|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Firefly Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: GameCock||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 3, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
Stronghold Crusader Extreme is not a new game. It's not even an expansion pack. It's a slightly updated version of the original Stronghold Crusader with some new missions added that are guaranteed to have you tearing your hair out, and that's never a good thing. This is not a cheap package, so you may want to consider your level of brand loyalty to the Stronghold series before you rush out and buy this game. It does come with both versions, (as I like to call them Normal and Impossible), in which case I would suggest newbies hunt down the original version that will be available at a discounted price. It will also be a lot easier on your sanity.
New modes, missions, items, and maps, apparently put the "extreme" in Stronghold Crusader Extreme. Graphically, the game has not been improved in the slightest. It looks like something from the 20th century. It's presented in gloriously pixilated 2D. It's not a pretty looking game. I've seen better detail sown into a throw pillow. The maximum resolution is 1024 x 768. It's not like this game has such classic status that the original graphics are considered charming. If you're going to update an ancient game, update it to the present century. As another indication of overlooked production values, most of the communication is text-based. There is the odd voiceover in-game, but it's mostly ambient stuff such as battle cries.
Stronghold Crusader Extreme is extreme in some instances, especially the challenges, which are frustratingly difficult. They hinge on making a key decision within a short time period. This is an economic sim-style game, not an action adventure title. I am all up for challenges, but at least implement them within the structure of the gameplay genre. Whereas a good economic sim plays out with the complexity of a chess match, the 20 new missions offered here are more like puzzle elements with a time limit, not unlike a series of mini-games.
In the first mission, I have little more than a minute to gather my resources and create something to defend my kingdom before I get annihilated. There isn't enough time to go about the usual method of empire building, so you have to channel your resources into a few specific areas. The problem is it's trial and error. There is not enough information to make an educated decision. After about the tenth time I was able to pick the right combination of strategic elements and finally avert disaster. I don't consider this fun, challenging, or extreme. And don't get all high and mighty on me if you happen to guess right the first time, because all you did was guess, and that has nothing to do with strategy.
As with most games of this genre, the idea is to gather resources and use them as effectively as possible to build your empire. Unlike the current trend away from fussy micromanagement, Stronghold Crusader Extreme wallows in it, although it does so in a way that feels more natural than many of its old-school contemporaries. That's why the game enjoyed such popularity in its heyday.