Castle Building Games

tribal wars 2

Castle Building games are a fun way to learn about the medieval historical period when castles were built and empires forged. These hand picked online games to play for free will help anyone learn about various building structures, defenses, wars, maintainance and more all thought in and around castles.

Games to Play Free

Forge of Empires

Forge of Empires

As a chieftain who founds his settlement anno 5000 B.C. in the Stone Age with little more than a few tents, it is your task to forge a mighty empire building many structures including castles and forts. Show your online strategy game skills and develop your city through the ages of history up to and beyond the large medieval period. Forge your medieval empire today!

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Tribal Wars 2

tribal wars 2

Have a go at owning your own plot of land in medieval times from which you build a castle empire, courtesy of Tribal Wars 2. This is a sequel to Innogames' original, breakthrough MMORTS game Tribal Wars and it requires only that you have the desire to own a settlement and also to lead it to success and glory through infrastructure management and gruelling medieval battles.

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PC Games to Buy

Stronghold: Get your siege on with this medieval real-time combat simulator game that borrows elements from other big-hitters of the genre

Stronghold HD

To Siege or Not to Siege

War. There seems to be a lot of it, whether in the modern day or in the annals of history. It's unavoidable, a trade-off of being of the species we are, it seems. No matter how terrible war actually is however, it seems that simulation of war is an entirely different ball game, particularly when it's the borderline glorification of the feudal conflicts of the medieval period and its surrounding centuries.

 Rome: Total War and Age of Empires are games that specialise in this sort of thing, but their grandiose nature and staggering quantity of features can put casual gamers off. Stronghold is a siege-centric game that actually portrays real combat in a dynamic fashion, allowing you to get your hands dirty whilst also managing a settlement. There's a lot to be said for this approach in spite of some bare-faced flaws in the game.

Not To Siege

Because Stronghold is essentially a dual-pronged approach to real-time strategy, the whole game isn't entirely one-dimensional in that it doesn't focus solely on siege warfare whilst providing no respite from this style of gameplay. One of the prongs of Stronhold's real-time strategy fork is the economic campaign, which involves time-sensitive missions based around certain goals like acquiring a minimum quantity of gold or various goods. This aspect of the game plays precisely like other real-time strategy titles, namely the browser-based Tribal Wars 2 or Forge of Empires.

Stronghold's take on the management aspect is rather superficial however, involving simply building production buildings as well as secondary production centres (i.e refineries that process the primary resources) to make things like weapons and food. You've also got the usual limiting factors to take care of such as food quantities for your population, but I found that they can be kept happy and working by simply providing more food as opposed to performing any deeper actions such as building statues as you do in Forge of Empires.

To Siege!

It's pretty safe to say that Stronghold's true calling - and indeed the sharper prong on the previously-mentioned fork of its real-time strategy entertainment - is the military campaign. Here you get to go ahead and defend yourself against sieges from aggressors as well as lay siege to other castles and strongholds around you. Instead of taking place in a grand, open world as you would find in Age of Empires however, you instead have to focus on gaining back land the land of your murdered father, one section at a time.

You're slowly introduced to the siege-based action through tutorial levels, starting with only archers to defend your fortifications with and then moving on in the later stages to more useful troops such as swordsmen and mace-men, as well as useful individuals like engineers that build your weapons of violent siegery (I'm coining that word). It's a little annoying how suddenly things escalate from simple tutorial activities to full-on siege warfare; this is one flaw in the game, though it is certainly not the last.

Four to the Flaw

One of the most glaring annoyances in the game for anyone will be its interface, which doesn't seem to follow conventional logic or basic associations whatsoever. Reaching  the primary menus is easy enough as things like your farm, food production etc. can be reached through tabs at the bottom of the screen. Various items are positioned in places they don't seem to belong however, making the whole thing a little awkward and significantly blunting the sharpness of the combat. Unit selection is another aspect where the game falters, separating members of your unit if you select them individually; this can lead to you losing the group associations you spent time making.

The flaws continue with the building mechanics. Do you fancy building just behind that mound of earth over there? Sorry, no can do. You can't actually build anything that isn't in your direct line of sight, which becomes problematic considering the relatively shy and shallow camera angle.

So to return to my two-pronged fork metaphor from before, it seems that one point of Stronghold's prong is significantly shorter than the other due to the disappointingly shallow economic campaign, but this tired comparison doesn't end there, no sir. It turns out that the other prong - the game's military campaign - though significantly longer and more useful is somewhat blunted by the multiple flaws in the interface and building mechanics. This would otherwise be a fantastic game, but these drawbacks are too numerous to forgive developers Firefly Studios for allowing them to be present in the final release of the game.

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Stronghold Crusader HD: A significantly improved siege-based real-time strategy that's been through some important changes since the original

Stronghold Crusader HD

Those that experienced the original Stronghold will know that it was a game with its heart in the right place, offering up a rarity in the real-time strategy world: the opportunity to take place in siege warfare where you had control of everything that was happening on the battlefield in front of your eyes. Not even games like Crusader Kings allowed for such dynamic battlefield detail, and Stronghold went ahead and broke those barriers. It was however full of flaws and shortcomings, a comedy of errors that developer Firefly Studios have certainly addressed in the most serious of manners in Stronghold: Crusader.

Siege and Onion

So what has Firefly Entertainment done with its time between the original Stronghold and Crusader? Quite a bit it seems, and pretty much all for the better as well. Gone are the days of spreading your time between a fairly in-depth siege campaign and the laughably shallow sideshow of the economic campaign. The developers clearly identified this major flaw in the original, which was essentially the dilution of the siege campaign with an unnecessary economic adventure, and have pulled the focus of the game towards siege warfare only.

This tightening of focus has produced favourable results for Stronghold: Crusader, though there are now more modes of gameplay that demonstrate equal awareness of the players' desire for nothing-but-combat focus. You can play in single-player skirmish mode against AI for example, presenting you with various challenges ranging from easily-defendable terrain to situations that put you at a distinct disadvantage. This is the kind of challenge that never really presented itself in the original Stronghold game.

Crusade The Day Away

By far the shining highlight of the game is the Crusade trail, a mode that is comprised of fifty individual battles whose difficulty increases with each victory. As you succeed (or struggle to do so), your passage through time is recorded, with a quicker victory obviously being more beneficial than a slow and sprawling one. This mode involves the building of your own castle, which is a bit of a departure from the military campaign mode of the game.

Veteran players will notice that this time around, some of the game's modes feel more like tailor-made puzzles in battle form, and all taking place within some sort of historical context to boot. Many of the missions focus on certain aspects of the game such as some that require the collected of certain sums in tax form, or others that highlight the pros and cons of archers in the wider context of the game. Experienced players will also appreciate the inclusion of new Arabian units such as horseback archers that are significantly more powerful than many of the units that were in the game before.

It works in Stronghold: Crusader's favour that the military units in the game are much more accessible than in the original Stronghold. This is made possible by doing away with the need to produce massive quantities of resources, allowing you to instead simply produce gold through a marketplace and pay for a military training camp that produces units that can be used almost instantly. Other improvements include the way the happiness of your population is affected (things like religious belief have a more important part now), allowing you to better handle the disgruntled population when you have to raise taxes - you can also just give them access to alcohol and see their happiness rise as well.

A Desert Holiday

If you're used to the grubby and monotonous medieval scenery of the original crusader, the desert landscape that you'll encounter in Stronghold: Crusader offers up some much-needed variation as well. You'll also notice the different music that gives energy and atmosphere to the game. It's a bit of a shame that Firefly Studios hasn't taken more care to improve the less-than-intuitive interface that marred the experienced of the original Stronghold, but at least there have been improvements mostly in areas where they count. Having more shortcuts to cut out all of the menu-trawling would have been a great addition, but you can't have it all, can you?

In all, Stronghold: Crusader's problems are much less pronounced than in the original, having a significantly less devastating effect on the enjoyment you get out of the experience. A few more improvements here and there to the interface and unit formations would have resulted in the game being almost perfect.

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Stronghold Crusader 2: A solid real-time siege-warfare game

Stronghold Crusader 2

Reminiscent

If you're at all experienced with the previous Crusader title in the Stronghold series, you'll be blissfully aware that like Crusader 2, it marked a break in the medieval-centric scenery of its Crusader-less titles. Returning in Crusader 2 are a bunch of the original's units including several types of mercenaries, a variety of campaigns including ones that involve skirmishing against AI enemies, and - this is where things take a turn for the disappointing - a return of the clunky and less-than-impressive game engine from Stronghold 3. Oh dear.

Let's not let the negatives get us down this early in proceedings however: Crusader 2 has a lot to offer, after all. As a castle-building game and real-time strategy the emphasis is on the establishment of a settlement that's defended by a castle and that has its own mini-economy consisting of production buildings that provide things like the stone for you castles, the money for your so-called economy, and the troops that will supplement your castle walls' defenses. You'll be treated to two tutorial levels that will show you the ropes if this is your first time treading the treacherous grounds of the Crusader series.

A Recourse for Resource Management

Even if you're not familiar with Stronghold's previous forms however, you're not going to be in a world that's even slightly aloof from that of a standard real-time strategy. When it comes down to it, you're simply juggling resources as you are in games like Kingdom Tales 2, Forge of Empires, and Tribal Wars. The only difference here is that the balancing of resources isn't in the foreground or by any means the main aim of the game; the resources are merely a vehicle to facilitate the building of castles and the siege-related warfare that makes Crusader 2 so fun to play.

In fact, the process of building your castle from the ground up from resources you've produced is quite a satisfying feeling and is definitely a factor that somewhat redeems the poor (and recycled) game engine. It's all about erecting your castle, increasing the range of your archers and effectiveness of your other troops, and generally ensuring that you have an advantage over your attackers. Slightly less fun is the act of besieging someone else's castle, but it makes a welcome change from being the defender all of the time.

Lacking in Smarts, A Shortfall in Sense

Drilling in the disappointment for me is the fact that the AI in the game really isn't up to scratch, so much so that you even find yourself having to constantly manage your own troops quite closely whilst they go about their stupid, stupid business. It's a little silly that you can only build castles in certain squares that are designated by the game, and even sillier is the fact that archers are the go-to unit, a sort of panacea for all of your siege-related ailments since they are so very cheap and relatively effective in relation to their price.

 Bugs really abound in this game as well, and you'll often find yourself having to lose out on large sections of your fortifications because of lacklustre pathfinding, a feature common to all RTS games that is usually spot-on, but in this case is quite shocking on occasion. This results in getting troops trapped where they shouldn't be, and usually rendering them useless. The "epic" final scenes that involve dominating the lord of the castle you're attacking also seem to last a ridiculously long time.

If you were to take Stronghold: Crusader II in isolation from its predecessors, one would be reasonably happy with Firefly Studios' effort. Unfortunately, much like the cracks in Battlestar Galactica's ship in the later series, Stronghold: Crusader II's problem runs through to its core, namely in the game engine itself, which needs a serious rework if Firefly Studios are anywhere near being equally as serious about finally releasing a Stronghold game that isn't marred with bugs and shortcomings. Put simply, this is 2014; we expect better than what Crusader 2 has barely managed to muster up.

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Banished: A back-to-essentials city-builder with a wonderful medieval twist and an highly original premise

Banished

It's become sort of standard procedure for many medieval games for the PC to be of the real-time strategy genre. You won't find all that many that aren't about armed conflict either, in some way or another anyhow. You've got things like Age of Empires, Medieval: Total War, Crusader Kings, and Stronghold proving this point, and that's just off the top of my head. It's a little rarer to see a game of the city-builder genre occupying the harsh conditions of the middle ages however. For this reason, Banished instantly had my attention piqued from the outset. Forget the luxury of having your own choice of kingdom to rule over: you're among a group of unfortunates that have been banished from relative comfort. This isn't a game where you build prosperity - it's about pure survival.

You'll start out in Banished during the season of Spring, a time that's ripe for all of the planting and the building you'll be doing in the initial stages of the game in the form of mini-goals set for you by the game. The tutorial is seriously good at introducing you to the practical aspects of the game by giving you manageable chunks of information, getting you to perform various tasks like planting and managing your assets, and most importantly it lets you experience first-hand the harshness you'll be experiencing quite frequently throughout, giving you a comprehensive knowledge of what you need to do in a practical and immersive fashion.

A great example of Shining Rock Software's delightfully direct approach is having you plant and build yourself to a reasonable level during the initial Spring, Summer, and Autumn months, then showing you just how harsh the Winters can be by immersing you into a full-on freeze that is going to kill a fair amount of your crop and even your population. You simply don't get this kind of respectful treatment from games like Stronghold; it's like the developers are treating you like adults and everything.

Build to Survive

In the early stages, you'll be performing tasks such as gathering resources like firewood and food as well as building houses for your population of fellow banish-ees. It is the cycle of the seasons - a very simple idea in its own right, but one that is vastly effective at adding a new dimension to survival strategy - that is the driving force here, forcing you to be as resourceful as possible with the space that you have. You'll have to chop down trees to fit in growing areas for your crops as well as living space for your people, both of which you will be short of in the initial seasonal cycles because, well, that's how the game gets you to learn what it's all about.

This is one of the few games of its type in existence where your population itself is considered as much of a vital resource as food or firewood. If any of your population snuffs it because they were outside too long, didn't get enough food, or didn't have access to essential medicines, then the burden is increased for the rest of your population since production of resources takes a hit which in turn puts more of a squeeze on the remaining survivors.

Remember the natural disasters of legendary building sims like Sim City? They're an integral part of the cycle of time in Banished as well, only there is a wider variety of them. Diseases can spread through your population, testing the state of your population's health. A tornado sweeping through your settlement will demonstrate how resilient your population is and also how well you are able to rebuild. These disasters essentially act like random inspections by force, prodding at different aspects of your infrastructure and reminding you in the harshest of ways which bits need bolstering and which are fit for purpose. Don't underestimate them however: just because they are a test doesn't mean that a blight in your crop won't absolutely devastate your population.

Devoid of Condescension

You'll start out in Banished during the season of Spring, a time that's ripe for all of the planting and the building you'll be doing in the initial stages of the game in the form of mini-goals set for you by the game. The tutorial is seriously good at introducing you to the practical aspects of the game by giving you manageable chunks of information, getting you to perform various tasks like planting and managing your assets, and most importantly it lets you experience first-hand the harshness you'll be experiencing quite frequently throughout, giving you a comprehensive knowledge of what you need to do in a practical and immersive fashion.

A great example of Shining Rock Software's delightfully direct approach is having you plant and build yourself to a reasonable level during the initial Spring, Summer, and Autumn months, then showing you just how harsh the Winters can be by immersing you into a full-on freeze that is going to kill a fair amount of your crop and even your population. You simply don't get this kind of respectful treatment from games like Stronghold; it's like the developers are treating you like adults and everything.

Build to Survive

In the early stages, you'll be performing tasks such as gathering resources like firewood and food as well as building houses for your population of fellow banish-ees. It is the cycle of the seasons - a very simple idea in its own right, but one that is vastly effective at adding a new dimension to survival strategy - that is the driving force here, forcing you to be as resourceful as possible with the space that you have. You'll have to chop down trees to fit in growing areas for your crops as well as living space for your people, both of which you will be short of in the initial seasonal cycles because, well, that's how the game gets you to learn what it's all about.

This is one of the few games of its type in existence where your population itself is considered as much of a vital resource as food or firewood. If any of your population snuffs it because they were outside too long, didn't get enough food, or didn't have access to essential medicines, then the burden is increased for the rest of your population since production of resources takes a hit which in turn puts more of a squeeze on the remaining survivors.

Remember the natural disasters of legendary building sims like Sim City? They're an integral part of the cycle of time in Banished as well, only there is a wider variety of them. Diseases can spread through your population, testing the state of your population's health. A tornado sweeping through your settlement will demonstrate how resilient your population is and also how well you are able to rebuild. These disasters essentially act like random inspections by force, prodding at different aspects of your infrastructure and reminding you in the harshest of ways which bits need bolstering and which are fit for purpose. Don't underestimate them however: just because they are a test doesn't mean that a blight in your crop won't absolutely devastate your population.

Positively Bleak

The best description of the gameplau I can give for newcomers is "positively bleak", meant in the most complimentary of ways. Unlike other games where you can simply wait a while and get a comfortable quantity of resources restocked, you're always on the verge of struggling in Banished, whether this be because of a tornado, a fire, crop death, or your failure to control and increase the population numbers.

Imagine the most complex relationship of systems of any other game and multiply that by ten: this is how intricately woven the different systems and infrastructures are in Banished. You have to take the cost of everything into account as well as the risks of your actions, thinking ahead a few seasons to see how much firewood your loggers need to acquire, how much food your population needs and will need in the future, and how well you'll handle natural disasters. Banished is definitely the most delightfully morose game I've ever played, and has one of the best and the most pleasantly minimalistic building sim interfaces out there today.

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