Stronghold: Warlords Articles RSS Feed | Stronghold: Warlords RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network Stronghold: Warlords Review — Building the Biggest Wall Mon, 08 Mar 2021 11:00:02 -0500 Jordan Baranowski

The Stronghold series doesn't quite have the same following as the big dogs of the RTS genre like StarCraft or Command & Conquer, but it certainly has its fair share of true believers. Stronghold: Warlords is the first entry in the series since Stronghold: Crusaders 2 released for PC in 2014. Warlords improves on many of the quality of life improvements Firefly Studios added in Crusaders 2, and also transports the series from medieval Europe to East Asia.

Here, you'll still balance your economy, protect your citizens with intricate walls and gates, and crush your foes with all sorts of devious weapons and tactics. Stronghold: Warlords will definitely provide a fun new sandbox for fans of the "castle sim" series to play in, but it suffers from a few weaknesses that demonstrate why the series never quite found as much mainstream success as others in the genre.

Stronghold: Warlords Review  Building the Biggest Wall

If I described Stronghold: Warlords in the simplest way possible, it's this: a real-time strategy game with an emphasis on walls.

This time out, the game features the kingdoms of East Asia. In the single-player portion of the game, you'll take the role of many historical figures: Thuc Phan, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and even Genghis Khan. Across multiple campaigns, you'll find a variety of missions that lay out very basic historical contexts of their rise to and hold on power.

The basic systems of Stronghold: Warlords are not too difficult to wrap your brain around. As you build up certain elements of your settlement, such as houses, farms, and production centers, more citizens will flock to you. These citizens can be assigned to more production jobs or conscripted into your army, adding to your stout defense and helping you to conquer your foes.

There's an element of medieval urban planning involved, with several types of walls, gates, and other creative ways to keep your enemies at bay and your populace happy. As you move into later campaign levels, you'll gain access to new buildings and elements of the tech tree, which will help you fend off the stronger threats that come your way. 

Of course, there are plenty of ways to get into your enemies' fortresses, too — or deal with them from afar.

Warlords still employs plenty of micromanagement elements that will help you carry the day, but strategizing and adapting on the fly is pivotal. Probing your enemy's defense to find a weak area in their fortress can let you sneak a few troops in over the walls and unleash a surprise attack, paving the way for your larger force to take over.

These are the moments where it's easy to see why the Stronghold series has always had a following. It feels really good when you execute a perfect plan. Unlike the rock-paper-scissors style of hard counters you see in many RTS games, Stronghold: Warlords rewards you for thinking like a commander, rather than someone playing a commander. Trying to take down a foe's siege tower as it rumbles towards your keep is a harrowing experience.

Then it has to throw those damn warlords into the mix.

The big draw with this newest release, other than the brand-new setting, is the introduction of warlords. These powerful neutral units are scattered across the map with a few defenses placed here and there. Capturing a warlord, either through attacking them or using diplomatic favor, can unlock powerful abilities for your clan.

On paper, it's a sound concept: warlords provide constant objectives on the map, and ways for players to mount both dominant victories and incredible comebacks. In practice, warlords feel incredibly, well, game-y.

The idea of sending a bunch of troops to stab a guy a whole bunch so he joins your team is weird. And the idea of your opponent then sending a bunch of their troops to stab the same guy a bunch so he betrays you and joins their team is even weirder.

They can't (really) be ignored, either, as each warlord has a powerful effect on the game. In the campaign, for example, many objectives are directly tied to warlords and, in skirmishes, ignoring them only allows your opponent to reap the rewards, putting you at a disadvantage. 

On top of the frustrating way warlords are used, it's difficult to tell units apart at a glance, and there are often a lot of them in your army. In the thick of things, assigning certain troop types to perform specific tasks is messy.

At the same time, the AI lacks sophistication, both for friendlies and enemies. Even after several hours of play, I could never quite tell who my troops were going to attack or if they were just going to stroll past certain enemies on their way to another. When battling against AI, it was far too easy to goad units into traps and chokepoints repeatedly, cheesing out wins without a lot of thought.

For every impressive aspect of Stronghold: Warlords, there's something else that holds it back. Blasting down walls with a catapult and sending archers flying never gets old. Trying to locate your tiny troops hidden across a battlefield... not so much.

Stronghold: Warlords Review —The Bottom Line


  • Physics and strategy of siege battles is fun
  • Variety of viable troops and strategies
  • Builds some great moments of tension


  • Hard to tell unit types apart
  • Warlords don't really tie into the gameplay well
  • AI leaves a lot to be desired

Stronghold: Warlords certainly isn't bad, but there just isn't a lot that makes it stand out. The siege battles and enclosed settlements add an extra layer of strategy to things, but certain problematic areas keep it from properly utilizing those positives to create something special. 

This is a game that seems like it will find a niche audience, but it's doubtful those focused on single-player will get a lot out of it. While there wasn't a ton of opportunity to get into multiplayer games with this early build, it seems like that's where most of the action is going to be. The campaigns are more glorified tutorials than an impressive and comprehensive single-player experience, so it seems like setting up elaborate skirmishes is where developer Firefly Studios thought most of the value would be here, too.

If Stronghold: Warlords sees a little post-release love from the developers, it could turn into a great stepping stone for the franchise; there are some kinks that need to be ironed out, but it's got a strong base to build off of. If you're a long-term fan of the series or want something a little different with your next RTS, this might be what you're looking for.

[Note: Firefly Studios provided the copy of Stronghold: Warlords used for this review.]

Divide the Spoils — and Responsibilities — in Stronghold: Warlords Co Op Multiplayer Fri, 29 Jan 2021 17:09:07 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Stronghold: Warlords' multiplayer is breaking the mold a bit with a new co op mode that lets players team up to dominate the world. Firefly Studios showed Stronghold: Warlords' co op mode off in a lengthy new gameplay video and shared some insight.

Most RTS and civ-building games with multiplayer pit empires and friends against each other. Stronghold: Warlords does plenty of that in deathmatch mode, but co op lets players share resources and strategy together.

Firefly's Marketing Director Nick Tannahill said:

Stronghold is already a complex game for newcomers, with the mix of economic city building, castle simulation and real-time strategy.

Introducing co op means that one player can handle base building, while the other leads their forces into battle or prepares their defences for an incoming siege. 

Co op is a chance for experienced players to share their knowledge and help newcomers ease into Warlords' many systems, but beyond that, it's a way to divide tasks and increase efficiency in combat and management.

One player can stoke the home fires and handle diplomacy or economics, for example, and the other can wage global warfare and bring the nations under their thumb.

Firefly delayed Stronghold: Warlords so it would release with multiplayer, and that includes the newly announced co-op mode. Stronghold: Warlords releases March 9 for PC via Steam, and if our earlier hands-on experience and glimpse at new classes are anything to go by, it'll be worth the wait.

Firefly Delays Stronghold: Warlords to Make Multiplayer Adjustments Mon, 11 Jan 2021 16:20:34 -0500 Josh Broadwell

Firefly Studios has delayed its upcoming strategy title, Stronghold: Warlords, until March 9. The developer and publisher originally planned a January 26 release for the latest Stronghold game, but unexpected problems put a wrench in those plans.

"The game's multiplayer mode simply isn't ready to be released yet," Firefly said in a statement on Twitter.

Firefly continued by saying:

While we have tried very hard to resolve these [issues] within our current deadlines, we need more time to iron them out. ... we did consider releasing as planned, delaying Multiplayer [sic] to go live in a future update. However, as we have promised Multiplayer functionality for Stronghold: Warlords at launch for over a year now, releasing without it wouldn't be fair to players.

We thoroughly enjoyed getting our hands on a playable demo in September, praising its intricate strategy and unique unit choices, and we're more than fine to wait just a bit longer for the full version. Stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Stronghold: Warlords news as it develops.

Stronghold: Warlords Demo Hands-On — Cry Havoc Fri, 18 Sep 2020 07:00:01 -0400 Jordan Baranowski

Gather your troops, sharpen your axes, and let slip the dogs of war. The Stronghold series is on its way back.

The newest iteration, Stronghold: Warlords, is expected to ship in January 2021, and it offers a nice change of pace from previous games in the series.

We got to go hands-on with the newest demo of Stronghold: Warlords, learning the new systems in an attempt to conquer East Asia. There's a pretty steep learning curve if you've not played the series before, but the combat is extremely tactical and satisfying. The new warlord system also seems poised to offer ever-fluid tactics in each match.

Here's what we thought of this latest demo.

Intricate Strategy

This is a game that rewards patience and strategy, and can pull the rug out from under you in an instant.

Stronghold: Warlords aims to recreate castle economy and siege warfare in an RTS. Because of this, the game puts a premium on a tactical approach. Storming a well-fortified encampment is quite an endeavor, as penetrating thick walls while enemy archers pepper you from towers is a tough puzzle to solve in itself.

Luckily, you have a lot of different tools at your disposal in Stronghold: Warlords. In the latest build we got our hands on, those tools include three tiers of melee troops and three tiers of ranged troops, as well as a multitude of siege options, including ladder troops, cannons that fire flaming rockets, and oxen with fireworks strapped to them (!) that can suicide-bomb walls.

With the East Asia setting, there are all sorts of interesting weapons to play with, as fire and gunpowder innovations are on full display here. Everything looks great as it's playing out on screen, with explosions and fire blasting troops around and units dropping left and right.

It's wild (and a bit overwhelming) to watch play out.

Stronghold: Warlords really encourages you to think tactically; just marching a massive number of axemen at a walled-off fortification is going to get them all killed. This is a game that rewards patience and strategy, and can pull the rug out from under you in an instant.

There was one situation where I wasn't prepared for the AI to employ a certain strategy, and had no answer for its long-range siege weapons when they were brought into play. By the time I'd mustered a counter-attack, it was far (far) too late.

A Steep Curve

The first time we got our hands on a playable build of Stronghold: Warlords, we talked about how steep the learning curve is. That is definitely still the case. When the final version of the game comes out, there will surely be some tutorial tools that help teach you how to play, but in this demo, you are thrown right into the action.

It will take a lot of clicking through buildings and units before you start to figure out how everything works. Certain buildings can only be placed on certain terrains, but how they are actually placed there remains a mystery. Unit strengths vs. unit weaknesses will take both intuition and trial-and-error on your part, especially when you take on the new warlord units.

These are powerful, neutral units that you can win to your side through force or diplomacy. Each Warlord offersto the factions they are currently working with bonuses and strengths in the form of resources and soldiers. A huge part of the early game in each match appears to be trying to pick and win over the warlords who will most benefit your strategy, and then playing to your strengths to overwhelm your opponent's attempts at doing the same.

It will be interesting to see how much variety there is in the Warlord factions in the game's final release and how well balanced they are.

The diplomatic options seem like an interesting wrinkle as well, as you can earn diplomacy points like any other resource and then spend them to receive powerful bonuses. Overwhelming neutral forces with kindness is a unique spin on typical RTS gameplay, though it seems you'll almost always have to switch to brute force when nearing the end of matches.

A Good Taste

Overall, Stronghold: Warlords seems to be shaping up nicely. It's a unique change of pace for the RTS genre that seems more focused on strategy and clever plays rather than twitch reaction speed and micromanagement. The setting allows for some creativity, and it's great fun to watch all the moving pieces engage in a massive battle.

Hopefully, the developers can stick the landing when addressing polish, balance, and the game's learning curve. 

Stronghold: Warlords looks like it could be a great all-nighter when it releases in early 2021. Look for the new demo and give it a shot.

[Note: Firefly Studios provided the build of Stronghold: Warlords used for this hands-on demo.]

Stronghold: Warlords Musters Three New Unit Types Fri, 15 May 2020 17:18:16 -0400 Josh Broadwell

We still have to wait for Firefly Studios' excellent-looking Stronghold: Warriors to launch sometime this year. But the devs made the wait a bit easier with some new unit reveals for the latest in the storied Stronghold franchise: the Samurai, Imperial Guardsman, and Imperial Warrior.

There's a trailer giving a deep dive into the unit information as well, showing them in action and exploring the inspirations behind each class ability.

First up is the Samurai. Firefly said you can think of these as a successor to the classic Stronghold Knight unit, and they're perfect for taking on enemy Generals. Samurai are powerhouse units, meant to tackle difficult foes, strongarm their way through opponents, and shut them down with special abilities. One of those is Precision Strike which, along with being a strong move in itself, has a knockback effect that puts an enemy unit off balance.

Then there's the Imperial Guardsman, an expensive and super-strong unit designed to wreak widespread havoc. The Imperial Guardsman wields a mace in battle and can charge up a Heavy Attack that deals significant damage in a wide arc. They're ideal for attacking walls and siege engines, along with easily dispatching unarmored opponents.

Finally is the Imperial Warrior. This general-purpose soldier unit doesn't come equipped with a special ability, but that doesn't make them any less vital for your army. They have high armor ratings and resist archer fire, fire lancers, and most siege machines as well.

We recently went hands-on with Stronghold: Warlords and came away pretty impressed, if a bit confused with how certain parts play out. Still, we're looking forward to learning more, so stay tuned to GameSkinny for more Stronghold: Warlords news as it marches our way.

Stronghold: Warlords Hands-On Impressions: A Compelling Tease Thu, 16 Apr 2020 14:37:43 -0400 RobertPIngram

The Stronghold series of real-time strategy games is known for its unique use of castles and structures in a medieval setting, but developer Firefly Studios is looking to shake things up with the next release, Stronghold: Warlords, due out later this year.

Though we weren't able to try the game out at PAX East 2020, I was able to go hands-on with a playable demo of the game a few weeks fter the event. The brief experience provides plenty of reason for optimism, even if it was a bit confusing as a new player.

Although there are some new systems in place, much of the game's changes exist in the form of reskinning elements from the series to fit in with the change in setting from Europe to Asia.

Stronghold: Warlords Hands-On Impressions: A Compelling Tease

The primary new addition is that of warlords. These neutral commanders are a big change, however, the interface is relatively intuitive. You can subjugate the game's three neutral factions (one of which begins under your opponent's control) in one of two ways.

The most simple is brute force. Send your forces in and coerce the neutral warlord to bend the knee. Once you have gained their loyalty, you begin to spend Diplomacy points to gain favor that ranges from the delivery of supplies to commissioning army forces. Each warlord also provides a consistent bonus you don't need to pay for, such as free rocket launchers to break down enemy walls.

You can also use those same diplomacy points to win over warlords without bloodshed. The two neutral sides come at an affordable cost, however, the subjugated faction in the north costs you triple if you want to take the peaceful route.

These diplomacy points generate at a steady pace, with diplomatic buildings helping to increase the rate of diplomacy point production. 

While the demo I played is a short mission and can be completed inside of 10 to 15 minutes relatively easily, it does provide a promising look at how the new warlords system will work, and that it should appeal to the series' existing fans.

Deep Systems Make for Deep Strategy

While players familiar with the general feel of Stronghold games may be comfortable right away, as somebody new to the series, I struggled at first.

There's not holding a player's hand and then there's Stronghold: Warlords. While there is a brief explainer given on the new warlords system, I was otherwise thrown in to figure things out on my own.

Without a clear in-game explanation of the various developmental trees and economic systems, it was confusing as a rookie to figure out what was expected of me.

I ultimately got my first win by spawning a bunch of soldiers to defend the river I held, building my full allotment of diplomacy options and then relying on the powerful siege troops my warlords could provide me to break down the enemy's walls. After finding that to be effective but a bit unsatisfying, I went in search of some elaboration on a more effective way to play.

The good news is there are some helpful aides online that new players can check out. In particular, this video from the studio shows a successful approach to the mission, then returns a second time to give a more detailed look at the various systems and how to use them effectively.

As a newbie, it allowed me to go back and approach the mission again from a more tactical angle. (It also gives a great look at the game in action.)

While a brute-force approach was enough to carry me through the demo, playing again with a deeper understanding of the game's intricate and interlocking systems shows the game's true strength. It offers a tantalizing look at what will be expected of players in some of the more challenging campaign missions in the full release.

At the end of the day, the bite-sized taste at the game has me excited for a full serving. Although the classic look harkens back to some of the genre's original hits, the more complex economic systems add an extra level of strategy, and the new warlords system promises a fun way to further customize your preferred approach to a given mission.

[Note: A demo of Stronghold: Warlords was provided by Firefly Studios for the purpose of this hands-on preview.]