Stronghold Crusader 2
Walls are the new black. America is building a wall. Matt Damon made a movie about a Great Wall. If you want to build your own wall, or tear one down, then Stronghold Crusader II might be the game for you, but I can't recommend it.
I went into Stronghold Crusader II with an optimistic "so bad that it might be good" attitude, but it never came together into an enjoyable gaming experience. The graphics were "bad." Trees looked like trees, and walls looked like walls, but they were strictly game assets made by someone who hates art. The audio design takes a queue from the graphics -it's just as "bad."
I wanted to like this game like a good B-movie, and we we're off to a good start. Stronghold Crusader II just had to deliver a good laugh, but the comedy falls flat. It quickly became clear that the game's badness is a result of being uninspired. The player is left with frustrating game mechanics to focus on.
I will admit that breaking a hole into your enemy's walls so your cavalry regiment can storm the castle for some murder and pillaging is satisfying, but the base building part of the game is not as engaging. Base building is the core gameplay loop, but the design choices are baffling. The wall is never "built." It just pops into existence as soon as you lay it down (unless there is a single enemy unit nearby -then you can't build anything). The instantaneous wall building can be clunky as you struggle to get your fortifications oriented in the right direction or connecting the right way to other structures.
Soldiers pop up instantly from the barracks with a single click. There is no training period for these soldiers beyond slapping a weapon in their hand. The same goes for any other structure you build -it pops into existence. With all of this emphasis on instant results, it's odd that the game makes the player wait so much. Instead of waiting for things to build -you wait for resources, and it breaks the flow of the game. Other base building games rely on a delicate ballet of queue times: as the builder you are always planning ahead, and constantly managing. In Stronghold Crusader II, you build everything instantly, and then wait for resource bars to fill up. This immediate building mechanic also creates the need for other restrictive game mechanics: the player is limited to building within a set square of the map so you can't instantly lay down walls too close to your rival. This hurts the variability of the maps, as well as the freedom to build where you desire -stifling the players creativity.
Finally, the controls are not intuitive, and you cannot customize them. This was the deal breaker for me. I could have looked past everything else, if you could have just let me customize my controls. I wish key macros could have been a solution, but the control problems are deeper than that. An RTS should have an easy way to navigate the map, and it should never be pushing the cursor to the edge of the screen. If I wanted to play with a trackball, I would buy a trackball. I need that cursor to control my units.
If you enjoy this game, I hope you never take a break from it because there is no quick access tutorial, or encyclopedia, or game hints to remind the player how a building or soldier works. The game expects the player to learn this through campaign tutorials and memorize everything.
If you wanted to raze structures down, you might have fun with Stronghold Crusader II, but if you wanted to build a wall -go play minecraft.