Follow-up to Interplay?s classic Castles, Castles II: Siege and Conquest is an excellent sequel that expands both scale and scope of the original classic.
No longer are you a noble who is content with defending your own territory from the Celts and other nobles?you now have a grander ambition to conquer the whole of historical Brittany.
Fans of Castles will be happy to find that the addictive castle-building gameplay is not only intact, but enhanced with new building parts and soldier types. Because the scale of the game has been enlarged, you will spend most of your time looking not at your current castle, but at the map of England. From this screen, you have access to three categories of tasks: stock, army, relations, as well as the options menu. You are given a specific number of ?points? for each category, so you can allocate all of them to finish one task quickly, or apportion them to do several tasks at once. Tasks range from acquiring resources, such as refining gold, recruit and train different types of soldiers, to diplomatic options?one of the best new features of the game. Diplomatic orders (accessed from ?relations? menu) allow you to sabotage or spy other nobles? lands, cater to the Pope?s favor, and so on. As in the first game, special historical events occur periodically, requiring you to choose an action from multiple choices. Your decisions, naturally, affect the game in varying degrees.
Castles II is, like its predecessor, a long game. But you now have a concrete measure of your progress: the points system. Most actions in the game yield points, some (e.g. conquering a province or wiping out a noble completely) more than others. You have to reach 7,000 points to petition the Pope for the throne, and then you have to maintain those points for 4-5 computer months to win the game. Castle building is more efficient and easier to deal with. You can even set up pre-made castles on file so that you can place them quickly. Battles are set in a full alternate screen with the ability to place and command each unit?a welcome change from the passive, watch-it-unfold battles in the first game.
With the addition of many fun strategic options, diplomacy, and an even easier to use interface, Castles II is an even more enjoyable game than the original. New strategy options make the castle building aspect of the game seem more like icing on the cake than an integral part of gameplay?big castles only help in stopping revolutions and helping the economy (higher tax income). This may disappoint some people who enjoy the importance of castles in the first game, but the benefits of new features more than outweigh this complaint. If you like strategy games set in the Middle Ages, Castles II is a must have. Two thumbs up!
Note: Interplay later released the enhanced CD-ROM version of the game in 1993, which contains over 30 minutes of excellent documentary clips from BBC series. It's well worth your effort hunting down on places like Ebay :)