I will always remember the first video games I played, the ones that hooked me forever into computer gaming.
One of those I so dearly love even today is the Stronghold series by Firefly studios. When the first of the games came out, I remember my dad brought it back and allowed us to play on what is now an ancient Macintosh.
The historically themed, real-time, strategy game puts you in the shoes of a young king who was seeking vengeance for his slain father, and to rid the land of oppression.
Mastering the in-depth systems of agriculture and commerce were just as important as building outer walls and military might. With raiding groups of enemies, assaulting armies and famine all coming after you, the balance you had to find was the key.
For instance, to sell beer, you first had to have a hops farm, then a brewery, then an inn to sell and, most importantly, customers to buy the beer and people to work in those establishments.
As king, you could levy taxes in large; or smaller amounts. Taxing too high would lead your people to grow angry with you, so you either lowered taxes to appease them or used other methods of counteracting the unrest.
Dealing with turmoil was a very real problem you had to expect. You could strike fear into the peasants hearts, thereby quelling their complaints, or you could give them something to make them happier. Like lots and lots of beer.
With your castle’s community in constant need of maintenance, you had your hands full without having to deal with your military. But thankfully, fighting huge battles was tons of fun.
You had many classes of soldiers, even more in later Stronghold installments, and you gained access to more by progressing through the story. My favorite were probably the pikemen, with fairly heavy armor, second only to the knight, and a high damage output. Their one drawback was their slow movement, but it was a good balance.
Finally, after building your castle and protecting it, you could lay siege to your enemies to even the score.
This is where siege engines came into play, massive constructions of war that could be used to batter a door down, or to launch stones at the walls or even at groups of troops.
Another cool feature was the map editor and the historic battles you could lead, attacking famous castles or defending them.
This game was a large factor in making me the gamer I am today. It caused me to think faster, build better and do more tactical thinking at the age of 9 years or so. I have two or three copies laying around and it will forever be one of my all time favorites.
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