CastleStorm – Review (PC)

CastleStorm is a Tower-Defence-cum-Castle-Destruction for PC and X360 (Arcade). The game is developed by Zen Studios who previously developed Zen Pinball 2 and Pinball Fx2.

CaslteStorm follows a medieval setting where the land was wrought with battle, but finally, peace was attained thanks to the help of some gems; one for your kingdom and one for the Vikings you battled with. Peace never does last too long, and here it’s no different. War ensues when the Vikings have the bright idea of obtaining your gem and owning both.

The story in CastleStorm has a balance of seriousness and humour. The humour is much to my liking, boasting some nods towards Monty Python along with some original stuff. You experience the story from the eyes of Sir Gareth and progress through the missions unlocking both the next part of the story and upgrades for your castle.

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CastleStorm can be considered to have a lot of customisation. You can customise which units, projectiles, spells and heroes you use, along with the complete structure of your castle. Castles are built from Rooms, Structural pieces and Gates. Structural pieces remain the same throughout the whole game and are mainly there to stop your rooms being destroyed. Rooms give castles basic function and bonuses, such as allowing your castle to build a certain unit or increasing the maximum number of units you can build. New and more powerful gates unlock as you play and their role is to stop enemy units entering your castle and stealing the flag.

The gameplay consists of firing objects (space), building troops (shift), casting spells and summoning heroes (ctrl). Pressing any of these keys will bring up a hotbar with five slots, which each correspond to the numbers 1-5. Having it work this way allows you to keep firing shots while building troops and works quite well. The goal is to simultaneously defend your castle and flag while attempting to destroy the enemy’s castle and flag. This can be achieved simply by building troops and shooting their castle and hoping yours lasts longer, or you can employ more difficult tactics like shooting their arrows out of the air or converting their strong units to your side. Both types of game-play merge well and can make for some hectic fun.

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Campaign missions in CastleStorm are preceded by some – often funny – dialogue which will preface the mission and any issues you will run into during it, such as being unable to use the ballista. Each mission will give you stars based on your accuracy, difficulty and another element which could be time, the bonus objective or an array of other things. You’ll even run into some bosses which require specific strategies to defeat. For a portion of the Campaign, you’ll also be using the vikingland armies, allowing you to learn both factions for other modes.

Beyond the Campaign, CastleStorm has three other modes – all of which can also be played online. These modes are: Skirmish, Survival and Hero Survival. Skirmish is just a free battle where you can choose your nation and castle and duke it out with an AI of either nation. Survival has you fight off infinite waves of enemies as any castle for either nation. Hero Survival is much the same, but you only play one hero. These modes help add a lot of replayability to the game – especially Hero Survival which has completely different game-play.

CastleStorm has a somewhat unique aesthetic, differentiating it from other similar games. It looks almost like a cartoon turned 3D. The game is partially-voice and partially-grumbled, which is impressive for the price you pay.

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My main problems with the game are that when a streak of five kills is reached, frenzy mode is activated. This zooms the camera all the way out – and you can’t zoom it back in – and makes your shots rapid-fire. Useful, right? Wrong. The game intends for you to reach 80% accuracy to gain two stars for a mission, all frenzy mode does is aim to stop you doing so. Another problem is that, in online mode, everyone is just building the most efficient, square, uninteresting castle. You rarely run into a player who has built a unique castle that suits their tastes – not that the game does much to promote doing so. The game can’t be blamed for this, though. There’s also a minor problem in the campaign in that you need to manually switch to a new castle after missions where you unlock new rooms otherwise you can’t use those items, a pretty minor problem, but it slows down the time between the action – You can build your own, but that slows it down even more. Mostly problems that can be overlooked, though you’d better make sure your friends buy a copy if you want to have fun online.

CastleStorm is a fun game with a decent story. The multiplayer has a bit too much min-maxing to grab my interest, but there’s still replayability to be had in skirmish and survival modes – or even in perfecting campaign scores. For the cheap price tag, you can’t go far wrong with CastleStorm.