I learnt to respect the ox after checking out Stronghold: Warlords at E3

FireFly Studios’ Stronghold series has been a staple of my E3 experience for years. I first ran into the fine gents behind those lovely historical building sims over a fine glass of *insert ice cold beverage here* inside an RV at Devolver’s off-site location a while go in order to see one of their newest games at the time, and since then, I’ve had the pleasure of checking out their titles every so often. This year was no exception, as I got to see Stronghold: Warlords, the latest in the series, and probably the one that got me the most excited over their quick demonstration that took place in Concourse Hall at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

I don’t know about you, but the concept of setting poor oxen on fire in order to use them as a war machine seems absolutely ludicrous and cruel, but it was something that indeed happened for real in ancient China, and as soon as it was mentioned at the very beginning of the demo, all I could think about throughout the whole thing was “when are they gonna do it? Will they dare?!”. they did, but before getting to that, a little bit of background in regards to what Stronghold is all about, a building game that has you put together a castle, a namesake of the series, a stronghold, in order to withstand the attacks from enemy kingdoms or nations, be them controlled by the computer, or by other humans, or, how dare they, a mix of the two.

This time, though, Stronghold: Warlords is far from where the previous games have taken place in, in both physical and temporal terms, since we’re now in Asia, and the timeline fluctuates a lot, as we can now play as the Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mongols, and other cultures from that specific region throughout time as they fought, conquered, and eventually built their empires centuries ago. Firefly guided us through the demo as a pre-fab castle was ready to hold an attack, but a little bit of construction was shown as a wall as extended in order to show that it’s possible to suit your base layout the way you see fit, including whether or not you want a gate. I mean, having a gate seems like a sound tactical decision, but launching your armies over the wall might be a cost-effective reason to save a bit of gold, right? Still, if you are dead set at having one, you’re free to do so, along with other fortifications. The real ultimate weapon, the oxen, was nowhere to be seen. I was growing restless!

Upon finishing the gate preparations, an attack was launched by the opposition, but our defenses proved to be too much for them. Who ever thought bricks would be so deadly? Then again, I guess arrows also played their part in their downfall. Somehow, though, soldiers managed to sneak inside the castle, threatening our leader who stood atop his personal building without batting an eye. It’s still an alpha of the game, after all, and according to the devs, each leader will have their own set of skills for you to make use of, but ours was content with looking ahead stoically.

ss_94e102f6446e35eab07e70671149265cdIt was finally time to unleash the ultimate weapon as our friend from Firefly Studios zoomed to another point of the map, where a group of ruminants was ready to go, barrels strapped to their sides. We lit the fuse and they charged upon a huge group of enemy soldiers, torching them in the process. As the opposing force agonized, our demo of Stronghold: Warlords ended, and our small group of testers couldn’t help but chuckle.

Stronghold: Warlords seems to be in good terms with being historically accurate while delivering some entertaining humor from time to time. I’m quite sure the final version will have a lot more historical context for everything that goes on as you play through story mode, but the demo helped keep things light, and thanks to some easy of play features like being able to instantaneously build things, it was pretty quick to get deep into the action.

It might be a little while until you can launch your deadly bovine attack, though. Stronghold: Warlords is still relatively early in development and won’t be launching into sometime next year for PC, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth the wait.


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