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Stronghold 2

Being a King is ace. Don't just take my word for it - turn your eyes towards the secondary evidence of the history books. Check how many rulers have their cause of death listed as consuming a 'surfeit of lampreys'. One would be strange enough, but the number of monarchs whose guts have been ripped asunder by one-too-many jellied eels is frightening. Being able to gorge yourself to gastric-gut-explosions? Now that's a job. And with Stronghold 2, Firefly are attempting to bring you closer to that experience of Lordhood than previously thought possible. Yes.

Between them, Stronghold and its skirmish-based 1.5 sequel Stronghold: Crusaders managed to be something of a sleeper hit, selling one and a half million copies to would-be castle architects and defenders. The premise was a simple one: build and besiege castles, in an RTS-style world. Stronghold 2 expands the basics in a number of ways, while trying hard to increase the depth of the simulation with altogether new features. For example, the aforementioned Lordiness. The new 'honour' resource is accumulated by you setting about accomplishing tasks that have a certain chivalric bent to them. While low levels of honour can be accrued from small tasks, such as the constant scribbling of monks' calligraphy pens, larger projects bring bigger bonuses. For example, holding a medieval banquet with a single boar is clearly a little bit embarrassing - but one fully stocked with enough wine, ale, eels and hot pig for everyone will send your ratings skywards. With dozens of other elements like 'gong' gathering (assorted detritus and human poop, medieval euphemism non-fans), crime outbreaks and disease-fighting, on the economic side there's a lot more to deal with even before a blow is struck in anger.

And it's all done in 3D. Now, while "It's game X... but in 3D" has been a standard marketing recipe since decent processors were invented, Stronghold uses its graphics for much more than merely updated aesthetics. Where previously constructing castles proved awkward, now towering citadels can be formed by painting walls onto the map. They function in a more accurate manner, too. Don't expect to see an archer slowly knocking down a wall as in the original - you're going to need battering rams, climbing gear or catapults to get around those stony constructs. Additionally, this 3D physicality means that the castle's use as an engine of war in itself can be better portrayed, with the opportunity to carefully craft killing zones. Every interior is now detailed, so you can even install your own spiral staircases for those all-important Errol Flynn-style swordfights. Also, when you're not fighting, the smoothly disappearing walls let you study the everyday lives of your citizens, making Stronghold 2 the best medieval history lesson this side of the smelly-vision Viking centre in York.

With two narrative campaigns, one for an economic-centred player and one for the RTS-heads, skirmish modes, historical play and multiplayer, it looks like Stronghold 2's going to make a whole lot of gamers feel their home (PC) is their castle.

Stronghold 2 will be advancing on to your PC in July

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