A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The values of civic growth, empire building, and prosperity are tempered by taxation and players conquering rival civilizations.
Positive Role Models
You create the kind of kingdom you wish, becoming a tax-heavy tyrant (who will lose followers) or a conquering hero who unifies and builds toward prosperity.
Ease of Play
Intuitive control scheme and menu options; easy to pick up for first-time strategy gamers.
Violence & Scariness
Although the camera can be zoomed out, you can see close-ups of enemies behind hacked or clubbed to death, with blood spattering. Bodies lie about and are absorbed into the environment. Battle sounds of metal on metal, screams of pain.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A hops farm and a brewery (created to make ale) increase happiness among followers.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Stronghold Crusader II is a downloadable real-time strategy game set in the late 12th century, with players taking on the role of a castle lord. The game features a tutorial, learning campaigns, skirmish trials (six pre-built scenarios), customizable scenarios, and a sandbox mode. There are references to alcohol as a way to keep followers happy. Although the camera can be pulled back from the action, it also can zoom in to show enemies (and the player's own troops) being bludgeoned and hacked to death with sprays of blood. Bodies remain on the ground for a while before slowly being absorbed by the environment, and screams of pain can be heard during battle. An Internet connection is necessary for multiplayer, and players can download unrated maps and content from the community.
Is It Any Good?
Stronghold Crusader II has improved on the original with new enemy AI, making it much smarter in battle. It's also introduced new combat units and buildings. The game feels more intuitive, and the graphics, both from a distance and up close, are solid. The civilization-building elements remain strong, and some interface features that seem to have simplified the game really help when it comes to adjusting taxes and keeping people at your keep happy (which bolsters your forces and resources). The game guides you in this area, giving you a reasonable expectation of the consequences of your actions. Different maps are available, which in turn create different dynamics in the warfare.
Where Stronghold Crusader II falters is the core gameplay; this isn't a fresh take on the strategy genre. The interface is intuitive but doesn't really hold players accountable for micromanaging the keep once it's built. Plus, the game seems to have oversimplified the civic-planning elements to allow players to move into combat without consequences back home. This shift in focus toward combat and away from the civilization aspects weakens the gameplay that exemplifies strategy games. That could be the reason why the multiplayer community seems scarce -- we continually tried to play opponents but never found anyone online. Overall, Stronghold Crusaders II provides a good take on the RTS genre, and it's certainly worth a look for strategy fans, but its issues hold it back from being a great game.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.