After being released on most formats already in 2013, Castlestorm has arrived on Ps4 and Xbox One with the subtitle Definitive Edition, slightly upscaled visuals and DLC from the previous releases included as part and parcel.
Castlestorm follows the story of Sir Gareth, a noble (if slightly greedy) knight in his endeavours of commanding his troops and entering the battlefield to protect his king, kingdom and peoples formerly at peace for a century from the Viking menace that has turned up at the castle door hell bent on kicking it in and looting, pillaging and generally being unpleasant. To do this you must master seemingly disparate systems that, at first, seem completely incompatible.
The first is the ballista which is mounted on the front of your own castle. This is used to take down enemy troops (or your own if you’re not careful) and destroy the enemy’s base using a variety of projectile types. The second is sending the troops out themselves, such as footmen, archers, clerics <check this name?> and paladins who all perform various roles, such as healing, long range combat or just smashing things in the face. Third is using Sir Gareth himself to hack and slash through the enemy fray, usually to cull numbers when it gets a bit hairy, and also throwing some magic around.
The levels are won by fulfilling certain win conditions, such as destroy the enemy castle, or prevent the enemy from breaking through your defences. Secondary conditions aren’t essential but give you extra money which is spent upgrading your units or castle, which is totally customisable and can be arranged and altered to become your own personal impenetrable fortress.
The way the game throws you into the first level and tells you precisely nothign is bizarre. It’s only after you’ve done the first level that you’re given a series of tutorials explaining how the systems work and mesh, although it never really explains how the castle building and customisation works and how it affects your game, that’s only found out through trial and error.
Once into the game proper it starts to make sense, with you learning which troops to deploy and when best to get Sir Gareth out into the field, but while the systems do start to work in tandem there’s some clumsiness with the control methods that take some getting used to. The camera only pulls out so far and while this is a seemingly conscious decision to keep the sense of holding the battle together and instilling a sense of danger for your base and defense, in reality you just find yourself stringing curses together and frantically panning about the battlefield .
Also the ballista aiming is incredibly twitchy with no option to reduce the sensitivity. You can use the d-pad to tweak your aim, but with the game moving at the pace it does it’s an inadequate solution due to its glacial pace of movement.
This sounds overly negative, and maybe it is a little. There’s a lot to like about Castlestorm. The story is gentle hokum, and the game overall has a nice sense of humour which, while it’s not side splitting hilarity, is still worthy of a smile and chuckle. The art direction is reminiscent of Warcraft 3-era Blizzard with bold colours and chunky, distinct character design, and the variety given to you in the objectives, customisation, weapon, troop and spell loadout has to be commended. The castle customisation never feels forced but adds a depth to the strategy if you want to delve into it. There’s also a decent amount of replayability with each level having a 5 star rating to achieve based on difficulty, time, accuracy and objectives completed.
There are decent amount of extra modes to grind money for the main game (such as a wve based Hero Survival mode), and multi-player is well represented.
Castlestorm is a decent enough game that’s a little unsure about what it wants to be. It’s not exceptional enough to demand your time or money above the billion other games vying for your attention, but nowhere near being awful as to want to stomp into paste and fire into the sun, never to darken your door again. If you’d like Angry Birds married to a pseudo RTS with healthy dollop of hack and slash then it’d be right up your street.