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Alex Walz 01-29-2010 05:44 PM

Fantasy Friday XI - Stronghold Defense Skirmish
Stronghold Defense Skirmish

It's only fair to complement our Lay Siege showcase by taking a look at what the defender goes through, which is why we will be looking into the Stronghold Defense skirmish mode this week. This mode allows you to defend any of our twelve major NPC strongholds from opposing armies and offers quick-paced warfare.

The main Castle Defense skirmish menu. From here, you can choose which stronghold you defend, the difficulty, the season, and the race/number/size of the enemy armies. It's kind of hard to gauge difficulty, but I did step it up quite a bit this week to show you some more advanced battles as there was some speculation that last week's battle looked too easy. So I chose the Medium difficulty setting, but the fact that Dagbor (the city I chose to defend) is a naturally hard stronghold (each stronghold has a natural difficulty) and the fact that I was fighting two large armies considerably added to the difficulty level.

While not currently operational, the following two modes will be playable as Castle Defense subsets:

This is for both Castle Defend and Lay Siege mode. 10-15 minutes into the battle defenders of the town can expect a really large cavalry reinforcement - Lord of the Rings style. In Lay Siege mode this puts the pressure on the player to quickly take the city, or if that`s not possible to switch from attacking to defending for a few minutes. And in Castle Defend if fighting against overwhelming odds - you`ll be counting every second till your cavalry reinforcement arrives, while doing all you can to keep your king alive.

Multiple Attack Waves
For now we only planned this for the Castle Defend mode as a nice way to turn a 15-20 minute battle, into a 2-3 hour epic siege defense.
Once you fight off one or two AI armies attacking your town, you`ll be given few minutes in which to loot the thousands of corpses in your town, rebuild your fortifications and to try to train more units. But don`t get too comfortable - AI armies will be back soon.
Players will be able to select how many such AI waves they want to fight against, from 2 to 10. Duration between attacks will be dynamic, depending on the game`s difficulty - but also on how many units player has left. From 2 to 10 minutes.

A quick intro cinematic shows off the stronghold I will be defending - Dagbor, the crown jewel of the men. At startup, infantry battalions are placed throughout the city at strategic points with archers defending the gates from atop the walls.

The cinematic ends on my keep, surrounded by a second layer of walls. My objective: Defeat the incoming attackers without losing the king unit or losing too many troops. My king unit, Warren, will stay in this heavily protected area throughout the game, protected by a handful of my strongest infantry and cavalry.

Wasting no time, the first couple elven units march for my southern gate two minutes into the game. Note my resource count - in every Castle Defend skirmish, you will start with a few resources which you can use to purchase counter-siege mechanisms, units, and upgrades. I quickly got to work building some bastion-mounted trebuchets and hoardings to protect my archers. To keep up with the fast-paced actions, buildings construct, and units train, significantly faster in a skirmish map.

Meanwhile, the enemy human army marches toward my northern gate with huge numbers of infantry. Whereas the elves are attacking from a wide open plain, the men must pass over a narrow bridge to reach my gate, clumping them together for an easy target. For this army, I build a lot of oil pots and trebuchets as they are best at taking out large numbers quickly.

Around five minutes in, the elves are already preparing to scale my walls with several Treants. I manage to kill some, but I do not have enough archers to take them all out before they reach my walls. Also note the different strategy of attack from the human army - the elves have few, but strong, infantry units and rely more on siege towers (Treants) than brute force. To counter this strategy, I relied on my archers, calling for reinforcements from throughout Dagbor.

Four minutes later, and the elves bring in more infantry. The treants connect to my walls, and are used to bypass the gate.

The human enemy has made a considerable dent in my defenses and have brought in their first battering rams - which are quickly shot down.

Taking a quick break from managing my troops, I head to my archery range and barracks buildings to spend the rest of my resources on units and upgrades, and then send them to reinforce my gates.

Having successfully scaled my walls, the elves make easy work out of my few infantry units and wreak havoc in the city.

...and within 14 minutes, Dagbor burns.

Shortly after, the men have managed to break through my first gate with their battering rams. They storm the stronghold in massive numbers. By default, they are much closer to my keep than the elves were, but their gate was harder to breach.

The elves have just about destroyed the entire city, but few remain to put a dent in my keep. A couple treants tried to scale my second wall, but my archers quickly shot them down and after that, the remaining elves came in small, individual battalions, easy to shoot down.

However, the men were not so easy to get kill off and they had already begun their victory chants.

About 24 minutes in, the men had destroyed my town center with their catapults, although the gates still remained intact.

I fought off the last of the elves as Dagbor lay hidden under a thick layer of smoke and ash. I selected my southern troops and tasked them to defend the keep against the men.

The only infantry I had left were the few knights surrounding my king. My archers put up a last stand against the human army.

And finally, not all stories have a happy ending. The men rushed in some more battering rams and broke through my second gate. They charged for my king and his guards. My king fought valiantly but soon, he was facing a whole army and fell to the onslaught. Dagbor had been taken.

Admittedly, I've never been the best strategy player, but I did try to defend royal Dagbor. In the end, I just couldn't win a two-front war. Looking back, I should have trained more archers immediately and sent them all to defend against oncoming treants to hold my gates for as long as possible. I also didn't spend any skill points until later in the game, after I had spent my resources.

Kire 01-29-2010 06:06 PM

Nice showcase and beautiful pictures. Well this time it did look harder tho, nice work o.- . I liked thi one more than siege attack =)..... at least as it looks you can have more fun fun. And hmmm just wondering ... why there is no magic, not here and not at siege attack? That should change some tactic if used =P Burn!!! No magic at skirmish?

Darathor 01-29-2010 06:07 PM

Very nice! I really like seeing both sides of sieges. I'm looking forward more to defending than attacking, but that's just me. I'm a really defensive player. It was very cool and interesting to see this showcase, and it was awesome too. The alternate options could really make this mode quite interesting and unique.

sneaky_squirrel 01-29-2010 06:14 PM

Awesome screenshots, curse you for making me want to play this right now D:

Alas I must be patient.

blackfang 01-29-2010 06:18 PM

YAY sounds like fun:D i wish it was me playing:D

Swift sword 01-29-2010 06:25 PM

Whoa. Great screenshots, although snow makes everything look awesome (this is from a texan point of view...but still)
This will definitely be my favorite skirmish mode. My favorite campaign map in BFME was Helms Deep (Good campaign) and I BARELY won my first attempt on normal. I thought it was completely epic, with Boromir (;)) defending the deeping wall with a small group of elven melee units. I won the map with a group of Uruk pikemen surrounding my keep and hammering away at it, the enemy a mere minute from victory, before Gandalf smashed down the last enemy building. Best map ever.

Anyways, loving this, sounds very similiar although you may get critcized for the whole cavarly reinforcement thing being too similiar to LoTR, but I like it. Can't wait. Hope we have this mode open in 3rd beta. If not...darn;)

Henry Martin 01-29-2010 06:47 PM

Geart showcase. This brings backs some bad memories of failed defences in the total war series.

This looks great and can't wait to play.

Justin 01-29-2010 07:18 PM

Looks like a fun game mode, I'm wondering if there is some type of reward for doing it or maybe for successfully repelling enemy invaders, for me to it brings back memories of the defend whatever against all odds type scenario which has always been fun for me.

Darathor 01-29-2010 07:40 PM

The cavalry reinforcement, while being similar to lotr, isn't unique to that series. Some people might not like it, but I find it to be a cool option. Ridiculing something because it is similar to another is thing is stupid. If it is awesome, then it shouldn't matter. I find it to be a cool option that adds a little interesting factor that you have to take into account.

This showcase is really cool and I can't wait until I can play this game. You guys really know how to make me want to play this game right now. :D

zach12wqasxz 01-29-2010 08:19 PM

man these showcases keep getting better and better :). i cant wait for second stage beta :D

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