computer opponents or to take part in a desert journey of 50 battles - The Crusader Trail, where you will face opponents with increasing difficulty), Historical campaign (recreated medieval battles with high difficulty), Castle builder (where you peacefully build your town / castle and the only threat are the occasional lions), Multiplayer mode, Play a map (here you can play user-created invasions or economical maps) and a Map Editor, where you can design your own maps. The skirmish's are taken to the next level, allowing sending / receiving resources, planning attacks and team action with your computer allies.
There are 8 AIs in the original Stronghold Crusader, but you can get another additional 8 AIs if you buy the Stronghold Warchest pack. The Historical campaign features 4 smaller campaigns with 5 missions each (20 missions in total). Each campaign has it's own difficulty. The first one is made guide-like, as an advanced tutorial for the new players, who try the game for first time. The second and the third one are a little harder ones, they require good tactics and strategy. The fourth one is campaign with AIs (just like in the original Stronghold). It shouldn't pose problems.
The multiplayer supports TCP/IP and LAN. Additionally, you can use the GameSpy Arcade to find available multiplayer games. The game supports up to 8 players in this regime.
The invasion and economical maps are simple missions with their own winning conditions. The user can also create his own campaign if he knows how to mod the campaign maps files.
The new features in Stronghold Crusader include avatars, lord selection (European or Arabian one, which defines your starting troops in skirmish and multiplayer. You can also use custom avatars), new buildings, new units and new computer opponents. The game takes place in the desert now, so the main terrain will be sand and you have limited space to build farms. The graphical engine is the same, with almost no improvements.
Throughout the game you will be able to play as and against eight different characters, each with their own playing style. You also can play each of them in the "Custom Game" option in the Crusader Games mode.
A person considered to be the easiest of opponents. He builds castles that are not as well fortified or designed as others. He also uses very little strategy in combat. Trains only spearmen and archers.
Difficulty: Very Easy
A one-eyed character who uses mainly archers and spearmen but sometimes uses catapults. He won't hesitate to use the help of mercenaries too. He uses slightly more strategy to how he fights than the rat but is still rather weak.
He employs the use of macemen and crossbowmen in combat. However, he builds his castles poorly. His crossbowmen help compensate for his poor castle designs. He is eating a giant poultry leg in every message he sends you. His attacking strategy features a lot of macemen and catapults launching cows.
One of the most difficult characters, The Wolf builds massive castles and is quite capable of defending them; he stations his troops at strategic areas of his castles. He is primarily a defensive character, but when he hits, he hits hard. Occasionally he will build such an elaborate castle he will actually wall himself in. He trains swordsmen, pikemen, crossbowmen, archers and also uses the help of the Arabian mercenaries. His invasions are relentless.
Difficulty: Very Hard
Richard "The Lionheart"
King Richard uses more heavily armored soldiers in combat. Being a mainly offensive character, he builds castles that are not quite as massive as some of the other characters and not as guarded. He builds a squared castle with usually 4 towers with mounted mangonels and balistas on them. A good ally who prefers working in a team. Trains swordsmen, pikemen, archers and engineers, who pour oil. His military tactics involve tunnelers, trebuchets and catapults.
One of, if not, the most difficult of foes. He uses everything and can crush anyone who gets in his way. He starts well and manages a great economy. You will hardly beat him in the economical aspect. He looks after his people and usually has the maximum positive fear factor. Constructs a massive stronghold with thick walls, big towers, moats and pitch ditches. He trains most various types of soldiers (Arabian and European alike) - Arabian swordsmen, Arabian bowmen, slaves, slingers, horse archers, flamethrowers, assassins, spearmen, pikemen, archers and oil-pouring engineers. His military tactics are difficult to understand, but he often uses assassins to take control of the enemy's gatehouses and march directly inside the enemy's castle.
Difficulty: Very Hard
The Caliph is not as much of a threat offensively as he is on the defensive. He uses mainly ranged troops. He also uses slaves to torch the castles of his enemies and then attack them while they are weak. He is one of the few characters that use fire arrows when defending, and employs pitch ditches for a devastating effect on attacking armies. He builds relatively small castle with a lot of small look-out towers, all of them mounted by his Arabian bowmen and flamethrowers. His castle is surrounded by pitch ditches, who burn any enemy that tries to get any near the castle. The small towers, however, are quite vulnerable to catapults. He keeps his people in great fear of him, but they respectively work faster and bring more production for their leader. The Caliph attacks first with slaves - burning any buildings outside the enemy's castle. Then the heavy infantry, Arabian swordsmen come accompanied by horse archers and fire balistas.
The Sultan is quite similar to The Rat. He does not attack very often and is quite easy to defeat. His castle is shaped as a circle. He boosts up his positive fear factor, so his Arabian swordsmen could pose a threat. Doesn't use archers, only slingers, so he's very vulnerable in any stage of the game.
Warchest (bonus) characters
A German lord, who knows how to build a good castle and army alike. The problem is that it will take him a long time and lots of resources. He's most vulnerable in the beginning of the game. If you don't disturb him, he'll most likely become the "greatest lord" in the game and will cause much trouble. His castle looks like a triangle with a lot of towers and a moat encircling it. Frederick trains swordsmen, pikemen, crossbowmen, archers and knights. His attacks are usually small, involving raiding knights and catapults, but that's because he plays more carefully, defensively.
The king who wears lipstick. He's French and seeks glory in his desert adventure. You will hardly ever see him defeating someone, but he won't also be taken down so easily. His castle is rectangular, with two big towers with mounted balistas son them and a moat to protect the back side of the castle. He's a pretentious ally. Usually trains spearmen, archers, swordsmen, pikemen and knights. Even though these are some powerful units, he doesn't tend to use them in big numbers. His attacks involve only a few raiding knights and a catapult or two. His castle is vulnerable to units who can dig moats, since his moat is the only thing that separates the enemy army from him.
The Wazir is another masked Arabian lord. He comes from the wild desert and know what he's doing. His most preferred troops are the fast and deadly horse archers, who lead his Arabian swordsmen to the enemy. in defense, he uses Arabian bowmen, slingers, flamethrowers and slaves. Wazir's castle looks like a star, with a lot of small look out towers, thick walls and a lot of pitch ditches to burn any enemy soldier that establishes a contact with them.
An Arabian lord, who is kind with everyone, thus making him one of the most preferred allies in the game. He'd share his food and soldiers with his allies. But this doesn't mean that he'll leave his fortress unguarded. His loyal, and happy (because of the positive fear factor) soldiers are good in both defense and attack. He counts on the services of his Arabian bowmen, Arabian swordsmen, slaves, slingers, horse archers, and flamethrowers. He also uses some European troops - mostly spearmen, archers and oil-pouring engineers. His castle forms a circle with look-out towers with suitable positions for pouring oil onto enemy's troops. The Emir's not that good in offense though. He'll most often count on his allies' help to defeat his enemies.
The Nizar is an Arabian lord. Judging by his looks, he's probably an assassin too. He's silent and deadly. Doesn't trust anybody. He manages his economy quite good though. His caste is a large town encircled by a huge moat and gatehouses. He usually builds two big towers, that he fills with Arabian bowmen to the maximum. Apart from that, he places killing pits all around his moat and builds fire balistas to guard the flanks. He trains swarms of slaves (who dig his moat pretty quickly, but are kinda useless after that), assassins, horse archers, slingers and flamethrowers. Assassins and horse archers are the only troops who attack. It's a good idea to guard every corner of your castle when fighting against him, because his assassins tend to sneak behind your walls without you even knowing that. In defense, The Nizar can be very good when besieged. However, if his castle is placed on high ground, he won't be able to dig his defensive moat (it's impossible to dig a moat on high ground in Stronghold Crusader). So he will just build his town without any walls protecting it. This is making him one of the most irrational and useless opponents when fighting in the mountains.
Difficulty: depends on the terrain. Hard on low ground. Easy on high ground.
An old ally from the original Stronghold. In Stronghold Crusader, you can fight him though. The Marshall is an old knight and his age is definitely telling it's word. His castle managing skills... well, they lack. He simply builds one long and thick wall with two towers to protect the front of his keep. If you have fast moving troops, you can just invade him from behind or from the flanks and take him out directly, without dealing with his troops. He occasionally digs a moat, again, protecting the front of his keep. He trains archers, swordsmen and knights. His attacks consist only of knights, who come in brief raids and try to destroy your farms. These qualities of his make him a mediocre both ally and opponent.
Another European lord. He's bad with his people and although this makes them weaker in fight, they work faster. His castle consist of a small, but strong chamber for his keep and main buildings and a larger one, where his people live and work. It's walls, however, are low, thus making his large chamber very vulnerable to fire, balistas, and catapults. His main chamber is guarded by towers and pitch ditches. He trains spearmen, achers, crossbowmen, pikemen, macemen, as well as flamethrowers and assassins. He rarely attacks.
The Abbot is an European lord, who counts on God more than on his troops to defeat his enemies. He prays on whatever he does. His main force consists of archers, who guard his caste and swarms of monks. He's the only computer opponent who uses the black monks, but hell, he uses them in very big numbers. The Abbot's castle is a rectangle with very thick walls, two square towers with balsitas on them and a moat, which protects the back of his castle. His monks are supposed to both defend his caste and attack the enemy. The insufficient ranged troops and the lack of any military strategy make him a pretty mediocre ally as well as opponent.
- Archer - a basic ranged unit that requires no armor to train. Good in defense and in big numbers. It's cheap and is a good unit to start defending your castle with. They can dig moats and climb ladders.
Weapons Required: bows.
- Spearman - a basic melee unit that requires no armor to train. The spearmen are a main force of a lot of lords, because they are cheap and require only spears to recruit. Good in big numbers. They can dig moats and climb ladders.
Weapons Required: spears.
Speed: medium in normal stance; high in aggressive stance.
- Engineer - the engineers are the only men who can operate the siege equipment, making them crucial when both defending and attacking. They can also pour boiling oil onto enemies. They have no armor and are unarmed. Can dig moats.
Weapons Required: none.
- Pikeman - an armored unit that wields a halberd. They're the toughest unit in Stronghold Crusader. Great armor, but a rather weak weapon. Can dig moats.
Weapons Required: halberds, metal armor.
- Maceman - a berserker who wields a mace to demolish his enemies. He wears primitive armor, but can dig moats and climb ladders.
Weapons Required: maces, leather armor.
- Monk - the so called "black monks" are monk warriors, who wield staves and have no armor. Unlike the other units, they're trained from the cathedral. They are good defenders and cost cheap.
Weapons Required: none.
Speed: low in normal stance; high in aggressive stance.
- Crossbowman - the most powerful ranged unit. Their production is slow, but they wear leather armor and shoot a powerful crossbow that can penetrate metal armor. They're best in defense.
Weapons Required: crossbows, leather armor.
- Swordsman - the most powerful infantry unit. The swordsmen are units protected by metal armor from head to toe and wield a sword and shield. They sacrifice speed for power. They are as good in offense as in defense.
Weapons Required: swords, metal armor.
- Knight - this is a swordsman who is mounted on a horse. The horse sacrifices power for speed this time. They're less powerful than the swordsmen, but are much faster. Great in offense. Can't climb stairs.
Weapons Required: swords, metal armor, horses.
Speed: very high.
- Tunneler - carrying a pickaxe and wearing not much more than blue denim, these Welsh blokes will dig for victory. A few of them can easily bring down the thickest walls. Although they have no armor, they do know how to use their pickaxes to crush their enemies' heads.
Weapons Required: none.
- Ladderman - weak and vulnerable, these poor guys carry the long siege ladders that will allow your light infantry troops to swarm the enemy's battlements. The cheapest unit in the game.
Weapons Required: none.
The Arabian units are actually hired from the mercenary post. They require no equipment, but cost a considerable amount of gold.
- Arabian bowman - more powerful than his European counterpart while maintaining the same speed, rate of fire, and range, this archer is great for defending your walls and towers. They work in the exact same way as the European archer, but are stronger and do not require any weapons to manufacture. A few towers full of these guys will send a powerful army to their sandy grave.
- Slinger - a weak ranged unit that uses a sling to fire a small rock. They're cheap and work good in big numbers. Short range. They don't deal much damage and have no armor. Best used in defense.
- Slave - these shirtless torchbearers make that pathetic spearman from the original Stronghold look like Superman. They are the weakest unit in the game. Practically useless for fighting, their strength is used inside the enemy town. Each one of these little guys can set a building on fire. Make enough of them, and your enemies entire castle turn to ash. They do have the nasty habit of setting themselves on fire, so make sure you have a lot of them. They are the only Arabian unit that can dig a moat.
Damage: very low VS people; high vs buildings.
- Assassin - a stealthy unit. Becomes visible when they get too close to the enemy's troops or buildings. They have a grappling hook, which they use to climb up walls or gatehouses and open them for you. Great in both offense and in defense. They can create a nasty surprise for their enemies.
- Arabian swordsman - the Arabian equivalent of the European swordsman, Is weaker then the European swordmans, but is faster when in battle. Despite their high price, most Arabian lords prefer to guard themselves with these guys. They wear a metal armor and wield a scimitar and shield.
- Horse archer - these speedy bowman are tied with knights as the fastest unit in the game, and are great for many uses. They can shoot while moving, so are great for patrolling an area. Their quick rate of fire quickly eliminates light or unarmored enemies. In large numbers, it's almost impossible to even get near these guys. Can't climb stairs.
Speed: very high.
- Fire thrower - the fire thrower does what it says; throws balls of fire at enemy buildings and units. They are great for taking out enemy towns, with the ability to set them ablaze in seconds. They also do serious damage on the battlefield, and can turn many units into a burning corpse before being taken down. Be wary when defending your walls with them, however, because if the enemy breaches them, the fire throwers will continue raining flames upon their own castle. They also have a decent melee attack. All this at the price of 100 gold.
The siege equipment can be mounted and used only by engineers.
- Catapult - this is a long range siege weapon that uses heavy rocks as ammo. It is mainly created to destroy castle walls, gates, and towers. When created, it is equipped with 20 rocks. Player can get 20 rocks for 10 stones. Can launch cows.
Engineers required: 2.
- Trebuchet - the trebuchet is an advanced version of the catapult and the most powerful siege weapon. It has a very long firing range(longer than the ballista), but is less accurate than catapults. It's long arch can be used to fire over the castle walls and into the economic buildings. Can launch cows.
Engineers required: 3.
- Battering ram - the battering ram is a slow, powerful siege engine for taking down walls, gates, and towers. They are useless against soldiers though.
Engineers required: 4.
- Siege tower - the siege tower is a wooden tower that is capable to allow all units but knights and horse archers to scale to the castle walls. After the tower is used it cannot be chosen again so it stays on it's position. The engineers will also leave the tower when the tower is used; this makes them very vulnerable to enemy fire.
Engineers required: 4.
- Portable shield - this piece of siege equipment is used to protect units from ranged fire. It can successfully stop thousands of arrows. However it's vulnerable to melee damage. It's high speed permits it to advance in front of your troops and protect them along the way.
Engineers required: 1.
- Mangonel - a mangonel can be mounted only on a big enough tower. Once mounted and equipped, it fires rock barrages (6 rocks per shot) against the enemies. A single rock can kill an enemy troop, but the mangonel is pretty inaccurate itself, making him useful only versus large armies. It may also cause friendly fire, so be careful where you place it.
Engineers required: 2.
- Ballista - another piece of equipment that can be mounted only on a big enough tower. It shoots a single, long arrow that penetrates armor. It has a great range, so it's useful for taking out enemy siege equipment or stationary troops.
Engineers required: 2.
- Fire ballista - once assembled, the fire ballista can move anywhere on the ground, and when near enemy buildings, it can send blazing bolts into them, lighting them on fire. They are also good for defending the home front or battlefield. Players have lost entire armies of mighty swordsman trying to reach the ballista that were tearing them apart.
Engineers required: 2.
Minimum System Requirements
* Windows 98/ ME/ 2000/ XP
* Intel Pentium 4 1.6Ghz or equivalent
* 512 MB RAM
* 850 MB HDD space
* 8x CD-ROM Drive
* 64 MB DirectX 8.1 compatible Graphics card
* 56 kbp/s Modem for Internet play