Not unlike the preceding games in the series, Stronghold 2 provides the ability to play online with friends. When the game was first released back in 2005, it came with the built-in functionality to play online through GameSpy. You would simply click on the Multiplayer option in the main menu of the game, which would take you straight to the multiplayer lobby. From here you could choose which game you wished to join, enter the password if necessary and continue on to play.
Unfortunately in 2014 all GameSpy servers ceased to operate and were shut down. This undoutedly left many fans of the series very disappointed with what was happening alongside a feeling of no way to continue playing the game. However, that is not strictly true. There are now two ways available of playing Stronghold 2 online.
The first is through Steam using the 1.5 Steam version of the game. This appears to be mostly backwards compatible in terms of maps which were made on prior versions of the game, however for multiplayer, you can only play with users who also have the 1.5 Steam version of the game. Unfortunately this means that you must play through the Steam client as well and cannot use any external service or program to play.
The second way to play Stronghold 2 online is through GameRanger. You can only do this through the disk version of the game, and generally through the latest 1.4.1 version of it. You should all be playing the same game version and with unmodified files to play smoothly online. GameRanger is an external program that you use to download and install, allowing you to connect with other players. Once installed, you create your own lobby room for Stronghold 2, or join an existing one. Simply click on the "Host" button to host a new game, or left click on any existing Stronghold 2 lobby from the list and then click on the "join" button.
Once inside the Stronghold 2 game lobby, you can chat to the players who are also playing the game. When the host is ready, they can press the "Start" button to start the game. From this point onwards, the process is automatic. The host's Stronghold 2 game will start, and they will automatically be taken to the multiplayer lobby. From there, a game will automatically be setup and all players will go through a similar process: their Stronghold 2 games will start in order, and they will be taken automatically into the same multiplayer game as the host is in.
From this point onwards, the multiplayer side of the game is exactly the same as it always had been. The only difference was how the players became connected to each other, which was all handled through GameRanger. You will all now be in the Kingmaker lobby screen, which looks identical to the same page that which is used in Kingmaker battles with one exception being the large red shield next to the "Go" button. Each player must left click on this indicating that they are ready before the game can begin.
Only the host can configure the settings of the game, but players can still talk to each other through the chat box at the bottom of the screen. Once you've started the game, there are also several keyboard shortcuts that may be of interest to you. These include the ability to send messages whilst in the game, and the ability to send taunts to other players. These tauts are shown in the below table: