I'm a huge fan of strategy games and of empire-building games. Stronghold 2 does a really good job of balancing the aspects of gameplay and warfare.
First off, I really love the graphics and atmosphere. I love medieval research and recreation, so I was quite impressed with the attention to detail here. The game is in fact educational, helping you learn how the complex interplay of economy, land usage, mineral resources and even social balance all helped to keep a village or castle area going.
I love the fact that there are management issues to deal with - that you're not just cranking out troops and blasting away at enemies. Those troops had to come from somewhere. The money to pay the peasants who mined the ore had to come from somewhere. If all you're out for is build-and-blast, there are plenty of games out there to do that for you. Stronghold lets you delve more deeply into the actual world that these struggles took place in.
There are in fact different modes of gameplay that focus either on world-building on or conflict. Depending on your aims, you can choose one path or the other, and focus on whichever pleases you more.
I've read some reviews where people complain about game speed. I haven't had ANY issues at all with the speed of the system. When I watch the little people on the screen, they appear to be moving at "actual normal" speed compared to the buildings and objects around them. What, do you want super-human little peasants that can zoom faster than Speedy Gonzales?
That being said, this is of course a new game. That means it runs best on newer systems. If you try to run a new, graphic-rich game on an ancient P-100, then of course it's not going to work. That's always true with any game. PCs are not meant to last forever. You need to keep them upgraded and RAM-filled to handle what the new games offer. I find that a quite reasonable thing. After all, I want new games to be as great as they can be. I don't want them to have bad graphics and tiny maps in order to still work with ancient systems.
I do have a complaint with the marketing which incessantly promotes that you can "see maidens bathing" as a selling point. Good God Almighty, isn't it enough to say it's a good game, without trying to push porn points? You don't actually SEE anything, for those who care :)
Buy Stronghold from Amazon.com