In recent months Firefly has finished their game Stronghold kingdoms, an MMO with a twist. In the game you start with a single village, in a county of your choosing, and rise to power in what ever way you see fit. So how does this game compare to the cult legacy of the stronghold franchise? And in what way does it set itself apart from the rest?
When starting a game of Stronghold Kingdoms you are first required to choose a server to join, you can play on multiple servers but only boosts you pay for carry over. things carry over. I decided to join ‘world 6’, and I was soon greeted with a map of Great Britain and Ireland, even the Isle of Mann was there, being from Northern Ireland myself I thought it was only right to go for Ireland, only to realise that I could not start in my native northern counties, and my other start options were in the south of England and in Scotland, so to Mayo in the west of Ireland I go, I land in a lovely little place called “Bellavary” and instantly wonder if this is actually a real place, turns out after a quick google that it is ( well Ballyvary but props for trying at least) and I instantly feel all happy knowing that eventually all the little villages that I grew up around would also be on this map, I’m liking this already.
I decided that in a game like stronghold kingdoms you have to give a few days for it to really get going, I also had some house-mates playing along ( two started before me, two after me) and we quickly realised that this was a game on the wrong platform. The mouse heavy game play and the fact that it has no RTS elements left from the Stronghold main series, you simply place and queue up buildings and research, leave it up in the background and go back to the social network of your choice, this is an iOS game, only it’s not, you cannot get this on any iOS or android platform, it currently only runs on windows only. I find this incredibly odd because not only do the game play mechanics strongly suit the mobile market, but so do the micro purchases.
Stronghold kingdoms is free to play, however, like all free to play games it needs to make money somewhere, it does this through allowing you to directly buy a currency called ‘Crowns’ you buy in staggered amounts with ( British pounds sterling) £3.22 buying you 60 crowns and £102.99 buying you 3150 crowns, you then spend these crowns on two different things, one of which is fine and simply allows you to be more lazy and the other allows you to ‘pay to win’. Premium tokens and Card packs are what you buy with your fake money, premium tokens allow you to stack buildings and research, meaning that you don’t have to come back on every couple of hours, It can automatically scout resources or sell excess, it can even train your peasants into troops while they show up and while you sleep, This is what I expect from a game like this, tokens that allow you to be a bit more lax and lazy in your approach, but don’t break the game, you don’t generate resources faster or gain more research points, just an extra couple of hours away. Card packs however are something infuriating to the extreme, unsurprisingly they give you cards, you can play them at any time without cost or limit, you can only buy packs and they cost between 8 to 10 crowns each, while some give you more resources and some extra troops, some make armies move 20 times as fast and some mean that you gain extra resources, they can seriously unbalance the game to the point where players who do not buy cards are just incapable of keeping up. Firefly tries to balance this by giving everyone cards slowly, however this also relies on buying crowns to get the most possible, when your check and balance need to be balanced you have yourself a pricing problem.
But then why is the game still going, bad pricing like this would punish most games and balance issues would cause rage quits everywhere, but they don’t, heck I’m complaining but I still have it up in the background even as I write this article. Why? The answer lies in in people, and how much we all love to screw each other over.
Shortly after starting I was contacted by the owner of my ‘parish’ – the market town to which my tiny village belonged- he made me his friend and we came to talking, he was a nice guy that provided me with troops to defend my tiny castle and stone to build my markets. Everything remained peaceful in Ireland until one day the English did what they are known to do in Ireland, invading and destroying every village that they find only to replace them with there own. Next thing I know me and my friends in our little faction are caught up in a storm and are about to be stomped. Only we aren’t, we survive. How? Well in stronghold Kingdoms you can do anything. Merchant, Mercenary and Monk they all have there roles, but I found my play style very different. I’m the spy, and my goodness is it fun! While we sit there in our tiny faction “feeding” the larger factions with resources and armies, I’m sending attack plans to there enemies. The best part is that no one suspects a thing, and why would they, being a spy is something that anyone can do, you don’t need to research the ability to message another player, and honestly, I’m just a little person with lots of monks and merchants why am I a danger? The game may be as unfair as a game at a carnival, but really that just makes it all the more enjoyable, when a peasant wipes out a knight because of my correctly relayed info I know that I’m making a direct change in the game, and that is something that you don’t see on many MMO’s let alone one so simple and easy to get into.
To conclude Stronghold Kingdoms is an unbalanced game with pay to win incorporated, It revolves around people being mean and aggressive, and it is so incredibly unique in how it evolves it’s own set of politics on every world I still think it’s worth a look. They have recently launched their English speaking world 7, The game is free, interesting, and challenging. I would recommend downloading it from their site, or Steam just to give it a go. This is a game for me but it won’t be for everyone. I guess some people are just not meant to rule.