Castlestorm is an action-strategy game in which you defend your castle, crush the enemy and destroy their castle (or take their flag). Your best friend in Castlestorm is your ballista to fire weapons (such as spears, bombs and rocks etc) to destroy the opposition castle and their army together, it plays like a more hands on tower-defence game, with only 1 tower (well, castle…) which is customisable before you go to into battle. You can go up close to the action and fight as a Hero on the ground to knock back the enemies as well as playing the side missions or other modes which let you take out enemies using arrows, swords or flying axes. The Definitive Edition includes the original Castlestorm (released on Xbox 360, PS3, PSVita, WiiU and PC) along with all the downloadable content and some new content such as battles, modes, spells and other features, it has also been upgraded to run at 1080p and 60fps on the next-generation consoles. With all this content there is also some multiplayer modes – versus, survival and hero survival for both local and online multiplayer which are pretty cool as well.
I go through phases with tower defence games of playing them a lot (Kingdom Rush being my current favourite) and while it’s not strictly a tower defence game its a nice variation. The basic idea is to protect your castle and your flag, having your castle destroyed (via the enemy ballista) or the flag captured by enemy soldiers and then returned to the enemies camp or castle – it varies on the level, will result in defeat. At the same time capturing the enemy flag or destroying their castle will gain victory, or surviving all the enemy waves as not all the levels are the same. It’s fairly simple but fun, multitasking in battle between fighting the oncoming soldiers and protecting yourself from the oncoming ballista provides a good challenge as the difficulty heats up and as your castle crumbles you lose the ability to train solders from rooms that have been destroyed and so on. Killing multiple enemies with the ballista quickly will result in a kill streak which can get you a nice bonus of being able to rapidly fire your projectiles without having to wait for them to cool down and brings in more gold too, helpful for bringing down the enemy castle.
There is an editor where you can customise what castle, what it looks like and more importantly what it has in it, this affects what soldiers you can call upon (only 5 slots allowed), what bonuses you gain from specific rooms such as extra gold, soldiers allowed at one time and produce food quicker to buy soldiers with among others, building a secure castle but still filled to the brim with rooms is the key to victory and using the editor is quite fun to build your castle too, there also some preset castles if you’d rather just get on with playing. All of your available equipment (rooms, soldiers, spells etc) can be upgraded using gold earned in battle to make your life easier when attempting to destroy Vikings, bring down flying turkeys or vanquish trolls, there are lots of different items to unlock and upgrade so there’s always plenty of choice available if you want to mix things up or find a more powerful weapon.
When fighting castle to castle I found I mainly focused on using my ballista, blowing up the opposition castle with bombs and rocks then using spears to bring down the oncoming troops which come in waves and get stronger the further into the level you get. The computer (during the campaign) focuses on using troops more often to try to break down my castle gate and steal your flag instead of using the sort of firepower I have to attack my castle. Theres a big choice of enemy types which all vary in levels – beserkers, boars dire wolves, trolls, dragons and more, which are different levels and fun to kill with headsets of my spear or other weapons.
The campaign has a light story to go with it and set-up the different levels which doesn’t add much to the game overall if I were to be completely honest but its serviceable and light-hearted. I liked the cartoony art style is simple but looks very nice in 1080p/60fps and I didn’t notice any slow down on the frame rate even when there was a lot of activity on-screen. Zen Studios have added 46 achievements (for the Xbox One version) which range in difficulty, I don’t fancy completing some of the levels on hard to get them all though but its nice that they have put some effort into them and you can unlock plenty as you go through the levels without performing doing anything specific – a challenge for later on.
The game boasts several modes along with the campaign including skirmish, survival and hero survival which are fun to play if you just want to relax and rack up some high scores and as I said earlier you can take survival, hero survival and versus online to play with friends or in ranked matches which is fun too (especially if you win) as well as having three difficulty modes – casual/normal/hard. At the end of each level you get stars out of 5, with 2 for accuracy, 2 for difficulty and 1 for a bonus objective which can range from anything between a certain amount of headsets, completion within a specific time, an amount of gold earned etc which is something to watch out for too if you want to unlock more levels and items.
As someone who hadn’t played Castlestorm before I found it to be a fun, light-hearted game that I could play in a quick blast or for longer periods if I had the time and there’s a ton of content to keep you busy with and having all the downloadable content from the original plus even more added means there literally is a ton of content – 4 campaigns plus the 3 other single player modes and local or online multiplayer which is nice to play with friends and protect your expertly built castle! I would certainly recommend Castlestorm if you like quirky tower defence like games (or action-strategy games), I’m not sure you’d get a lot of mileage out of it if you played the original release but for newcomers and big fans of the game I thought it was really good and a nice overall package for owners of the two new consoles.
A video of a couple of viking levels
Formats: Xbox One (played), Playstation 4
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Self published