CastleStorm by Zen Studios marks a departure from what they typically produces. Zen has carved an impressive niche in the electronic pinball genre, with their award winning Pinball FX2, Marvel Pinball, and Star Wars Pinball- always focusing on quality and uniqueness. When I first heard about CastleStorm being a tower defense style game I was curious, but also a little hesitant, as I have never played a tower defense game before. It’s simply not a genre I have ever been interested in. So, what is CastleStorm? The answer may not be as easy and straightforward as it may sound.
Fundamentally, CastleStorm could be called a tower defense game, but it’s so much more than that. It’s part Tower Defense, part Beat ‘em Up, part Angry Birds, and part strategy. It would do the game a great disservice to try and shoe-horn it into one simple genre. You can play it any way you like and still be successful, but varying up your strategies will not only make it more enjoyable, it will give you a better chance of routing your foes.
You play the game as Sir Gareth a noble knight dedicated to keeping the realm safe from the Vikings. The story starts with a raid by the Vikings who take the knight’s magic gem. The loss of the gem forces Gareth and his companions to try to recover it by waging all-out war on the Vikings. The narrative of the story is told in brief cut scenes in between battles or challenges. The cut scenes have a very light, humorous feel to them, which perfectly fits the overall theme of the game. Zen Studios obviously took great pains to make the game fun and engaging, while at the same time not taking itself too seriously.
We have all heard the phrase “it’s easy to pick up, but takes a life time to master.” CastleStorm is one of those games. From the first mission the controls are intuitive and easy to understand. However, the deeper you get into the game, the more you understand that there are, in fact, several small nuances that can quickly turn the tide of battle. As I mentioned before, you get to choose how to play. Do you want to sit back and use your ballista to pick away at the enemy castle? Do you want to deploy ground troops to batter down the enemy’s front gate and steal their flag? Perhaps a combination of both? It’s just as rewarding to see your enemy’s castle fall as it is to see your troops bringing back the enemy’s flag.
Where CastleStorm really shines is the level of customization in almost every aspect of the game. For starters, as you progress through the campaign you will unlock new projectiles to use with your ballista, new troops that you can spawn, and new spells that can aid you in battle. Throughout your adventures you earn gold that can be used to level up all those things I mentioned, making them stronger, have a faster cool down rate, and overall better stats.
However, the thing that really makes CastleStorm stand out is the level of customization for your castle. Like I mentioned above, you unlock all those gadgets through progression, but you also unlock new and unique rooms for your castle. These rooms provide you all sorts of bonuses, from being able to have more troops in battle, to troops doing more damage, all the way to earning more gold. I will freely admit this is the one area of the game that took some time to fully understand. Yet, once you understand how the rooms work, you can even customize your castle to protect your most important rooms in case your castle takes damage during a battle. Taking the time and effort to understand how this all works will definitely pay off in the end.
The single player mode offers a rich and rewarding campaign, but it is complemented by other single- and co-operative modes – side missions, boss battles, flocks of viscous turkeys. However, where players will be the most surprised is the multiplayer modes. It is one thing to play against the computer by yourself and be unstoppable. It’s another thing entirely when you are humbled by the skill, ingenuity, and craftiness of another online player. There are also a couple of local multiplayer modes as well, which is a decidedly nice touch and one many developers seem to be going away from.
- Ability to play your way
- A large variety of modes, both single player and multiplayer
- Quirky humor, and fantastic art style
- At times the camera angles can be a little tricky
To say CastleStorm is merely a tower defense game would be doing it a great disservice. It succeeds in being a deceptively complex game that will appeal to a variety of gamers. After waiting for over a year to get my hands on it, I can honestly say that the wait was well worth it. It seems like CastleStorm is a labor of love for the folks over at Zen Studios, and it’s easy to see why after spending the better part of a day with it. This is one of those quirky games that, on the surface, may look simplistic, but the true rewards are there for those willing to learn the intricacies of the game and not be lured in to a false sense of security with the whimsical graphics and catchy soundtrack. For those looking for something a little different, and a great change of pace from all the mainstream titles out there, CastleStorm is one that should be at the top of their list.
Written by Andy Gray