Welcome to our highly detailed review of paid and free medieval strategy games to play in your web browser and download on your PC. You can skip to a particular title using the links below:
Forge of Empires (Free) | Tribal Wars 2 (Free) | Medieval II: Total War (Paid) | Crusader Kings II (Paid) | Crusader Kings III (Paid) | Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition (Paid) | Stronghold Crusader (Paid) | Knights of Honor (Paid) | Stronghold HD (Paid) | Crusader Kings (Paid) | Stronghold Crusader 2 (Paid) | The Guild 2 (Paid) | The Guild 3 (Paid)
Forge of Empires (Free)
Game Rating: 4.3
In a Nutshell: Forge of Empires is both a free online strategic warfare game and a city builder that you can experience throughout the middle ages. In particular this would be the early, high and late middle ages as well as experiencing periods before and after this historic time period. As well as fighting other players online for territory and empire expansion you must tend to your city and ensure it thrives throughout the medieval period. You will be in charge of both your army and city with typical units and buildings from this period. Check out the video below to find out more or play for free now…
Tribal Wars 2 (Free)
Game Rating: 4.1
In a Nutshell: Innogames aren’t newcomers to real-time medieval strategy games (though the original Tribal Wars plays like a game whose developer’s intentions are in the right place but result in a slightly lacklustre outcome), and Tribal Wars 2 bears all the hallmarks of a game that’s been drastically improved. Standing alone on our list as the only up to date medieval strategy browser game TW2 is updated regularly and offers a fun challenge without the need to pay for the game or download it.
You’re given a barebones settlement to start and must manage its resources, build defences, and raise an army whilst levelling up your buildings in order to stoke the fires of your resource production. It’s progress to fuel progress essentially, but it’s quite the entertaining little cycle to be involved in.
Tribal Wars 2 has drastically improved visuals that immediately put it ahead of its predecessor, as well as a few new features and building types to interest the veterans of the game. Annoyingly, the combat system still cannot be accurately described as anything other than a number-crunching affair; your battles with other players unfold through a table of numbers, pitting your tribal level (calculated by the sum of your building levels plus the state of your military) against theirs in a glorified numbers table. This is a disappointment, particularly when you consider that Forge of Empires allows you to actually experience the battlefield.
This medieval building game still deserves to be on this list because of the level of it’s competition and player base, but its combat system still needs improving and it can be a little too time-intensive when you run out of your initial stock of money/resources. Read Our Full Review Here.
Medieval II: Total War (Download)
Game Rating: 4.4/5
In a Nutshell: There’s a lot to be said about the Total War saga, a series of games so legendary and epic that the very mention of them makes other developers very slightly ashamed that their games aren’t quite measuring up. Medieval II: Total War is coming up on 8 years old now, but its name still resonates with force throughout the medieval real-time strategy community. The volume at which this game resonates is rather significant because of its mix of grand-scale real-time strategy and brutal turn-based combat depicted in more gory detail than most, and all set in the grizzly medieval period where you could casually strike down a peasant if he so much as even slightly underappreciated being allowed to breathe the same air as a noble lord or knight.
The game’s campaign involved constructing and managing your own civilisation and all of its goings on such as its military and its economy as well as the social system that your civilisation inevitably divides into. The fact that you get to assume control of famous historical powers such as the Holy Roman Empire, Denmark, Milan etc. and control up to around 45 powers in the long campaign means that history buffs will be loving the attention to historical accuracy and the discovery of the New World towards the latter period of the game’s historical scope (which ranges from 1080 to 1530). RTS fans with no appreciation for history on the other hand can still revel in the slick graphics (even for its time), gory battles, and the gargantuan nature of the entire affair.
Crusader Kings II (Download)
Game Rating: 4.5/5
In a Nutshell: Paradox Interactive embarked upon quite the task to create a game as all-encompassing as Crusader Kings 2, but they went ahead and did it anyway, and this game is the result. As one of the more recent games on this list – released in 2012 for Windows – Crusader Kings II’s graphics are a little more advanced than many of its older competitors, though its battles still take place with relatively few troops hacking each other up on the screen in front of your eyes in order to depict larger-scale battles that each of these violently-hacking characters represent.
Along with its predecessor, Crusader Kings II is more of a dynasty simulator than the Total War series, requiring you to handle the affairs of your very own royal bloodline, acquiring spouses, forging relationships, and generally keeping up appearances as you balance the books between the various social classes of your kingdom. Military might is of course equally as important, though diplomacy between you and your aggressors can be equally as beneficial as straight-up war. The drawback with this game is that it can be so unbelievably detailed – every decision you make has potentially catastrophic effects on your relationships with your family as well as your subjects – that casual gamers may find it difficult to dip in and out of; it’s a game which requires the spending of many consecutive hours on its gameplay.
As is the usual procedure to kick things off in Crusade Kings you are asked to choose a starting year (there are many to choose from between 1066 and 1337) as well as your very own empire or kingdom that will be the subject of your rule throughout your epic campaign. There is a healthy selection of empires and states to work around the tastes of most people, from one of the largest (and most famous) in the form of the Holy Roman Empire right down to comparatively miniscule and insignificant kingdoms, with the latter often being the most entertaining since your prospective success will be built from the ground up.
Making Crusader Kings II (as well as the original Crusader Kings) such a distinguished title from its competitors is the game’s focus on the human aspect of power, and the implications of relationships, whether these are between you (as the ruler) and your subjects or between the different classes of your society in general.
A great example of the importance of relationships in Crusader Kings 2 is the marked difference between choosing a large empire or a small one to rule: the former possesses a great deal of established might with its infrastructure and military but likewise has already-established figures like earls and dukes that have their own agenda that may contravene yours; the latter may not have the might or influence that a great empire carries but you’ll be able to establish your own relationships at the outset that will flow in the direction you want them to.
You’ll spend much of your time observing a number that accompanies each character in your game that represents their opinion of you as a ruler, ranging from -100 to 100- strong disapproval and hatred to glowing approval. The higher their opinion of you, the easier it will be to rule over them. These numbers will rise and fall depending on a ridiculously complex web of factors that encompasses everything from the way you deal with the finances of each social class and your relationships with surrounding nations to the stability and longevity of your rule.
The way your rule is structured and how it is displayed through the interface are two indicators of the game’s emphasis on relationships. The territories in your empire are ruled in a semiautonomous fashion with your bishops and the like collecting your income, though only if their approval of your is high enough. A drop in opinion means an associated drop in income and therefore a squeeze on your empire as a whole. It may seem fickle and rather callous but relationships are key here and letting them break down can lead to the demise of your empire in its entirety. That’s the feudal system for you.
You must also keep your family in order in CKII, ensuring that your prestige score throughout each successive ruler of each generation is as high as possible as your final score in 1453 is an aggregate of all of the rulers of your dynasty. Your family interactions are remarkably detailed, with everything from taking a wife to your own sexuality being a factor.
To War, Eventually
Surprisingly, warfare in Crusader Kings II isn’t its biggest attraction. This is mainly because battles still aren’t represented in a detailed and dynamic fashion but rather more broadly with just two opposing characters on screen fighting it out, supposedly representing the armies they fight for in their entirety. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the game because the typical consumer of this kind of game is looking for epic battles of the likes you’ll see in games like Command and Conquer; this shortcoming is simply unacceptable in the technologically advanced year of 2014.
You won’t be battling straight away either since you need a stable economy in order to build an army, and this simply takes time. And that’s what Crusader Kings 2 really boils down to: your management of people, relationships, and power over time. Casual strategy fans will be put off by the sheer complexity and depth of the game, as well as the fact there’s no substantive tutorial to show you the ropes. It’s a great game, there’s no denying that, but it’s only for the serious grand-strategy heads: for this audience it may be the greatest game of its kind in existence.
Crusader Kings III (Coming Soon)
From Spain to India, Crusader Kings III will see get the chance to rewrite history in the third game in the popular grand strategy series and for the first time rpg elements will be introduced into the series leading to many fans already thinking the game will prove to be one of the most complex and rich medieval rpg games reviewed by The Abbey. As usual you will have to have skills in diplomacy as well as war to succeed and expand your kingdom. People will plot against you left, right and center in uniquely written narratives. A rich medieval world awaits you in this RPG title that promises so much fans of the games. There will be both online PVP and single modes available. CK III is due out this year (2020). You can check out Paradox’s dev diary at the Official Website to get the latest on the exact release date and progress of the game.
Age of Empires II Definitive Edition (Download)
Game Rating: 4.6/5
In a Nutshell: Age of Empires is basically synonymous with medieval real-time strategy in the eyes of most gamers. This is because it has been around for such a long time, though it could also be something to do with the series offering up some seriously old-school real-time strategy that some argue represents the whole genre at its very best. This should be considered a first-generation RTS, not least because of its 2D isometric design and interface, which was typical of contemporary games of its genre. For many, Age of Empires represents a classic age of real-time strategy that has since been left behind in the archives of gaming history.
The game received widespread critical acclaim and it’s not difficult to understand why. Those that appreciate a bit of a realism will enjoy Age of Empires II’s buildings, which are represented in true scale – town halls fill the screen with their grandness whilst smaller buildings cower next to them in their miniscule existence. The varying architectural styles – these range from Middle Eastern and Eastern to the styles of Western and Eastern Europe – show an attention to detail that many titles barely even touch upon. You’ll play as any one of the 13 civilisations in the game such as the Byzantine or Turkish empires, each speaking their own native language in occasional outbursts.
AOEII is a fantastic real-time strategy that has recently received an updated definitive version which includes all the best expansions. This new revamped title features ultra 4K HD graphics and brand new content “The Last Khans” with 3 new campaigns and 4 new civilizations.
Stronghold Crusader (Download)
Game Rating: 3.9/5
In a Nutshell: If the original Stronghold is an appetiser in the banquet of tasty real-time strategy that is Firefly Studios’ series, then Stronghold Crusader is the main course. This game’s trailer that preceded its release promised an improved interface, better visuals, and most importantly a more substantial feel to the gameplay and the content of the game in general
Crusader definitely delivers on the substance part of the promise. As is the usual procedure here, you get to command your own territory by managing its economic, social, and political affairs, as well as fortifying its location with a castle to ensure proper defense of your position. You’ve also got more units this time around with increased powers and with more variation than in the original. Fancy being part of the Crusades? Well, that’s what Crusader is all about, offering you the chance to involve yourself in some RTS-themed events that represent some of the bloodiest conflicts and times in the history of the world.
Long-term fans of this series will enjoy the improvements here in this sequel, as well as the return of the classic Pig, Wolf, and Snake campaign where you must take territories that were taken by people that murdered your father. Crusader’s depth is an essential component that the original Stronghold was missing, and this makes it a better title by far.
Knights of Honor (Download)
Game Rating: 3.85/5
In a Nutshell: The RTS action of Knights of Honor is grand to say the least. In the game you get to control around 100 territories throughout 3 distinct eras of history. It is an ambitious effort that Black Sea studios has managed to pull off spectacularly. Whether you’re promoting your knights or conquering nearby territories, there’s always something to do in Knights of Honor, with your responsibilities being so far-reaching you could spend 10 hours a day on the game and still have things to do. Its epic campaign is incredible to play (though isn’t available as part of multiplayer), making this one of the better RTS games you can play.
Stronghold HD (Download)
Game Rating: 4.05/5
Get your siege on with this medieval real-time combat simulator game that borrows elements from other big-hitters of the genre
Stronghold’s attempt to attack the RTS genre from multiple angles is admirable, with the blend of settlement management and engrossing castle defence/attack being extremely enjoyable. The problem with Firefly Studios’ first Stronghold title is that it suffers from overstretching itself in reaching for multiple game play dimensions. It’s castle defense and castle siege campaigns are the best of all those type of defense games reviewed by castle tower defense and represent some of the only opportunities in the entire genre to besiege/defend various strongholds in this level of detail, they still suffer from a number of bugs as well as an ill-designed and shallow economic campaign that highlights the game’s focus on siege action in lieu of the social, economical, and political factors of conquering territories.
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
The Total War and Age of Empire series 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.
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.
Crusader Kings (Download)
Game Rating: 3.65/5
In a Nutshell: Original may be great but it isn’t always best: this statement has never been truer in this instance. Crusader Kings is where Pardox’s series began, and it’s not a game that can be dismissed easily as being one of the better grand-scale strategies out there. Players get to experience the epic action through three main campaigns that focus on events that are historically accurate to an impressive degree. The battle of Hastings is one event whose after effects are the subject of one of these campaigns, and both the 1187 crusade (known as the third crusade) and the Hundred Years’ War are also represented in stunning social, economic, political, and historical detail.
Each campaign allows you to try your hand at assuming control of pivotal figures such as King Richard I, with each of these characters having particular traits and attributes that make the whole thing feel like an RPG in addition to being a grand-scale RTS. These attributes bestow both positive and negative dimensions to each of the characters, with positive attributes leading to great leadership qualities but also making you the enemy of those that are on the more negative end of the spectrum. Family lineage also has an important part to play in your international standing; William I’s lack of father makes him a bastard and therefore viewed negatively by other rulers with what is seen as a more perfect family tree.
Serious RTS fans will absolutely love this original (though not as much as the sequel), though the game isn’t for the faint of heart as it can eat up hours and hours per day of your time. Its depth is such that those looking for a more casual experience may as well not even bother with this game’s colossal breadth and stunning historical depth.
Stronghold Crusader 2 (Download)
Game Rating: 3.6/5
In a Nutshell: Remember the food analogy I introduced in the paragraphs about Stronghold: Crusader? Well, if the original Crusader was the impressive main course in the RTS banquet, then Crusader 2 is unfortunately the disappointing dessert that manages to taint an otherwise adequate meal. This game is concerned with the same subject matter as the original, which is managing territories during the time of the Crusades with a particularly detailed focus on siege-based warfare, but it’s just disappointing this time around.
Things appear to have been simplified this time around, taking away a lot of the elements that made the original Crusader‘s simulation of the challenges of managing and defending your own territory challenging in the first place.
The Guild 2 (Download): Medieval Life Simulator and Strategy
Game Rating: 3.5
In a Nutshell: Are you tired of medieval-themed management/strategy games yet? Didn’t think so, because otherwise you wouldn’t be here, and you definitely wouldn’t be eyeing up The Guild 2, 4Head Studios’ answer to a family-centric, management-laden medieval experience. As a sequel to the aloofly-named Europe 1400, The Guild 2 exists firmly in the multiplayer real-time strategy genre, but just how firmly one can state the real-time nature of its action cannot be understated: this is a medieval-life simulator and economic strategy with a particularly meticulous approach to the subject matter. What I’m trying to suggest is that The Guild 2, though admirable in its efforts to provide a thorough real-time strategy experience, will only be entertaining for the hardcore RTS fans.
The Guild 2 sets you off on a rather unique standing, having you assume the role of a lone peasant in medieval society and charging you with the task of working your way up the social spectrum, finding a spouse, having children, and working towards economic prosperity. An original approach indeed, but the game doesn’t stop there in terms of the detail it goes into since you also have to do things like run your own business in order to reach a higher social and economic status and achieve social mobility.
If you were thinking that The Guild 2’s gameplay would involve a relatively hands-off management style (compared to epic wartime strategy titles like Crusader Kings II, that is), then think again. In fact, this game goes beyond the macro-management of fellow RTS games and has you dipping your hands deep into the waters of the genre, and often reaching into the adjacent genre of RPG as well. Your characters have designated social classes for example (patron, craftsman, rogue etc.); special abilities are assigned to your characters; ability scores, experience points, and levelling up are also an integral part of the gameplay.
These responsibilities are compounded by your duties of constructing buildings, upgrading them, and producing/gathering up resources as you would in any other dedicated real-time strategy game. It doesn’t stop there however, since you’re also asked to oversee the economics of your situation as well in the form of balancing the books in the day-to-day running of your business. Surely there’s not room for any more? Oh, they’ve gone and squeezed in a smattering of action in the form of fending off thieves trying to undermine your business? The promises made on the official website were true. Well I’ll be damned.
Not for the Pessimistic
Depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full kind of person or not, you can this abundance of activities to be getting on with as a positive or negative. For the person that likes to fixate themselves on the most menial of tasks for several hours at a time, The Guild 2’s gameplay is perfect. The trouble is that if you feel like your glass has too much air and not enough liquid, you’re not going to appreciate being bogged down in all of the micromanagement that this game entails. Moreover, you’re likely to be too busy to have even filled/half-emptied the glass in the first place (plus it’s difficult finding drinkable water as a peasant in these harsh medieval times).
Let’s focus on the positives for a bit before we drown in the deep waters of the gameplay though, shall we? The game’s got plenty of content in terms of maps to play on, with eight in total that allow you to experience the countryside of Germany, France, and England in the medieval period. Each country has its own specific economic standing which is reflected in your starting position: prosperity abounds in Lyon, for example, while leaner times can be expected in Alamannia due to the disruptive activity of bandits.
Not a Drop To Drink
Many players will find it disappointing that the game fails to offer much variation in gameplay in spite of its in-depth appearance at the outset. Though the broad scope of its gameplay (economic, social, construction, RPG-like progression etc.) may sound like it offers a lot to do, in reality you’re really just repeating a fairly limited set of tasks over and over again in different contexts. Your roles may differ between the game’s four classes, but in the end it’s the same principle applied universally with minor variations applied ad-hoc. Even the multiplayer suffers from the same sort of monotony, though at least then the principle of “a problem shared” comes into play.
It troubles me to conclude that TG2 is quite the disappointing foray into what happens when a game, in spite of an original idea and genuinely pleasant interface, simply attempts to provide too broad of a focus. It’s like using broad strokes when a precision brush is needed: there’s too much going on, but not enough variation in what you get to do. 4Head’s intentions were clearly ambitious and noble, but The Guild 2 has managed to emerge as a product that is less than the sum of its parts.
Please Note* Since originally reviewing the Guild 2, the third game has come out which is receiving updates all the time, we recommend you check that game out below instead. It follows the same ideas of the TG2 but delivers a far better strategy and life simulation experience.
The Guild 3 (Download)
The Guild 3 offers marked improvements on the second version
In a Nutshell: While TG2 under delivers, the third game and most recent update has shown a marked improvement for the series. TG3 is in active development with the studio still providing updates in 2020. So if you don’t like the sound of the second be sure to visit the Official Website to check out the third game. Again its another life sim done better this time, purchasing businesses and trading goods as you move your way up in life through the good and bad times. While some of the above games are certainly more rewarding into terms of overall delivery, the Guild 3 offers a unique historical perspective on the middle ages where you can learn about life back then on a day to day basis through the eyes of a single person rather than just playing through major warfare events. It’s a strategy/life simulation game that really brings the medieval times to life.