System: Xbox 360
Release Date: May 29, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Zen Studios (Microsoft Game Studios)
ESRB Rating: “T” For Teen
Zen Studios, the makers of some truly excellent pinball games, have put their physics skills to work in CastleStorm. In a time when we’re seeing a lot game genres melding, Zen pulls out a new combo. It has combined the flinging and destruction of Angry Birds with tower defense, and mixed in a bit of side-scrolling brawling. The resulting recipe is fun and far more than the sum of its parts.
The campaign mode places players in the armored boots of some honorable knights, embroiled in a battle with vikings over a sacred gem. Defeating that campaign unlocks one for the vikings. The majority of missions will have you attempting to destroy the opposing castle while defending your own at the same time. You’ll man a ballista that fires projectiles into the enemy’s walls. Zen Studios told us this game was inspired by building castles as kids and then using whatever object might be near to smash them. Designers freely admit they still do that on occasion. I completely understand, and may smash a LEGO castle from time to time myself.
CastleStorm makes that every bit as fun as it was stomping around your toy kingdom years ago, or last week. Each time I let fly with the ballista, there is a childlike joy from seeing it land. That’s particularly true if it takes out a big chunk of the enemy fortress. You can’t just fling indiscriminately, as there is friendly fire to worry about. Once you get good at using the ballista, you will be able to pull tricks such as shooting enemy projectiles right out of the air. That’s a move sure to infuriate an enemy.
The ballista’s controls are finicky though. It will take some getting used to, especially once there are a bunch of troops onscreen and magic spells getting cast. Considering how integral it is to destroying the other guy’s castle, it’s disappointing that it’s not more intuitive.
Zen Studios shows some humor with the projectiles at our disposal. One is a Battering Sheep. He has some digestive issues, and a solid hit with him can do quite a number on a castle. Look away, PETA. Just look away. Others include Apple Grenades and Morningstars. In fact, Zen displays a lighthearted sense of humor throughout CastleStorm’s campaigns. Fantasy buffs will notice Lord of the Rings, Skyrim and Game of Thrones jokes throughout.
Firing away is only part of taking down your opponent. You have an army of troops at your disposal, ranging from archers to knights. It’s up to players to manage them by maintaining food stores, as well as figuring out which troops should be on the battlefield at a given time. There are also hero units. That’s where the brawling comes in. The mighty Sir Gareth can enter the fray for a few brief seconds, armed with both a bow and arrow and a sword. He can mow down large numbers of enemies before fading away. There are spells that affect the battlefield, doing helpful things such as healing your troops or putting up a wall that blocks projectiles.
It’s also possible to win by capturing the enemy flag with your troops and having them march it back to your castle. Really, it’s far more fun to take their fortress apart piece by piece. Once all the mechanics are introduced, you will be firing projectiles, calling in troops, casting spells and switching to your hero unit for melee and bow attacks all at close to the same time. There is a lot going on in a CastleStorm match.
So the end table goes here, and put the Bear Riders in the corner?
It’s undoubtedly fun to tear stuff up, but Zen has made it equally fun to build. The castle editor allows you to customize your stronghold. Changes in build may change what type of troops you bring into battle, or how many resources you will need to summon them. Castle building adds a whole other layer of strategy to the proceedings. Would-be kings can spend hours trying to create the perfect stronghold, hopefully putting the most important rooms someplace they won’t get destroyed early in the match.
Multiplayer offers up several modes to extend the experience. Versus is where players will probably spend the most time, raining down destruction on each other. But for fans of co-op there is Survival Mode, challenging one player to man the ballista while the other uses the hero unit. Hero Survival gives both players hero units to unleash some carnage.
CastleStorm is a worthy addition to any tower defense lover’s library. For just $10, you get two campaigns, several multiplayer modes and a castle editor that it’s easy to sink hours into. And while it’s rated “T,” the violence in the games is quite cartoony. If you don’t have a problem with your kids playing Angry Birds or other physics-based flingers, CastleStorm shouldn’t give you much pause. With this title, you will indeed have fun storming the castle.
Site [Zen Studios]