Stronghold Warlords (SHW) is an upcoming installment of the Stronghold main series, dated to be released on March 9, 2021. It is the fourth member of the mainline Stronghold Series.
Setting and gameplay[edit | edit source]
Stronghold Warlords is set to play in the vast territories of Eastern Asia, featuring four nations from across history: the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mongols and the Vietnamese.
Emphasis continues to be on the sim aspect of Stronghold, managing castles and building armies, while keeping an eye on the economy and the everyday lives of the townsfolk. Players can build various fortifications to protect themselves, as well as industrial buildings to build up supplies and cater to civilian and recruitment needs. Units can be recruited from the barracks or the military academy, with the former requiring equipment for each unit.
Players can also engage into a new aspect of battle: diplomacy, which boils down to controlling newfound non-player characters, warlords.
The game comes with updated visuals and a redesigned user interface. Resources and the popularity panel are now permanently shown, and selected units get a dedicated screen showing attack and defense values.
Features[edit | edit source]
The Warlords system[edit | edit source]
Warlords are the successors of the estate system from previous games.
The world map is divided into estates, each of them now represented by a Warlord. All of them have their own benefits and traits, making them economically and diplomatically different (for example, the Horse is more economy-based, while the Pig is more military-focused). Warlords provide benefits for their owners and their capabilities can be furthered by spending Diplomacy points for one-time actions, such as sending resource shipments or upgrading their defenses. Diplomacy points can be earned through government buildings, like embassies.
Popularity system rework[edit | edit source]
The popularity system continues the same tradition that Stronghold 3 laid out, with a few tweaks.
Peasant migration is influenced by the sign of the popularity balance. Peasants now only require rice for food consumption. Food types on their own have their own consumption rate, which can be individually toggled for varying popularity rates. Tea, a fourth type of food requires a tea house for consumption. Clothes are an additional source of consumed product that feature a complex production chain but boast the largest base popularity rate.
AI rework[edit | edit source]
The AI in Stronghold Warlords got an overhaul in terms of decision making and management. While previous incarnations required strict rules in terms of building army groups and build order, now the AI prioritizes construction according to its needs. Each AI is given a rough castle template, inside which buildings will be placed in separate quadrants based on their type: weapon production, food production, civilian and other production.
The AI also recruits troops based on their unit preference, depending on their troop pool and what the situation requires. The AI also manages its troops depending on stance. Normally, the AI keeps its units at home, with ranged defenders mounting the walls and melee units located at the keep, only to send them out later for raids against warlords and player targets. When pressured, the AI will prioritize recruiting troops and withdraw all of them to its castle.
The AI is also accomodated to using the warlords. They tend to have a very high preference on capturing any they can lay their hands on, however they use their edicts very conservatively, relegating them mostly to their shipment options and upgrading their defense. When the AI has a very developed castle, he tends to funnel diplomacy more into rank upgrades, however barely using them for attacks.
Recurring features[edit | edit source]
- The Scribe returns to give remarks once again about events and happenings.
- Strong walls: a multiplayer option, which makes walls impervious to infantry attacks
- Estates (separate from Warlords' estates)
- Fear Factor
- Classic siege units and unit archetypes
- Single-player campaigns and multiplayer skirmish
New features[edit | edit source]
- Gunpowder-type tower engines, units and traps
- New raw materials: saltpeter, gunpowder, silk, tea leaves
- New food types: tea, rice, vegetables, meat
- New weapons: axe, lance, heavy mace
- Housing quality (affects popularity)
- Engine platforms that can be attached on walls
- Units from various Asian cultures: Vietnam, Mongolia, China, Japan
History[edit | edit source]
Stronghold Warlords has been worked on since 2015, after the release of Stronghold Crusader 2. Initially, Firefly Studios had been hinting that a new Stronghold game is in development, however did not proceed on revealing information until much later.
In 2018, Firefly revealed that this particular game had still been being worked on, under the codename 'Stronghold Next', which spawned a series of insider and Q&A videos on YouTube, granting insights into the development process and the studio. Most importantly, these media also sparked a connection with the fanbase. Since then, the studio has been uploading videos addressing nostalgic moments, featuring community maps/mods and interviews with various staff members.
In June 2019, the next game has been revealed as 'Stronghold Warlords', which was shown a first footage from pre-alpha stage and an official intro as well, to the audience of E3 2019. Both videos highlighted the new addendum, the Warlords system that defines this particular sequel, along with the new Eastern Asian setting.
By September 2019, Stronghold Warlords entered alpha stage. Graphics have improved, while gameplay has smoothed. Various gameplay aspects were shown in great detail on the demo map.
At PAX East 2019, Firefly set up gaming booths with an alpha demo of Stronghold Warlords, where participants could play a 15 minutes long survival mode-style mission.
The game was featured at the next PAX expo in Spring 2020, presenting a siege scenario involving more negotiation options with warlords and showcasing more troops. This version has been shared with the community, enabling access to the game for a limited time. The demo is currently accessible to those that participate in the Discord MetaGame and spend 500 gold in the shop to buy a Steam key.
Stronghold Warlords was featured at the IGN Summer Event on June 11th, 2020. This event saw the announcement of the game's release date as September 29th, 2020, as well as a montage from the game's buildings and battle scenes.
Due to the ongoing regulations related to COVID-19 and consequentially slowing work pace on the game, Firefly Studios had to postpone the release date to January 26th in Fall 2020.
On January 11th 2021, the game's release got delayed an additional time to March 9th, 2021, as some critical errors arose during the development of Multiplayer mode.
Connection with the community[edit | edit source]
Firefly Studios operates their own Discord server, where it is possible to discuss various Stronghold-related topics, both of Warlords and existing games. The team also collects feedback, while also drip-feeds information about Warlords once in a while (usually not long before an official video is published). Every member can choose to join one of three empires in order to access the channels: The Mongolian Horde, The Japanese Shogun or the Chinese Dynasty.
A series of community challenges called "MetaGame" is on-going on the server. Each group is facing a situation that must be resolved collectively by voting on several options (similar to a role-playing game). Group members have to make essential decisions, which affect both the status quo and the faction itself. Individual members can earn money from working, committing crime or robbing other users (crime and robbery may involve fines as well). Each option can be done once every 11 hours. The votes deadline usually after a few days.
The first round of MetaGame concluded in the end of March 2020 with the victory of the Horde. After the Horde was gifted the New PAX East 2020 version, they decided to have the runners-up handed the same version as well, instead of the Fall 2019 survival scenario version.
The second round of MetaGame introduced guilds, which produced goods and paid their members daily. Goods could be sold by guilds on the market for the faction leaders, which could be used to gain the upper hand in the faction's quests. As an added burden, factions were taxed daily. The round concluded without a contest, with the release of Warlords on March 9th.