I have been taking part in Firefly Studio's "Stronghold Kingdoms" MMO alpha testing and would like to share some observations and comparisons between the MMO and the original Stronghold Isometric view RTS.
The have re-used the isometric view and graphics from the original game which I like as they were always very nice and I felt the 3D versions of the game whilst nice, were never as pretty to look at as the faux 3D isometric graphics, there are some differences between the original game that took me a while to figure out, they have combined some of the components for example instead of having to build a grain farm, flour mill and a bakery, these three are now one unit, I was confused for a while because the whole unit is merely called a "Bakery" ditto the "Brewery" which is a combined hops farm/brewery, though this does simplify things somewhat.
Alas castles no longer have crenelated walls, this is a little disappointing though I imagine it speeds things up as the crenelated walls probably required an added layer of complexity that might have slowed things down a bit as the software has to decide how to lay out the crenelations depending on how many squares wide your section of wall is.
other than plonking your troops down at the border of the castle you wish to attack, that's about the amount you get to organise them, from there on they attack as AI's and you really only get to watch a video of the attack after it has happened, you don't get to control it in real time which is a shame, but again probably speeds things up server-wise.
The research trees seem pretty good, though there does seem to be some confusing duplication but that might get sorted by the time they go beta.
You do have to be careful what you research as the AI attacks against your castle increase as your rank increases so if you have risen in rank but neglected your castle and are busy researching banquets or something, you better watch out.
The Vassal system seems a little one sided, as you might expect, but whilst you as a vassal get some honour per day for having a liege lord, the liege lord himself now has carte blanche to attack and destroy the AI castles and Siege camps in your county, denying newer players of the honour they would have got for defending themselves against these attacks.
Also getting a few vassals and the odd extra village seems to accelerate your advancement dramatically, meaning if you just beaver away building things and researching things you might find the guy next to you is advancing way ahead of you just because he conned some idiots into becoming his vassals and they didn't know any better.
I have to say for all that it has been quite enjoyable and I have a fairly respectable castle built, though no amount of massive castle can stop a massed invasion of pointless peasants who are only there to stay alive long enough to pillage some of your resources, then run away with them, and they do not shed a single tear for their multiple lost comrades they are just happy they have some of your wood to take back to their lord.
Lifes pretty cheap to that type.