CastleStorm

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CastleStorm
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CastleStorm
Strategy
Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network
Review based on Xbox Live Arcade version.
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Release Date: May 29th, 2013
When Zen Studios announces a new title, right away you come to expect quality and fun gaming experiences. Known most for their line-up of pinball entries, such as the Pinball FX series, the company sets its sights on the Strategy field with CastleStorm. On the exterior, it looks like a typical Angry Birds casual game knock-off, but, at it’s core, is just a little more to give it a fun, somewhat unique edge that can be rather addicting. Available at the modest price of ten dollars in US funds, is this worth shelling your hard earned money out to download, or is it still one that should be ignored?

First of all, CastleStorm‘s soundtrack isn’t the most amazing. For the most part, it’s simple, upbeat background music that does reflect the landscapes and time period well enough. However, it’s the audio clips of the characters that become annoying. Some can be rather comedic, such as the early stumpy men with swords and shields sounding as if they simply don’t want to be there, and the random Monty Python and the Holy Grail quote from the Black Knight. That’s more for the “Kingdom” characters. The “Viking” characters, however, are the most annoying and repetitive NPCs you could ever have to deal with.

The scantilly clad digital viking vixens couldn’t save the constant reminders that the enemy was attacking my castle literally every two or three seconds, as if I didn’t hear them the first hundred times already. Honestly, it seems like it may have been a glitch given how excessive this is compared to the previously mentioned side. It may not seem like much at first, but when you’re trying to concentrate on what magic spell to use or which ally to send out before you castle falls or an enemy gets into theirs with your flag, it becomes really infuriating an throws you off your game entirely, leaving you scrambling for the remote control’s mute button.

As far as the graphics go, this game really does look nice. I did notice some lines in the characters and ranged weapons as they moved along the screen, but this seems restricted to the faster moving characters such as those on horseback, atop a bear, as well as the wolves and other animals that run from point A to point B. Nothing here will blow your mind, but that’s kind of the point given this sort of game. You lob things at the castle on the other side of the screen, and order troops to attack your foes, all on a 2D battlefield. Anything more than the somewhat cartoonish, but very sharp and rather detailed artwork simply wouldn’t feel right, and given the theme, it helps make the story a little more entertaining.

CastleStorm starts you off as a member of the Kingdom, a group of knights that eventually seem to be at war with the Vikings. There are small cut scenes that move the story along, though no dialogue outside of text on the screen. The same goes for the Viking end of things. Eventually the two sides find a common foe with the King of Trolls that you can take down on both sides of the campaign. It’s a very basic tale with a little humor thrown in, though not necessary if you don’t care about the story. While it’s a nice background to illustrate why you’re doing what you’re doing, you can just as easily grasp it through playing the stages normally due to how basic the tale ends up being.

But, what ends up the deal breaker here is the gameplay. As you learn how to play, CastleStorm seems like an incredibly doring Angry Birds or even Bust-a-Move style game. You line up your shots using a ballista to wipe out your enemies, achieve a specific goal, or tears down your foe’s castle. If you just play the demo, this is all you will think awaits you. Thankfully, there’s more to it than that.

The more you play, the more gold you earn, which is used to buy rooms for your castle to upgrade things like the strength of your troops, replenishing food to summon them, or strengthening your walls. On top of that, you get to have five different magic spells, what type of allies you want in the field, and what projectiles for your ballista will be accessable. You also get to upgrade them all to level nine, which is the cap in this title. Well, for now at least, considering there seems to be downloadable content in future given the option on the title screen. Either way, this makes your attack and defense a lot stronger, especially for the hero you actually can play as for thirty seconds at a time, attacking close up or ranged on the battlefield between the two castles to give you a little extra edge.

While a good chunk of your time will be spent leveling your stuff up in Campaign mode, you also get two variations of Survival Mode, both are relatively fun, though I found myself hovering more to Hero Survival myself. Aside that there’s a Skirmish mode that pits castle against castle, a multiplayer mode that features all of those as Player Matches, and a Versus option, which is essentially the on-line version of Skirmish mode, in Ranked and Player matches, all of which keep what you unlock in Campaign mode, but reduces everything to level one, requiring you to upgrade them for this mode by earning gold from playing to help keep things somewhat fair, though your skill at Strategy games does still come into play with these matches. Thankfully everything is set up that matches are made quickly, and the only major wait time is when someone needs to upgrade or edit one of their castles, all of which you can unlock from Campaigbn mode and also bring into Multiplayer, though still with everything at level one.

If you happen to just play the demo, and nothing more, chances are good you’ll be put off by this game. On the outside, it seems like a very simple knock-off that can become boring very quickly. However, the more you play, the more you learn how to manipulate troops, the best strategies, what to focus on upgrading, and how some magic spell combinations, such as freeze mixed with the red gem baollista attack, can bring a high level tyrant to its knees in one shot. All of this definitely helps you obtain that five star rank, which is only accessible from playing on the Hard difficulty, which will definitely burden some gamers who aren’t that great with angles. The more time you put into the game, the more enjoyable and easier it becomes, making CastleStorm more an enjoyable casual game you can throw on and play for a few minutes, which maya just turbn into a few hours without you knowing it.

Overall Score: 8/10

CastleStorm
CastleStorm
CastleStorm
Digital review copy of this title provided by Zen Studios.