E3 2019 Hands-on – Stronghold: Warlords

I’m one of those weirdos who spends most of his time building visually appealing and symmetric towns and bases in strategy games rather than focusing on creating a ginormous army as quickly as possible. This is why I feel the Stronghold games were tailor made for me: they put a heavy emphasis on building your castle, your defenses, and your overall economy, all while you defend yourself against invaders. The thing I didn’t like about Stronghold, however, was that it was mostly set in Medieval Europe, easily my least favorite historical period, a period devoid of color and architectural variety. Thankfully enough, Stronghold: Warlords, the upcoming game in the franchise, remedies that.

Stronghold: Warlords is the franchise’s debut on an ancient Asian period. You can play as the Mongols, the Japanese, the Chinese or the Vietnamese. Not being stuck in old Europe means that, for the first time in the series, you’ll actually see lots of colors onscreen, with beautiful pagodas, rice fields, jungles and temples. It also allows for some creative units, as the Asians had access to gunpowder centuries before the Europeans. Bomb arrows? Check. Fire lancers? Check. Oxen carrying packs of explosives that act as suicide bombers, which were easily my favorite thing included in the entire game? Check, check and check.

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Where’s my explosive ox when I need it?

Another main addition to the game was the inclusion of randomly generated warlords scattered throughout the map. By conquering those warlords, either by force or by negotiating resources, you’ll control their armies and receive a few boosts, depending on their class. That might range from passive increases to your economic production to attack buffs. They can also send their army to help you out in case of an emergency, quickly turning the tide of battle.

With all that said, I was mostly glad that I could finally play a more modern take on the RTS genre featuring civilizations from Asia. With great graphics, great usage of color, a vastly improved AI, a simple yet effective warlord diplomacy system, and a brand new feudal coat of paint, I ended up enjoying my time with Stronghold: Warlords at E3 2019. Titles like this one make me feel hopeful for an eventual RTS comeback, even though the game doesn’t have a specified release date. All we know is that it’s coming out in 2020. I can’t wait.

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