When I was in grade school I got an assignment to build a model castle. Naturally, I turned to David Macaulay’s book “Castle”, which I expect many Stronghold fans to be familiar with. I’ve put his design to the test in this scenario. Actually, I’m going by memory and a blueprint I found on the web because I can’t find my old copy of the book. I’ve also taken some liberties, such as using square towers instead of round towers in order to maintain visual continuity, and embellishing the city.
In terms of the game design, I’ve dispensed with having to clear out the animals since this would have been done by now. Also, I tire of games where everything is thrown at you - plagues, fires, rabbits, etc. so you won’t find that here. Instead, the difficulty is preparing for a large battle, 4 battles really, with little time and resources. Balancing this is difficult, since I know what’s coming. So if I’ve made it too easy PLEASE let me know. I’ll definitely update the scenario if its too easy, but the problem is too few people leave comments.
The challenge of landscape design for me is to incorporate resources that must be there, iron, stone, pitch, and wood in a believable natural way. Too many maps have large uniform fields of iron or stone, which doesn’t make any sense to me. Also, too few people try to make a hydrologically or geologically believable map. That’s what I try to do here, especially with the peninsular river mouth. You’ll notice that much of the map is sea. Again, this is an effort to make a realistic place rather than simply take up space.
The balance of power has shifted against the King. Once loyal lords have banded together to dethrone Him. Supply routes will be crucial in this war, meaning the enemy must control overseas shipping lanes. To do this, the grand castle nicknamed “The Great Watcher”, which stands high on an outcropping overlooking the sea and standing vigil over the waves must fall. Unfortunately for you, although The Great Watcher is superbly defensible, it is not prepared for an all-out assault. With trade routes cut, you can only purchase food - no weapons or raw materials. Your unenviable task is to scramble for supplies, raise whatever army you can, and survive. If The Great Watcher falls, loss of the Kingdom is only a matter of time.
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This is another solid map by Benthos and is quite the opposite of the Seven Samurai. Here you have a massive fortification and a very large town to run all while fending off four successive invasions. I only vaguely remember David McCauley’s Castle. I have not seen the book since my childhood. Though not able to base my review on this aspect of the map, there is plenty to commend and review otherwise.
Playability 4/5 Once again this is a fast paced invasion map posted as a siege. The AI attacks well on an easy level of difficulty. You will be hard pressed to develop an army of any decent size before the first wave of attackers is upon you. Fortunately the author has provided you with some assistance for this initial assault. You may find this difficult to get the hang of and I admit I had to play it on easy at first. On normal difficulty I occasionally ran into a problem; if the attacking forces of one wave are not wiped out, and due to the large size of this map you do tend to get stragglers, the forces of the next wave will sometimes (not always) refuse to attack. This gives the defender extra time to repair and reinforce the defenses thus ruining some of the challenge. As I already stated this problem was intermittent and usually game play was ok.
Balance 4/5 Generally good, I personally felt a little more time between attacking waves was needed as you primarily end up relying on ballistic units to defend the castle. Different units would have made this more of a fight. I was just itching for a good fight inside the town! Alas, other than bowmen you never have enough armored troops to launch a counter attack. More time would also have given you longer to eliminate any stragglers from one of the enemy waves and may have rid this map of the problem noted in Playability. Benthos has given the player a good amount of peasants to get your town up and running. You are also given enough funds to run the town in the latter stages of the game when most of your farming industry is wiped out. This is good work as it allows you to focus on more important matters like redeploying troops and repairing your defenses for the next and naturally harder wave. Nice job overall.
Creativity 4/5 from what I remember it does look like David McCauley’s Castle. Regardless, it is a good idea and this castle on the coast is very well rendered. The town and farming land is pleasingly laid out in a very ordered pattern. The town includes a maze, Main Street and even a church with a nice looking graveyard. A lot of effort went into making this a map not only fun to play but a joy to look at as well.
Map Design 4/5 This map is definitely a step up from the author’s previous submission. Benthos has put a lot more effort into providing the player with a well-rendered landscape. I am not trying to be a hard case but I just feel the work is still a little rough. Some missed parts of the waterfall have led to some very strange and unrealistic elevations. One corner defense turret of the castles outer ward has been overlapped with a rock. This destroys its appearance from certain angles by altering part of the turrets height. These are easy fixes and the map is definitely worth updating IMO.
Story /Instructions 5/5 this is how you do it. The download description page is very informative and lets you understand what the map is about. The story provided on the launch page is not just good but also sets the scenario. Benthos has done a great job in this department.
In Short - this is an entertaining and tough download. I recommend it to anyone who is in the mood for a fast paced, challenging invasion. Great Stuff Benthos!