I think a lot of people, myself included, might be put off CastleStorm at first when it appears to simply be Angry Birds meets tower defense. While it’s an apt comparison it does CastleStorm a major disservice as there’s much more to the game than just being a genre mash-up. By giving you control over your army, projectiles, spells and castle design you’re able to fully customize your load out based on how you like to play. CastleStorm’s strengths come down to allowing you to experiment and discover various ways to emerge victorious. It’s not without a few issues but CastleStorm’s depth surprised me.
The main gameplay mode in CastleStorm, destroying the enemy castle or capturing their flag, can be split into three distinct methods of control. First you have the ballista which allows you to fire various projectiles across the map at the enemy castle or towards approaching forces. These projectiles range from bombs, boulders, javelins, and even sheep. Some projectiles are best used for taking out enemy forces while others can easily bring down a castle. Second you have field management in which you’ll send out various units into the field to fight as well as capture the enemy flag. While these units engage in battle on the field you can also summon spells that allow you to take out multiple enemies at once with lightning, magical arrows, and falling rocks. The third method brings you directly into the battle with the summoning of a special hero character. With this you’re given a short amount of time to descend upon the battlefield and help out your army if they’re having a difficult time. This is particularly useful when much stronger enemies such as trolls approach your castle. At first I think CastleStorm can be a bit overwhelming as a lot of things are going on at once and the game tends to move quickly. In later missions you can’t spend all of your time just firing bombs at the enemy castle and expect to win. You’re going to need a good strategy and you’ll need to be able to switch between the ballista and field management at a moments notice. Unfortunately aiming with the ballista is not very good and can tend to screw up the flow of battle. You’ll get used to it but it could be better.
As someone who likes to constantly be on the offensive I liked to direct my attention at the start of a match on the enemy gate. I’d usually spawn my hero character and aim to destroy the enemy gate as quickly as possible. From there I’d send in my troops every chance I got while also flinging bombs across the map at the enemy castle. This allowed a consistent stream of units to march towards the enemy castle with the flag right out in the open. My army would slowly carry the enemy flag back to my base (with a new unit picking up the flag if another fell) all while bombs and sheep tore into the enemy castle. If everything worked as plan I’d be able to end missions quickly without taking much damage. This is one way to play and with the amount of weapons and units at your disposal there’s easily tons of other strategies you can experiment with to find what works for you.
While not unexpected CastleStorm’s story isn’t exactly memorable. The story is enough to keep the campaign moving along and tends to be filled with dry humor and the occasional ‘arrow to the knee’ reference. It’s enough to explain why you’re fighting as well as the scenery changes that occur throughout the campaign and that’s really all it needs to be. The campaign mode does a really good job of giving you various mission types and not just relying on the main castle vs. castle mode. Sometimes you’ll only be able to use the ballista to keep enemies out of your castle while other missions might give you control of the hero character and nothing else. Sometimes these missions won’t require you to defend or attack a castle at all but rather just survive. Instead of forcing you to do the same mission type over and over again CastleStorm’s variety kept my interest throughout the entirety of the four to five hour campaign.
After finishing a mission you’ll earn up to five gold stars depending on your performance (accuracy, difficulty, and completion of the bonus objective) and money to spend on upgrades. Between the ballista, units, spells and castle rooms there’s a lot to upgrade. Seeing as you can only equip five of each it’s best to figure out what works for you and stick to upgrading those specific things. Beyond upgrading CastleStorm lets you edit your own castles or simply use a pre-built castle. Castles require specific rooms that will determine what type of units that you’ll take into battle. You can also include rooms that will grant special boosts to your units and your castle. The editor works well enough but I found the pre-built castles worked just fine on their own.
Outside of the campaign you can simply play a skirmish or try out one of two survival modes. The first sends wave after wave of enemies at your castle while the other forces you to guard an open flag with only a hero character. These modes are available in single player as well as multiplayer both locally and online. They’re fun for what they are and serve to be a decent distraction from the main game.
I spent most of my time playing through the campaign on the Vita and hoped to finish off the last few levels on the PS3. This isn’t possible. Over the past year or so I’ve come to love cross-save functionality in games and use it all the time. I want to be able to carry all of my CastleStorm progress from the Vita to the PS3. Now that I’ve finished the campaign I want to go back to earlier stages and complete them on higher difficulties but now I can only do that on the Vita because I don’t want to play through the campaign again on PS3. Cross-save isn’t mandatory and won’t take away from your enjoyment of the game but not having the option to freely switch between PS3 and Vita while keeping your progress sucks.
I liked CastleStorm more than I thought I would. There’s quite a bit of depth once you start digging deep into the game’s mechanics and I found the game to be really rewarding. Sending a sheep soaring through the air, crashing into the enemy castle, and watching it all crumble to the ground is nothing less than amazing. We’re reaching the time of year where it’s nearly impossible to keep up with everything that is coming out but if you have time consider giving CastleStorm a shot. I’ll likely come back to it in a few months when things die down and that’s more than I can say for most games.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here. Both the PlayStation 3 & PlayStation Vita versions of the game were tested for this review.
What I Like:
- Variety in the campaign mode
- Plenty of depth and different ways to win
- Looks great on PS3 and Vita
- Smashing through castles with a sheep
What I Dislike:
- Aiming with the ballista
- No cross-save functionality