Hello everyone and a Happy New Year!
It has been long since there has been happenings last on the wiki. In the meantime, we had numerous fixes and additions for Firefly's latest game, and it is high time we had a discussion about what Crusader 2 did to enrich our RTS-experience.
We asked the community about Crusader 2's new content since June 2013, and according to the poll, the biggest interest for Crusader 2 has been the new units, followed by story & missions and by a tiny victory, the new characters. Let's see the new units first!
Core concept in SHC2's unit design
The unit system of Crusader 2 revolves around soft counters, where the presence of one particular unit type doesn't render its countered unit useless (in the case of it being true, we talk about hard counters). This system works if more or less the units can counter themselves in such a way that none of the units gets severely underused or overused. For example, the maceman can be pretty weak against missile fire while attacking archers, but close up he wrecks them into pieces. Another example is the catapult, which is great at killing groups of enemy units, but it find itself insufficient against fire ballistae or charging units.
In Stronghold Crusader, this system was more or less working, but soon an agreement raised up that knights, assassins and horse archers have a big advantage over regular troops. Assassins are a great first unit and affordable in numbers for not only rushing but stealth attacks and mostly there was no way to reveal groups of these. Knights, while statistically not the strongest units, they still pack such a huge offensive power that they virtually steamroll buildings and units alike. Other units quickly fell out of favour and there was a big need in revamping the unit system so that soft counters could work again, and partially it was achieved by making high power units: expensive, harder to afford and less potent.
New features: unit abilities
Crusader 2 brings a mixture of aspects from various games. While the original Stronghold was about stationary warfare and true castle sieges, Stronghold Crusader shifted away to a more mobile combat, where defending on the field became more rewarding and sieges became easier, introducing the horse archer and the assassin. Crusader 2 seems to seek somewhat of a middle route, by employing height advantage for ranged units, the removal of the leather armour and the introduction of unit abilities.
Abilities enable players to use some units much more creatively than in Crusader or any other game. These range from cooling down unit buffs to health restoration or a type of special attack.
Let's see what abilities a player come across in SHC2:
- Rally cry: this buff grants bonus movement speed and damage, activating when targeted at an enemy unit. The buff lasts only for a short time and it takes quite a while to become usable again. The Sassanid Knight and the mounted Templar Knight has this buff, but most notably, the maceman also got it. While the buff is active, small groups of macemen can challenge swordsmen or even knights in melee combat. Macemen have considerably low health, but their attack power and cheap price greatly makes up for their weaknesses.
- Whirlwind: The Whirling Dervish has a special attack, during which he will move forward to the direction of a target and whirl around, dealing damage around him. The dervish is uncontrollable during the whirlwind and this ability also has a high cooldown rate. This ability makes him a great defensive unit, since he best operates in tight places and his small area of effect can help at defending towers or the keep.
- Protective aura: friendly units around the Sergeant-at-arms' banner benefit from a minor damage reduction. The aura has great utility, whether boosting defenders in towers or attackers during combat. The Sergeant also has quite high health, but he deals very low damage as an offset.
- Command aura: the Slave Driver can boost the defense rate of nearby slaves with his whip, so that slaves can survive a bit longer when used in harassments against enemy buildings.
- Restoration: the Arabic Healer can restore the health of a friendly unit over time, cutting losses and allowing regeneration after a battle.
Beyond abilities - unit reworks and siege warfareFurther to strengthen soft counters, some units also gained several good points that make them more viable than before. "Old" units are brought and collected from previous Stronghold games, making an interesting blend for strategy and playstyle.
The barracks got mostly defensive and utility units:
- the man-at-arms replaces the spearman, who can throw a javelin, making him suitable in harassment and early game defense;
- the conscript is a very weak unit, which has pathetic attributes, albeit comes in a very low price, coming handy in swarming harassment attacks against enemy buildings and peasants;
- the aforementioned sergeant-at-arms;
- the templar knight is a recurring unit from SH2, starting out on foot, but he can be supplied with is own horse for open combat;
- the ranger is a Stronghold 3 unit, who shares similarities with the archer, but wields a sword, making him better in melee combat.
The mercenary post got some offensive units and support:
- the slave driver and the healer helps prolong certain units' lifespan on the battlefield;
- the Sassanid knight excels at running down units, however has higher vulnerability to arrows and other projectiles;
- the oil pot thrower replaces the fire thrower, throwing heavier oil pots that sets a big area on fire.
Siege warfare is another core aspect which Firefly decided to heavily tweak. Most siege engines have high price and they no longer require the presence of engineers. Instead, they are immediately created in a siege camp, which can be placed everywhere in a non-hostile estate, greatly toning down preparation time for the attack. All siege equipment now fire more accurately and there are also new additions to provide great utility, mostly when used in the offensive. Seemingly, castle sieges have become harder with the defender's range advantage and more robust structures, and this is why siege equipment got a huge help.
The re-introduction of the Stronghold 2 burning cart is what provides players endless utility. Simply the fact that they can set a huge area on fire makes them great assisting units, whether softening up groups of armies in the open, revealing pitch ditches, or sending them forth in a kamikaze attack against vulnerable enemy buildings.
However, it is offensive warfare that got truly buffed, with the debut of the war wolf and the war wagon:
- The war wolf is basically a bigger and more expensive version of the catapult, which can withstand quite a good number of projectiles and attacks. The wolf also possesses higher range over the catapult. This engine is great at situations where the enemy has lots of defensive engines that would make catapults or trebuchets too weak: the wolf's robustness ensures that one or two crucial buildings can go down at the start of the siege.
- The war wagon is a transport vehicle that can host 6 personnel within. The wagon provides excellent cover against missile fire and it allows its passangers to fire from the inside, thus many of it can provide a steady march up against the castle defenders, presumably causing some casualties in enemy ranks. War wagons are pretty vulnerable to melee attacks though, so they are best used in formations where heavy units are used.
The advent of new units and the rebirth of previous game's units looks like to have been working out favourably in Stronghold Crusader 2, as they provide great variety and adhere well to the game's tempo and play. New abilities and mechanics make battles commence faster and more intriguing, whereas the improvement of defensive and offensive units ensure that there is balance and fun in most games.
Feel free to discuss the post in the comments below! Our next article is going to revolve around Crusader 2's story and missions. See you soon,