So I picked up Castlestorm a few weeks before it came out because it looked interesting. My first thought when seeing it was this: “Ah, that’s what would happen if Angry Birds and a 2D strategy scroller got married and had a baby.” I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see this love child in action. After all, the ability to take a casual game like Angry Birds and combine it with elements of a more complicated genre usually make for a unique experience. My quest with this game, though, was to see if this unique experience was also a pleasant one.
Turns out, I think it’s fantastic. The game has a lot of aggregate elements that come together to make a surprisingly cohesive and fun piece of gaming awesomeness. It’s not stunning, mind you, but it actually has a lot of content and play value for such a small title.
First, the game’s story is only a shade above nonexistent. That may sound like a criticism, but it’s no more a criticism than me being upset that Angry Birds doesn’t take you through the intricate narrative of Joey the Red Bird and how he got to be so angry all the time. Truth is, the game isn’t designed for any kind of story progression, and so it doesn’t bother me. Sure, it has a few in-game cinematic sequences where some stuff happens, but they’re not even voice acted. In fact, the only sound you get from characters are these entertaining nonverbal phrases, unintelligible but funny.
The absence of story speeds the game up a lot, cutting away the fat and leaving a streamlined experience. This focus on fun continues throughout the game: the campaign features a tutorial, but it’s so short I hardly noticed it. The game’s mechanics are intuitive, if a bit unimpressive, but it made the learning curve quit manageable. With a short but helpful tutorial, I found the intro into Castlestorm to be so simplistic that it actually added to my overall experience.
The most impressive aspect of Castlestorm is that the game has an extensive and rather impressive array of playing options. It features a multiplayer that’s fun and engaging, despite the fact that an Angry Birds-style game would seem strange in a multiplayer venue. If you don’t want to play with someone else, though, that’s ok as the single player features a skirmish mode, a survival mode, and a hero survival mode. All this plus a campaign means you’ll have plenty to keep you entertained.
In the end, though, the gameplay itself has to be what’s impressive for a game to be good. I actually don’t like Angry Birds, which is no surprise seeing as how I don’t like any game that is designed to be played in the lobbies of doctor’s offices and hotels. Castlestorm adds enough to the style of play, though, that it only resembles Angry Birds a little. There’s a lot of stuff going on other than hurling boulders, like troops slowly plodding their way to capture the enemy’s flag. Grab that flag and you win the game. You can also cast spells and summon your hero onto the battlefield for some up close and personal action, should commanding from afar prove to dull. The sheer magnitude of troops plodding, spells casting, and heroes summoning gave my tactically oriented mind plenty to do other than shoot catapults at the enemy. It’s also well managed, too, with the user interface centered on the bottom half of the screen and all the command menus settled in a nice command wheel. A command wheel, mind you, that can be accessed by mouse scrolling, too, so that’s something.
The upgrades in the game were also pretty nifty. They did radically different things with the gameplay. One minute you’re shooting explosive apples and the next you’re shooting a hawk. That’s right – you shoot a hawk. Don’t worry, the hawk lives. Well, I didn’t see it die, at any rate. Anyway, the upgrades are prevalent, too. You can upgrade your spells, your troops, and even your castle. Don’t like the way your castle looks? That’s ok because you can rebuild if it you’d like. Better yet, the buildings in your castle allow you to get different bonuses in combat, meaning you can augment your castle to reflect your play style. Need more gold? Build a treasury section and get more. Watch out, too, because if that section gets destroyed, you lose the bonus!
Castlestorm is great. It’s fast pace and fun gameplay make for an easy-going joyride that dashed my early skepticism to pieces. The game is sleek like sports car, one that shoots hawks and utters unintelligible remarks when you aren’t looking. It’s totally worth a shot.