A bow on the left side of the map and a fortress on the right side which you must shoot until only the ruins remain. Sound familiar? Well yes, it does sound like Angry Birds going medieval. Luckily there is lot more to CastleStorm than that. Zen Studios has taken the “winning formula” and enhanced it in a way that makes something that has never been seen before in tower defense games.
Essentially the game is a tower defense game where you must protect your castle from waves of approaching enemies and you must do whatever it takes to stop them. It is the how you are going to do that makes the game so appealing.
CastleStorm pits two factions against each other; the Knights and the Vikings. You start off in the campaign mode where you are introduced to the gameplay styles included in the game. The plot involves a knight’s humorous quest to steal back an ancient powerful crystal from an evil Viking warlord. During this journey you will be destroying lots of enemy castles and laughing for numerous clever references to titles such as Skyrim, Game of Thrones and of course Lord of the Rings.
As the game is about its battles, CastleStorm puts you right into the action and unlike in many tower defense games we’ve seen, it makes sure that you are not passively setting up towers or making improvements to the battlefield. Instead you control the main ballista, it is you who sends out the troops while at the same controlling your hero on the battlefield. Developers have made sure that CastleStorm is interactive, chaotic and fun. That is the reason why Zen Studios’ own way of describing the game fits it so well: “It’s a super genre mashup of 2D physics destruction mashed with tower-defense brawler.”
Your main objective: Destroy
Each battle has a main objective which you must accomplish in order to advance, but usually the levels boil down to either destroying the enemy castle or capturing the enemy’s flag. Each battle also has an optional, secondary goal, such as completing the level in certain amount of time or getting a certain number of kills in a specific manner. If you meet these goals, you get bonus gold for the kingdom which lets you upgrade your units and abilities. Improving these abilities play a major role when you’re going through the campaign. If you’re not careful and spend your gold in one place, you will find yourself in a pinch when a future mission calls for a strategy not suitable for units you’ve just upgraded.
You have three different sets of abilities that you can utilize durring each battle. They are the ballista, magic and troops. You use the ballista to tear down the enemy’s castle or to cut down troops on the field that are advancing toward you vulnerable flag. Targeting with the ballista is quite easy, but mastering it takes some time. However, when you do master it, headshotting enemy forces with a javelin makes clearing out the field a lot faster.
you will find yourself eventually shooting exploding apples, rocks, ice, scraps of armor, sheeps with rainbow diarrhea, boars with a severe indigestion and all sorts of other things.
The ballista has lots of different kinds of ammo that you can use. Thus you will find yourself eventually shooting exploding apples, rocks, ice, scraps of armor, sheeps with rainbow diarrhea, boars with a severe indigestion and all sorts of other things. Each of these has qualities that work better against the wood or stonework of the enemy castle.
Then there are spells that can either boost your troops or hinder your enemies with various effects. By making good use of spells, you can gain a slight advantage on the field making your units withstand more punishment or do massive damage to your opponents special unit. The most unique of the spells is the ability to summon your own hero to the battlefield for a fixed period of time. At this point the game switches perspective to a side scrolling brawler where you can deal direct punishment to you enemies advancing troops.
Your hero, depending on the faction what you’re using is like a super unit you control. You can do a heavy melee attack, ranged attack or unleash your characters special attack. These heroes can easily kill even the biggest horde of troops your enemy has launched.
Each faction in CastleStorm has their own special type of units they can use, most of which becoming very useful if you upgrade them. But essentially these units consist of the ground melee and ranged units – some faster or stronger than others – and also few aerial ones. For example, the Knight faction can use a heavy golems that can deal massive damage and griffins that can swoop in and take down multiple enemies with a single attack. Then again, the Vikings have something similar at their disposal.
Even though the game has lots going on during the battles, it never gets too hard. Zen Studios did an excellent job developing a learning curve that keeps the game challenging but never too hard. In addition, with so much variety in the game, it accommodates different play styles which always makes the game feel more comfortable and well, yours.
Build a strong castle
At the beginning of each battle you choose your troops and spells that you’re going to use. You can only use the units that have a spawn point in your castle. Now if the other player – during the heat of the battle – manages to destroy one these spawn points, it means you cannot continue using that unit for the remainder of the the current match. So if your enemy is fixed on using certain units, you might strategically start taking down that certain part of the castle as soon as possible.
You can choose a premade castle, modify an existing one or make your own castle. There different kinds of rooms that you can add to your castle. These rooms allow you to spawn certain units, boost your units and or the castle. I.e. you can have a room that increases the amount of units you have on the battlefield at the same time, or rooms that makes your units attack a little faster.
The rooms that you have left are the structural ones that decide how much damage it can take. Each castle have both; wood and stone elements in them, so to build up a strong castle that can take severe punishment, you have to think carefully where you are going to place your units. Which are the rooms that you can allow to be destroyed and what do you want to keep intact as long as possible. Will you sacrifice strength of the walls for more units, that is up to you.
Putting it all together
Few words come into mind when I try to summarize CastleStorm. Clever, funny and a “new” take on tower defence games. Sure it does borrow a lot from games we’ve seen before but by adding a new formula to the mix, it transforms those mechanics to something new and worth enjoying.
The true gem of this game is the mix of gameplay elements and variety.
The biggest worry of mine was the repetition of such games, but Zen Studios tackled that with a campaign mode that kept me following until the very end of both campaigns. While not very deep, it keeps the player entertained easily.
The true gem of this game is the mix of gameplay elements and variety. That combined with a good sense of humor, challenging opponents and fun multiplayer, we have a tower defense game that is a blast to play with a friend. Especially with that low price-tag of 10 dollars.