CastleStorm has been out on XBLA for a few weeks now and we’ve wanted to do a review for a while…
The game is a cross between a side scrolling brawler, a basic RTS game (similar to swords and soldiers) and Angry Birds. It’s quite an ambitious mix and in the main it works! Let’s breakdown the actual gameplay.
There a number of different modes in CastleStorm, both online and offline. Starting with the offline modes first, we have a full campaign, which plays out a number of battles tied to a simple and suitably daft mockery of a typical lord of the rings style of narrative. The first few battles are designed to teach you the basics of using your different weapons, soldiers and special magic style attacks. However as time goes on, as you would expect the game opens out to include full on battles. This is where we see the fill mixture of game styles being utilised.
The aim of the game is to destroy the enemies castle. You do this by firing anything from spears, rocks and explosives at their castle in a way very similar to the launching of those pesky birds from the aforementioned Angry Birds. As with Angry Birds, CastleStorm is at it’s heart a physics based game, so as the enemy castle is struck by ammunition propelled by the player walls, floors and ceilings become dislodged, fall and can cause other supporting structures to collapse in a way similar to the old family favourite, ‘Kerplunk!’
Whilst both commanders are trying to bring the other’s castle down first, both players (human versus human, or human versus CPU) can send foot soldiers, soldiers on donkeys, archers and many other variety of soldier onto the 2D battlefield (this is the swords and soldiers influence). The purpose of these are three fold. One is to defend against enemy soldiers. Another is to carry out secondary or primary missions which are not to destroy a castle (such as to capture a flag left in the middle to the landscape between the two castles). Lastly if your soldiers make it as far as the enemy castle gates, they too can do their bit of castle destruction.
So far I’ve explained two ways of causing havoc and destruction. Yet there are more ways to enjoy! You can launch yourself into a level at any time with direct control over a number of ‘super characters’ who have specific powers. You’ll only have them for a short period of time, a bit like Jedis in Star Wars Battlefront, but you can cut your way through a swathe of enemy soldiers with them. The game will also enable a bunch of different magic powers which you can deploy, to boost the health of soldiers in the field, allow special attacks and what not.
There is quite a deep layer of strategy built into the game despite the cartoon-ish appearances suggesting otherwise. Your castle can be upgraded, with new rooms added. Those rooms allow you to raise more money, or have a larger army amongst other things. You can move their location or build extra parts of your castle to help protect them from enemy projectiles. As the game plays out and you get more money, it is crucial that you rebuild and improve your defences.
The title offers a number of gameplay modes. The campaign mode and online versus and co-op mode and then ‘wave after wave’ type modes. During the actual campaign mode there will be supplemental side missions. These place you in an arena where you can use your hero or a single gameplay element to carry out variations during combat practise. Whilst they are not as fun as the core game, the developers encourage you to play them to allow you to upgrade faster. They don’t last very long, so as a simple diversion they work, and they are optional.
The online modes are great in practise, but as with many XBLA titles finding someone to play with could be come an issue. Whilst that is not a criticism of the game itself, it’s worth being aware of. Once you have completed the campaign you might go back to replay some key battles, but you will probably hang out in the skirmish area which are custom battles, or if you to want to zone out drop into the ‘survival’, wave based modes being offered.
The graphics are great, and the character art and development are really sharp whilst being very tongue and cheek! The audio though suffers. What is there is good, but there isn’t much there. Expect to hear the same tune playing all the time, on a pretty short loop.
Overall this is a novel tower defence game, borrowing the best parts of many other genres. The sense of humour (very Worms-esque), will constantly bring a smile to your face whilst the actual gameplay is engaging and fun. It’s not a classic, and from a control perspective would live much better on the PSVita, or even the Xbox One with smart glass (as the angry birds aiming with the control stick is too sensitive), but we recommend the title if you want something more laid back, colourful, fun but with a hint of strategy and castle building thrown in for good measure!
By Steven Gurevitz