(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)
- The Game Itself
- 4.5 Stars
- The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
- 4 Stars
- The Audio: Rating the Sound
- 3.5 Stars
- Replay Factor
- 3.5 Stars
- Bonus Content
- 4 Stars
- Bottom Line
- Street Date:
- November 5th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Mike Flacy
- Review Date:1
- November 4th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Zen Studios
- Zen Studios
'CastleStorm' is a Cross-Buy title. Purchasing the game for either the PS3 or PS Vita nets both versions, and the review copy was played with close to a 80% PS3 / 20% Vita split.
Man the ballista! Ready the troops! Prepare for battle! 'CastleStorm' is just that; a game about destroying an enemy castle while defending your own stone keep. Something of a twist on the tower defense genre, 'CastleStorm' combines the physics of the 'Angry Birds' series, the RPG elements of the 'Orcs Must Die' series and the never-ending onslaught of enemies in the 'Plants vs. Zombies' series. While the colorful presentation may seem geared toward younger audiences, there's a surprisingly deep level of strategic thinking required to navigate through the entire campaign.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
While new to the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation Vita, Zen Studios 'CastleStorm' was released a few months ago on the Xbox 360 platform and a PC release followed late July 2013. The basic concept of the game is very simple. The player has a castle on the left side of the screen to defend and the enemy is positioned on the opposite side of the screen. In order to win each round, the player has to destroy the opposite castle or simply capture the enemy's flag. There are also level specific goals that vary from simple objectives like surviving a constant stream of attacks to racking up a specific number of kills during the round.
In order to accomplish the destruction of the enemy, the player at their disposal both a ballista to fire projectiles as well as a crew of soldiers. At the start of the game, the ballista just fires spears, but as play continues player unlocks items like bombs, heavy stones, ice, giant hammers and other items to hurl at the enemy. Soldiers available to the player include standard swordsman, archers, templars, mounted riders, trolls, griffins and heavy duty stone golems. In addition to these tools, the player also has a hero available to spawn on the battlefield. This hero can rip through several enemies with a melee weapon as well as take out troops at a distance with arrows. The hero menu also has a number of magical spells that can help turn the tide of battle.
The key to winning each level is to find the right balance between all three forms of offense. For instance, after capturing the flag of the enemy, it's probably a good idea to spawn the hero in order to protect the soldier carrying the flag. Players can cycle through the three forms of defense using the Square, Circle, Triangle and X buttons. However, the control scheme can be pretty tricky at first. It's probably going to take a couple hours before you can instinctively press the right button to choose a new form of attack.
Meanwhile on offense, you cycle through each type of attack using the R1 and L1 triggers. The ballista is aimed with the left thumbstick and can be fined tuned with the directional pad. It definitely feels a bit clumsy at first, but will become more comfortable over time. One of the nice aspects of the campaign is that the developer teaches the player each form of attack slowly and carefully.
Prior to battle, you get to choose the five projectiles that you want to use within the level as well as the five types of soldiers to utilize on the battlefield. Interestingly, the soldiers are tied to the type of castle you are using. There are specific rooms in the castle that are tied to the production of each soldier. You have the option of using one of the preset castle designs, unlocked over the course of the campaign, or you can edit a castle to fit your specific needs. I prefer utilizing the castle editor to build my own structure, especially on the highest level of difficultly. A castle built for a specific level can be extremely advantageous when attempting to preserve all five soldier types.
Also level specify are the upgrades. Players can upgrade ballista attacks, soldiers, the hero as well as rooms in the castle. Upgrades are purchased using gold earned within the level. Levels can also be repeated in order to earn more gold, ideal when you have having trouble with a specific point in the campaign. Similar to 'Orcs Must Die,' upgrades become progressively more expensive over time. The player also has to decide how to effectively spread the love between all the potential upgrades. Focusing on a single category too will lead to other offensive tools becoming ineffective.
If I had to complain about anything, it would be that the game often feels a bit unbalanced when an option for winning the level is capturing the flag. I get vastly more enjoyment after completely annihilating an enemy's stronghold as opposed to transporting a flag back to my castle. It often feels like those levels are completed in ten percent of the time compared to a castle destruction level. I ran into the same problem on the highest difficulty level. Alternatively, levels that focus solely on the hero battling enemies can become somewhat frustrating; specifically when a number of projectile attacks are being hurled at the hero. You really have to watch the tempo of the attacks and listen to the audio cues in order to navigate the battlefield without difficultly.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The world of 'Castlestorm' is extremely colorful and the levels are quite detailed for a side-scroller. It's also smooth as silk. I didn't notice a single slowdown problem when transitioning between hero mode and the main camera angle. Character animations are slick and the physics of the ballista operates along the lines of 'Angry Birds.' The only issue I found with the animations is they often last too long and put the player / enemy at the disadvantage. Basically, players and enemies can't recover quickly enough when cycling through the "I've been damaged" sequence. It seems like it could be a bit more fluid, however I'm probably spoiled with action titles like the 'God of War' series.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
The sound folio within 'CastleStorm' is easily the best aspect of the audio work. Due to the repetitious nature of the levels, you will hear them over and over. However, they all seem unique and it does help the player to identify an attack that's headed towards the castle. The music can become somewhat repetitious over time, but it's not annoying. If you didn't mind the title track in 'Orcs Must Die,' you won't have a problem with 'CastleStorm'. My only wish is that the developers put a bit more time into voiceovers. Even just the inclusion of a single person narrating the tale would have been welcome. The majority of the story is handled with text on the screen and somewhat detracts from the overall presentation.
Beyond the campaign mode, I really enjoyed the survival mode. I didn't get a chance to test out the game on the PlayStation Network, but the local modes work well. I particularly enjoyed the Hero survival mode. It was easy enough for my nephew to pick up and play a few rounds without understanding all the nuts and bolts of the game. My only complaint about the additional modes is that managing the battlefield is a bit difficult in split-screen mode. Obviously, playing online would eliminate that issue.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
Fun, inexpensive Cross-Buy titles exude "Bonus," and Zen Studios is even teasing PS4 support.
There's hours upon hours of entertainment to be found within the campaign mode of 'CastleStorm' making the game easily worth the $10 purchase price. In addition, the multiplayer modes are a welcome addition, particularly the co-op mode. While you will need to give the game a couple hours to adapt to the control scheme, it's really difficult to stop playing once you've got the hang of it. Also, for anyone into 'Game of Thrones' or 'Skyrim', you are going to find some tongue-in-cheek references that may make you chuckle. It doesn't really matter if you are on the PlayStation 3 or the PlayStation Vita; 'CastleStorm' is a fantastic title on both platforms. If you are into tower defense titles or 'Angry Birds,' don't hesitate to pick up 'CastleStorm' immediately.
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