Stronghold: Warlords

Game review by
Michael Lafferty, Common Sense Media
Stronghold: Warlords Game Poster Image
Complex strategic battles held back by slow empire building.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

The inherent message in civ-building games is keeping your population happy. Stronghold: Warlords follows this, thus creating a positive message through population management. Fail to keep the population content, and your empire falls apart. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

How you manage your population puts the burden on the player to create either a positive experience or not. As for the actual characters, this is a conquest game where the bigger, better equipped army using the best strategy wins. 

Ease of Play

Drag-and-drop and point-and-click makes menu navigation easy. But the game's a time sink, and the diplomacy elements can be hit and miss. Some of your neighbors just seem bent on combat, and multiplayer has some veterans of the genre lurking in the lobby -- which makes the multiplayer elements challenging. 

Violence

Combat's viewed from a distance and while the armies will fall down and litter the battlefield with bodies, they quickly dissolve into the ground. There's no blood. The combat's driven by metal melee weapons, guns, and ranged attacks with bows and trebuchets. 

Sex
Language
Consumerism

This is the latest entry in the Stronghold franchise.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Stronghold: Warlords is a downloadable strategy game for Windows PCs. This is the latest chapter in the Stronghold franchise, and  features empire building through resource gathering and conquest. The time frame of the game is 3 B.C. to 1200 A.D. in Asia and lets players re-enact famous battles. While there's a solid civilization creation element in a sandbox setting, as well as diplomatic tactics, the conquering element is a main theme. The violence is kept minimal, without blood or gore, but the game does require time to collect the resources to build an empire, and players will need to think quickly as battles play out fluidly. 

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What's it about?

Recreating the historic Eastern time period of 3 B.C. to 1200 A.D., STRONGHOLD: WARLORDS challenges players to build a civilization, recruit neighboring warlords to the cause, fend off attacks from all enemies and conquer the world. This title relies on some tried-and-true civ-building mechanics and is another entry in a strong line of Stronghold titles. Warlords offers up different units based on the warlord selected by the player, and each warlord recruited will bring different perks to the empire. The game allows for a sandbox single-player game with an 'estates' map that shows neighbors to effectively plan strategy. Players will have the option to use diplomacy or trade, or just go for the jugular with an attack. Will you be able to rule over the land and defeat the other warlords that challenge your territory?

Is it any good?

While there are some new elements, the over-arching strategy here follows a familiar theme -- collect resources, build your city, create army units and conquer the world. Featuring three single-player locations in its civilization building mode (a jungle clearing, the open steppes or an island that really doesn't lend itself to invasion), Stronghold: Warlords is a huge time sink. Resources take time to collect and there's a definite way things have to work. For example, you can have an iron mine, but unless you have oxen to transport the iron to your warehouse, the mine will produce but not help your society. Of course, to build the buffalo tether for transport, you need wood -- which may well be the slowest resource to accumulate. What's also questionable is that the accents of the narrators are terrible, and almost seem like a mockery of the culture at times -- particularly when asking if you wish to save the game or overwrite the previous save. Apart from that, the other audio elements are well done.

When it comes to the actual warfare, Warlords is a solid game, although it's a bit unspectacular. The visual elements are solid and filled with eye candy, and the combat looks intense -- which may make this a tougher game to manage for younger players. The time frame is intriguing, but merely naming characters or locales after historical elements doesn't make this a game that 'replays' history. This is a good civ-building game with elements that fans of the genre might appreciate, and some of the settings might make for a good introduction to the genre for younger players, but things don't happen quickly here and building the empire takes far too much time for casual gamers. But for veterans of the franchise, this could be an appealing way to spent multiple hours conquering rival generals.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the Asia cultures depicted in Stronghold: Warlords. What influences did this time frame and civilization have on the world? What made the Asian culture intriguing and what elements are players not fond of?

  • What are some activities that require strategy to be successful? How often does a plan have to be adjusted to fit circumstances? Can you think of situations that highlight this concept?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love strategy

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