CastleStorm – game review
Only seldom games are able to pull off a genre melding formula successfully and CastleStorm seems to do with such an ease that it looks so well-crafted that will tingle the pleasure nerves of both fast paced action lovers, strategic thinkers and those seeking humor and fun out of a game.
CastleStorm is a colorful 2.5D game, that looks hugely inspired from “Swords & Soldiers”, a 2D mobile tower offense game. But it adds a lot of new elements over its formula. Your battlefields will consist of two castles on both sides of play-field. Both armies are trying to generate troops to attack the other and bring down other team’s castle. It is a simple setting but the whole plethora of tools available at your disposal to do so from RTS like troop production, manual control ballista weapons, magical abilities and the option to go in battlefield yourself and melee fight enemies yourself make it a really versatile experience. It all reminded me of how Anomaly: Warzone earth successfully implemented manual control of a commander on field to make the game much more frantic and fun by not letting you rest for a single second.
The castles in the game are fully user designed. The type of reinforcements you do, and type of rooms you put in castle will give you those kind of barracks for unit production or bonuses. On the offensive side you will have stones, bombs and mace balls etc to throw at other person’s castles in an Angry Birds like fashion to destroy it. Its all physics based so collapsing weak structure members is the key to destroying other person’s castle and disabling barracks or winning the war.
The game has large variety of units to choose from but you must select your preferred soldier types to play matches with from the collection to suit your play style. Units that are available range from basic soldiers and archers to mounted knights to healing priests to fantasy creatures to help you force the push on ground towards the enemy castle. Ground troops can be used to storm the castle doors and capture enemies flag from inside. If they return back alive with the flag then that is also a secondary victory condition. Resource collection (for purchasing troops) is auto and so is the movement of soldiers. This removes micro-managment but also creates a difficulty that you cannot order them to retreat or wait for reinforcements but they are not completely helpless as you can use your trusty ballista and magic abilities to help them out.
The trusty giant ballista will be the tool you will spend most of your time using. It comes with basic spear throwing capabilities which can be used as your primary anti-personal weapon which you can master for nice parabolic head-shots. Other ammo for ballista include triple spear attack, boulders, apple bombs, mace like spiked balls etc. Each having their own unique capabilities and effective use and cooldown timer to balance the game for nice moderate length matches.
The magic abilities are nothing new to tower defense or offense games like heavenly powerful attacks or troop healing etc. But the unique abilities include power to teleport hero to battlefield letting you gain direct control of him to do attacks like a standard brawler. Timings for these are crucial due to long cool downs, so don’t teleport your hero unless its essential to defend your troops or make the final aggressive push as heroes are pretty strong. It is a real lovely merger of strategy and action which keeps the game high on fun for all level of gamers.
All of the abilities or troops come in a finely locked package for you to slowly progress and unlock. Unlocks are not just limited to new abilities or troop types but existing abilities can be upgraded too. So, you can invest in abilities or troops which you rely on more to increase their strength or defense etc. Unlocking progression is always a nice feature to have in game to keep you coming back for more.
The game’s story mode introduces these plethora of features step by step in a very humorous campaign. You play off as Sir Gareth, the cocky knight off to defend the noble people from imminent viking on-slaught, despite an understanding of peace treaty between them. Each new level will start with attractive in-game cinematics filled with quips and sheep-humor. Although I loved the skirmishes with whole abilities unlocked before hand but the campaign has a charm of its own due to the humor and progression of story.
First DLC of the game is also available now called “From Outcast to Savior”. This adds a brand new campaign to the game with its own story, new hero and brand new environments. If you liked and completed the original singleplayer campaign then it sure comes off as a recommended buy with the base game, but if you interest is pure multiplayer then this DLC can be ignored.
The game supports both online and local multiplayer in both competitive and cooperate form. Its a real lovely party game with quick learning curve. The local games do have the problem that the game doesn’t use conventional split screen method and instead makes two full zoomed out cascade like screens placed on top left and bottom right corners, leaving large black unused space on top right and bottom left side. I was assuming that the game would just make one fully zoomed out screen and on-screen GUI of both players on left/right sides. But sadly and surprisingly that is not the case. The problem with this scheme is that with two full windows on one screen completely zoomed out, just made the game really tiny, you can zoom in and pan but if you have small monitor then its really hard to see the action in detail. Other than this nuisance, the multiplayer is what I enjoyed most in this game and only against a human player you will find true depth of tactics available in this game.
I must just say Zen Studios have done a great favor to us by setting their usual Pinball games aside and working on this title. Its a truly fine crafted gem. If you are like me and like games like Anomaly over other tower defense/offense games due to faster pace then same goes for CastleStorm, its on-the-fly strategic thinking, fast paced action makes a perfect brew of fun time. From colorful 2.5D graphics in light fantasy setting, combined with plethora of abilities and over-whelming actions to make per second decision to keep firing spears or waste some precious time in troop production can make matches frantic and super fun. It comes off an easily recommended title.