Hands off, you sly scoundrel!
(Please note: The screenshots are from a pre-release of the game. They do not reflect the current graphics of the game.)
Set in a colourful medieval world, CastleStorm is a 2D side scrolling warfare game in which you defend your castle from marauders via ballista, magic, garrison or melee developed by Zen Studios.
The game is very reminiscent of Angry Birds by which you must collapse the opposing structure via various projectiles, but the similarities end there. While they do try to inject humour via introductory scenes and funny death knells, the tedium of accomplishing each stage makes the game less fun after each one.
Your main objective throughout the game, aside from defence, is to fortify your castle via upgrades purchased after each battle; however, in order to finish each mission, you must destroy the enemy fortress while preventing their advance. The main tool for this is a ballista mounted on a forward tower. Although you do have troops and magic at your disposal, plus a brief appearance of your Hero, this weapon will be your best option for maximum damage.
However, this giant crossbow is in itself a big liability. Since you will always have advancing troops trying to destroy your castle, you must either dispatch them via your own defences or use this siege weapon; only during lulls between attacks, can you assault the opposing fortress. While the ballista does more damage and has longer range, it is frustrating having to pin down a moving enemy; therefore, you must arc the missile to succeed in a strike. Aiming is on a graduated arc and the controller tries to reflect that with delayed reactions as the targeted area is shown via a projected arc on the screen. However, you will need to be patient to find the right angle by firing several test shots.
If you wish to change tactics, you can shower the raiders with magical swords or send out your troops. But, you must keep everything upgraded if they are to stand a chance versus the enemy. Your Hero may seem to be a useful alternative, however, he has the same problem of aiming his bow – a graduated arc for the arrow. Although this may be more realistic, this is a game, not life or death; you are better off using sword & shield for the twenty seconds he can remain on screen.
The playing field itself is approximately two and a half screens long – and it cannot be fully displayed at the same time; this is when the side scrolling feature of the game comes into play. However, since the enemy troops are always moving, you must scroll out of view to see the opposing castle. This leaves you vulnerable to attacks on your own fortress.
Although the designers tried to make the game exciting by various missions, the battlefield is always the same: your castle, enemy troops and an opposing castle. The combat is the same for every mission. You can try to change your tactics to vary the situations, but it all will merge into one long gaming session.
The saving grace for CastleStorm is multi-player, which is a fun departure from the solo campaign. You can play either local or via Xbox Live using all your castle upgrades earned in the main game. The concept of being able to bombard your friends with death from above is hilarious as you watch a friend squirm or hear them curse you over the headset. However, being on the receiving end of a fully equipped opponent quickly dulls the thrill of your previous victories.
CastleStorm is a interesting change for the typical castle defence game, but it falls short on several points – a lack of reliable controls being the glaring fault. While co-op saves it from being mediocre, the game itself is an amusing adventure if you don’t mind investing some time into upgrading your castle and garrison.
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!
A copy of CastleStorm on the Xbox 360 was purchased by the reviewer for purposes of this review.