Tower defence games tend to delightfully eat into my productivity, and its been happening for a while now. CastleStorm, a 2.5D “castle”-defense by Zen Studios, was originally released on Xbox Live Arcade and has made its way on the PC. The Hungarian developer team is mostly known for their excellent work on their Pinball titles. If I had to give it a general description, CastleStorm is a TD that mixes a lot various elements from different genres, sugar-coated with a Saturday morning cartoon aesthetic, and lets you hurl animals suffering from flatulence.
To call it a straight-up tower defence game is a tad misleading. You will initially start off with but a single castle equipped with a catapult placed above your gates, which acts as your turret. Your catapult by default is capable of firing spears at opposing forces, in what’s strictly a 2D scrolling space.
Using the WASD keys will help pan the camera around, while lining up shots to take out incoming mobs works perfectly via mouse control. Winning conditions are straightforward enough: wreck the other guy’s castle, along with a few variants thrown in – such as retrieving an enemy’s flag or simply surviving an enemy wave.
"Castle building gives you some nice room for experimentation, because depending on where exactly you will place a component on your blueprint, your opponent can specifically target it and have it destroyed."
Things start opening up more so as you progress throughout the single player campaign. Aside from firing off your own projectiles from a distance, you’re able to spawn your own troops of various sizes, and have them either clear a path or make a beeline for flag capturing. Better yet, you can also call forth your hero character and assume direct control of his actions. This will actually change your camera’s perspective, and have it homed in on your hero. You can move your hero using the WASD keys, and opt for a normal attack and a charged-up attack using the left and right click mouse buttons respectively.
One other key component goes into deciding the kind of troops or passive skills you will carry into battle, and that’s constructing your castle via the game’s editor. The further you progress in the campaign, the more types of projectiles, magic abilities, troops and passive skills you will unlock – which can be upgraded with the gold you’ll win from completing missions or optional side-quests.
However, equipping troops and skills to your castle is a more involved process, as each component takes up a number of physical blocks and resources in your customisation window. Castle building gives you some nice room for experimentation, because depending on where exactly you will place a component (be it say, a dragon or a skill that increases your chances for more gold) on your blueprint, your opponent can specifically target it and have it destroyed.
"I did find some issues with the pacing. For those looking to jump straight into any of the other modes, you are still required to complete the campaign if you want to toy around with a full arsenal."
CastleStorm is more about the sum of its parts than focusing on one specific play-style, and encourages you to switch things up mid-battle. Because an opponent is likely to have the same set of tools as you do, how exactly you want to deploy those tools is still completely up to you. Even if you’re not looking to spend time with the game’s skirmish or multiplayer modes, the story mode does a good job of introducing the numerous amount of units or weapons you’ll soon unlock, as well as providing a different set of objectives and conditions. The over-arching narrative presented is your typical generic fantasy fare, charming and inoffensive enough to plod your way through.
I did find some issues with the pacing. For those looking to jump straight into any of the other modes, you are still required to complete the campaign if you want to toy around with a full arsenal. There were also points in single player that forced me having to play as a hero character all the way through. Soloing as a hero just isn’t engaging enough to carry an entire mission, and should be mostly reserved for short bursts.
My other quibble was having to switch mid-story to the Norse troops. Just when you’re finally getting into the groove of taking advantage of your higher level troops and skills, the game gives you a new faction with their own set of unique units, but also asks you to unlock and level-up them from square-one. I wasn’t too keen on repeating this process again, but it did nothing to affect the difficulty scale.
However, credit to Zen Studios on making a fairly detailed and smooth presentation. Performance was quite crisp, even on my lower-spec laptop. Rarely did I experience any slowdowns, glitches or wonky animations – even while playing online. The aforementioned cartoony look lends itself to a very colorful game helped along with the small touches found in its busy backgrounds and solid physics. Watching an enemy’s castle crumble to the ground will likely lead to cheers and victorious gesturing.
This game was reviewed on the PC.
Utilising your many offensive options in a fight. Meaty single player campaign. Solid Multiplayer component. Incredibly polished.
Hiccups in single player progression. Co-op is nothing to write home about.