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Stronghold: Crusader is the successor to Firefly Studios's 2001 game Stronghold. Crusader has much in common with the original Stronghold, but differs from its predecessor in the fact that the game is no longer set in a pseudo-Europe, instead being set in the Middle East during the Crusades.  The game features several new Arabian units that can be purchased in a new building, the mercenary post. Though the Arabian troops do not require any resources to produce, they are rather expensive. The game was also released as Stronghold Warchest. This version was a compendium of Stronghold and an enhanced version of Stronghold: Crusader, containing additional characters and an additional Crusader Trail.
Stronghold Warchest was only released in North America, meaning players in the rest of the world have never encountered the second Crusader Trail, or second set of characters. This changed when an updated version of Stronghold Crusader, Stronghold Crusader Extreme was released in early 2008.
Stronghold Crusader features several real-time strategy campaign strings. These document the First, Second and Third Crusade, as well as conflicts within the individual Crusader states. Each campaign comprises several battles, such as Nicea, Heraclea, siege of Antioch, Krak des Chevaliers and the Siege of Jerusalem. The game also features the Crusader Trail, a series of 50 linked missions against various opponents. Stronghold Warchest adds two more Crusader Trails, one consisting of 30 linked missions and an Extreme Trail consisting of 20 linked missions.
The gameplay is similar to the original Stronghold, the major difference being that the game is set in the Middle East. As a consequence, farms can only be built on oasis grass, which leads to rivalry among players for limited farmland and resources. The game adds new AI opponents (the number depending on the version of the game) and several new Arabian units purchasable from a mercenary post. The color of the player's units have also been changed from blue to red in order to match the colors of the Knights Templar.
The game contains several different characters, available to be selected as allies and enemies. The opponents from the original game make a return, as well as new Arabian lords and crusaders being available.
- The Rat(Duc de Puce): The Rat was raised as an only child in lands belonging to the de Puce family. The duke showed his mother favour ensuring that she never paid taxes and always had enough to get by. One day a messenger came by and it was revealed that his father was the same Duc de Puce whom his mother had once worked for as a serving wench. Due to an unfortunate accident the entire de Puce family had been lost at sea whilst returning from holiday leaving the Rat as next in line to inherit the title of Duke.
- The Snake (Duc Beauregard): The Snake was once governor of some of the richest provinces in the homeland where he made an extremely fruitful living from underdeclaring the taxes he collected but, when the king found out, he had him posted here to the 'new colonies'. During one of his first military encounters, he went up against the Lord’s father losing an eye to him in combat. On that day the Snake swore he would not rest until the decapitated heads of your entire family were lined up on spikes outside his keep.
- The Pig (Duc de Truffe):When the Pig was born it is rumoured he looked so hideous that his parents abandoned him in the street. Whatever the case, it is known that he was taken in by a group of traveling bandits who raided small towns and villages throughout the homeland. Whilst growing up with this small army of rogues he was vastly underfed; however, after developing a crude but effective understanding of basic military tactics and being nominated as their leader, the Pig made sure that he had first call on the best foods after each raid and has overeaten ever since. He is quite tough, and won't go down without a fight.
- The Wolf (Duc Volpe): The Wolf's past is shrouded in mystery and what is known of his history is mainly patched together from stories and unreliable rumours alone. This aside, it is believed that both his parents died from natural causes in close succession shortly after his eighteenth birthday.
- Richard the Lionheart: The Lionheart has a reasonable grasp of the region's economy for a soldier, but it is in the field of battle where he is in his element. Brave and fearless, his ability to siege a castle is second to none.
- Saladin: More than any other Lord, Saladin dominates the desert economy. He will be in no great rush to lead his forces out into the field, but when he strikes, it will be from a position of power.
- The Caliph: Cruel and vindictive, the Caliph is skilled at bringing misery to both his own people and to yours. If he can get his tyrannical act together, his underhand methods of fighting will prove a constant thorn in your side.
- The Sultan: The Sultan is more...say...a poet, than a warrior, preferring feasting to the humdrum matters of running his own castle. In short not the sharpest sword in the desert. His people love him, however, and his soldiers will fight well to defend him.
The following characters only appear in Stronghold Warchest (though the first three are downloadable from the main site)
- Philip II of France:King Phillip seeks glory and prestige from his desert adventure. His reckless insistence on the use of his knights as his main fighting force is more often than not, his undoing.
- Emperor Frederick: Emperor Frederick is perhaps the best all-round strategist in the desert. There are few weaknesses in his armour and left alone he will over time become a mighty force.
- The Sheriff: The Sheriff is the cruelest lord in the land and easily the most underhand. He will use Arab or Crusader alike, along with every dirty castle defense he can lay his hands on, to further his own self-interest.
- The Nizar: The Nizar may catch his enemies by surprise if caught unprepared for his swift and silent tactics. His island like castles are only effective on low ground and can be tricky to attack.
- The Wazir: The Wazir is a mean spirited leader with a fiery temper. His persistent use of horse archers make him an annoyance, although his siege technique leaves a lot to be desired.
- The Emir: The Emir is a kind hearted and easy going Arabian leader. A good all rounder who manages his economy effectively as well as his attack tactics...which he does...in force!
- The Abbot: The Abbot considers himself entrusted with the defense of his faith. His vindictive monks will continually amass in vast numbers to pull down the walls of their enemies.
- The Marshal (Sir Longarm from the original Stronghold): This retired fighter tends to play things a little more cautiously than he once did. The sight of his knights sallying forth from his castle is still a warning to anyone however.
Stronghold Crusader Extreme
On January 28, 2008, Firefly Studios announced Stronghold: Crusader Extreme. It boasts "new tactical powers", "new AI opponents and maps", "new crusader extreme trail", "battles featuring over 10,000 units" and Windows Vista compatibility. It was released May 28, 2008.
- Stronghold Crusader official website
- Firefly Studios official website
- Stronghold Knights Full-spectrum fan site
- Stronghold Heaven - An Extensive Fansite
- Stronghold Wiki(new)
- Stronghold Crusader at MobyGames
- Official Polish Stronghold Website
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