CastleStorm is a relatively simple pick-up-and-play tower defence game where the main goal is to defeat the opposing army, which can be done by destroying their castle or taking their flag. But developer Zen Studios has created a must-have budget-priced game by combining laugh-out-loud moments with frantic action.
It starts off like an Angry Birds-style game where you shoot projectiles in order to destroy the enemy base. It’s possible to upgrade the weapons available to cause much more damage, and they range from spears, to bombs, to sheep with dodgy stomachs who fart their way into the opposition. Perhaps not the best tactic in real life (we’ve all given that at least one attempt), but nothing about CastleStorm is realistic: it’s completely over the top, and that’s what makes it so great.
Shoot to win
CastleStorm’s basic gameplay involves taking control of the castle’s ballista and firing at oncoming troops and the enemy base. The 2D design of the levels, with lots of 3D additions to the visuals, work perfectly as a backdrop. It also makes firing more accessible: simply move the arrow up or down to choose the target. The challenge comes as waves of troops move towards your castle at different paces, all with the intention to break down your gate and steal the flag. It can get quite intense, especially as the more powerful projectiles have reload times… or eating curry and beans times, in the case of the sheep.
But Castlestorm adds a third dimension to the 2D fights with the ability to send troops to the battlefield, or enter the fray yourself through magic. Your troops range in class, and can be upgraded to take on the much more powerful foes seen later in the campaign. Dragons and trolls can even be unlocked and add a real power to your army. Unleashing a wave of troops allows you to focus on taking out the enemy base with the projectiles, and could even result in a victory if they manage to steal the enemy’s flag.
The action gets very frantic when your troops get wiped out, which happens a lot no matter how strong they are. When this occurs it’s best to take to the battlefield in person, and transport the hero into the game. This hero is fully controllable, and allows a way to hack and slash through the enemy yourself. The controls for this are very simple, and there’s a short time limit to how long the hero can be involved. But it’s a game changer when used right, and a fantastic element to the battle.
“They’ll never take our freedom!”
CastleStorm offers a fun and engaging campaign mode. The story isn’t much to write (on parchment) home about: it’s a simple tale of two sides at war. But the cut scenes in between each level are brilliant, at times even hilarious. They keep in tone with CastleStorm and introduce the lead character, Sir Gareth. He’s overconfident, and unaware of how others perceive this. But he’s still endearing as the vain lead. The cut scenes will typically relate to the next level too, like when your troops get ill from drinking bad water (of course Sir Gareth is fine because he only drinks wine), which means that the following battle doesn’t allow you to use any troops. It’s a great way to mix up a battle formula that can get a little stale after a few battles.
One of the most impressive, and addictive, parts to CastleStorm is the castle editor. This allows you to revamp your chosen castle, or completely build one from scratch. I highly recommend that you build a castle at least once – and how many times can you say that in life? New classes of troops become available through the campaign, but they need a living quarter in the castle otherwise you can’t use them. Some rooms are easy to add, but some take a lot more thinking: turns out dragons need a big room, who knew?
You can get lost for hours in the editor. I chose to go for effectiveness over aesthetics, so built all the rooms I needed and then piled up defensive walls at the front of my castle. Sadly, I didn’t see the flaw in this: one well aimed shot could topple pretty much all my defences, leaving the quarters completely open. Once a class’ room is destroyed they’re no longer available to use in that battle: so long brave dragon (who I named Dragon McDragonFace), we hardly knew thee!
For only £13.49/$14.99 on the Nintendo Switch, CastleStorm is an absolute bargain. The campaign may only last for a few hours, but the additional multiplayer is good for days of fun. CastleStorm will challenge you, make you laugh, and keep you on your toes. Plus it will turn you into a castle building expert (if you don’t make the mistakes I did). For its price, CastleStorm is a gem, and a very noble addition to the Switch’s library indeed.