Medieval Lords: Build, Defend, Expand
Being the RTS addict I am, I was hooked a couple of years ago to Stronghold, a 2D strategy game where the goal was to build a medieval city. To me nothing could surpass the beautifully worked out gameplay of this game and I’ve since then been on the lookout for some kind of Stronghold in 3D. When Medieval Lords from Monte Cristo arrived at our office, I thought my dreams had come true and before anyone could blink their eyes, I had taken it into my possession. Bash goes medieval (bis), the result…
The first thing you notice when starting up the game is… the lack of a multiplayer option. Apparantly some devs still haven’t learned that adding such an option increases the lifetime of your game tremendously. Admit it, what’s nicer than to plant your flag on the head of your best friend after a historical “clash” between both your armies ?
Well, nothing to do about that so let’s start a singleplayer game. The first thing to notice is positive, the extremely beautiful graphics.
Build the main dungeon, add some houses, a well so my people can drink fresh water and a couple of sheep farms to supply the whole thing with food. Problem ! Within no time all available space on my island is used and I don’t have enough food for all my inhabitants and I’m attacked by a horde of viking assholes. With full confidence I send out my 100 soldiers to the battlefield with the idea to drive those vikings back into the sea. Not so, within 30 seconds after their landing on my terf they were already banging the door of my main dungeon. Game over, let’s check out that tutorial…
As said, the graphics are very beautiful for an RTS: the water has a nice shine to it, you see people harvesting the crops and bringing everything to your warehouses. You can take a look in first or third person perspective. In first person the houses are very detailed and you can see how nicely they fullfil their purpose. BUT, and this is the sad part: you don’t play an RTS in first person ! From the viewpoint that’s used by 95% of all gamers that will check this title out, the graphics are a lot less – although still decent.
The engine is completely 3D and you can rotate and turn to your wishes. Also all buildings can be turned 360 degrees to try make them fit perfectly. I say “try” as this can go wrong from time to time but I’ll explain that later on. Also the sound is good, but again the beautiful sound effects are only enjoyable when hovering the camera on top of the houses where you have absolutely no oversight anymore.
As I said in the introduction, I wanted to review this game at all cost due to the nostalgic thoughts on Stronghold. In this game you could build a completel mega-city and defend it against barbaric fighters, florish your economy and – last but not least – bash that annoying duke next door to you into the ground once and for all. This needed a lot of preparation but it happened, it could make your day.
I was hoping to retrieve this fun in gameplay in Medieval Lords but that didn’t really happen. There where Stronghold needed decent planning on where to put your city walls, I hardly ever built them in this game. After all, the enemy can get through your barricades in only a split second and will be heading for your main dungeon instantly. Very frustrating, especially when your army of soldier is standing 50 meters further and doesn’t even realise the very existence of your city is in danger and just nicely keeps camping.
Combat is certainly the weakest point of this game, and let that be responsible for almost all the fun in an RTS. Deploy as many cavalry of infantry troops (there goes the variation of units) in the enemy’s territory and afterwards a period of peace will follow. Afterwards your troops will drill through the walls and head for the main dungeon. Once this is destroyed you’ll control the city and the remaining enemy soldiers will have vanished from the earth. Often a counter-attack will follow so be prepared for that.
Doing a quick rush is not possible as the maximum amount of soldiers is dependent on your total population. Since you always need to start up a new city, it can take hours before you can send out a couple of thousand soldiers to a neighbouring town. From that moment on though, things can go pretty quick from the conquering side of things.
New technologies are not given by upgrades or going to a new age but by placing a single building, like an architect. The amount of these types of buildings is very little and therefore the same goes for the amount of available technologies. Mostly some of these buildings also get blocked in such a way that you can’t use their technology during a mission and you’ll have to depend on your primitive means.
The most beautiful aspect of the game is the development of your cities. It’s not enough to make as many houses as possible, it serves you more if these develop aswell. A house starts with level1 and can achieve a maximum of 9. At the lowest number, no taxes are paid and each level they rise more people will live in them and start paying you. Graphically this is portrayed very nicely: the houses evolve from small barns of straw to big stone buildings.
There’s 2 ways to push your evolution a bit, lowering taxes (boost to relaxation and decency) and building resources. Your city has a problem with unsafety feeling this is stopping your growth ? No worries, put up a hangtie and your security rating will rise immediately! Personally I find this equal to taking on the modern unsafety feeling by putting a nuclear missile base in the middle of a town’s center but oh well, strange people those Middle Agers…
The same way you can highten a low vice rating by building a chappel (later on you can even build a real cathedral) and a low health rating can be boosted with building an infermery. Once you’ve found a nice balance between food supplies and your population you’ll most certainly get a natural disaster over your head making that f.i. all crops can be harvested for only 20%… and that’s the end of your nice balance.
The placing of your buildings is crucial in this game. Some buildings give a boost to a certain parameter while others do the opposite and again others combine both. Therefore you need to find a location where the pro’s of the building are higher than the negative points, something that isn’t so simple. This makes the game a true city-builder (like Sim City but with limited combat) and not a traditional strategy game. As such this isn’t bad, but as buyer you’re not getting what you paid for and you’ll probably get tired of the building aspect after a while. When this happens, little is left to do except making your own scenario’s with the built-in terrain editor.
One last point: the interface! It will irritate you more than once and if you try setting up some crops fields this will automatically attach itself to a nearby road so it will not get the form you intended it to have. The same way, buildings change direction if they almost reach the road and believe me, after a while this really starts to play on your nerves.
I had hoped for a 3D version of Stronghold but instead got a faint mix of Stronghold and Sim City. Medieval Lords starts to bore pretty quickly because of the lack of multiplayer and the boring combat. You’ll be happy for hours with the design of your city but from the moment frustration turns up it won’t take much to put away the game and try something else to really have fun. And if you’ll excuse me know I’ll give Knights of Honor a try…