By: Matthew Striplen
As a casual guy, I’ve been known to play a casual game or five. While initially skeptical of certain gameplay elements due to numerous similarities with other games, I was quickly won over by CastleStorm Complete. What’s not to like about battling Vikings, destroying castles and commanding a ballista? The answer to that not-so-rhetorical question is nothing. For Vikingland!
Despite its casual exterior, CastleStorm requires a significant amount of mental and physical coordination to play well. Thankfully, the layout of the controls is very intuitive, though because of the sheer number of abilities they take some practice to master. The player gets to command a wide variety of different troops, ballista munitions and magic spells. One of the spells summons a hero, where the player manually fights through the onslaught of enemies. Again, everything is very intuitive.
The only problems I came across were pertaining to the hero controls. As the hero, you have the choice of using a sword/war hammer, bow/throwing knives or shield. Though none of them can be used simultaneously, switching between them can sometimes be laggy. Additionally, after taking a hit from an enemy, your hero will sometimes stagger, rendering him or her momentarily helpless. That’s all fine and good, but if you get surrounded by large numbers of enemy troops, you’ll be quickly immobilized and very dead.
One of the first similarities I noticed between CastleStorm and preexisting games was the soundtrack. For those of you who are super nerds like me will instantly recognize that the soundtrack is identical to the one used in the 2007 flash game Age of War by MaxGames.com. I was ready to cry plagiarism, but it turns out the developers over at CastleStorm hired the same composer, and he just recycled a bunch of his existing tracks.
The graphics are cartoonish and fun, with caricature-like character models. While the quality of the graphics is unremarkable, especially for a 2013 game, they certainly don’t detract from the experience.
CastleStorm Complete presents players with a wide variety of game modes with four full campaigns (including all previous DLC, From Outcast to Savior and The Warrior Queen), skirmish, survival and hero survival. Since the campaign is by far the most extensive, let’s start there.
Each campaign follows a different story and hero on their quest. The stories are cute, funny and chock full of puns and inside jokes from other video games. Even the now infamous “arrow to the knee” meme from Skyrim makes an appearance. Though the stories are very enjoyable, they lack extensive voice acting and are, at the end of the day, of little consequence. This fact does not bother me much since CastleStorm is aimed a casual audience.
The first campaign begins with a short and sweet tutorial explaining combat basics. Most gamers should have a decent handle on things after that alone, though the tutorial can be played as many times as needed. After that, players will be faced with a number of different challenges. Standard battles consist of two castles facing each other across some form of terrain, each trying to either completely destroy the other castle with projectiles or by capturing the opponent’s flag. The castle destruction is the second of the many similarities to previous games. This element is borrowed from another classic flash game, Crush the Castle. Fans of this title know it best for being the game that was ripped off by Rovio to create the unstoppable behemoth that is the Angry Birds franchise.
To capture the flag, players must utilize the various forms of troops at their disposal. Ranging from grunts on donkeys to majestic griffons, the sheer number of different troops keeps gameplay interesting. This troop usage is identical to the Age of War series. The quantity of soldier types available is greater than the amount you’re allowed to bring into each skirmish, so choose carefully.
The spells seem to be the only truly original aspect to Castle Storm, at least to my knowledge. Again, large numbers of both offensive and defensive spells are usable, including the hero summon. By the way, literally everything can be upgraded if you have the coin. Everything, from the ballista projectiles, troops, spells and even the castle itself can be tinkered with to your heart’s desire.
The castle upgrades are arguably the most crucial to success. Each room serves a different purpose, like increasing the size of your army or gold production. Once destroyed by the enemy, the player will lose all benefits bestowed by said room. To prevent that from happening, the castle walls can also be upgraded. Additionally, the weapons and troops available to you changes depending on your allegiance. My personal favorite weapons are the Kingdom’s apple bombs and the Viking Elite’s Stormbringer.
Several other types of challenges will also be presented. Certain levels call for the hero alone, or for the player to simply survive rather than destroy a castle. Each level is scored on a point and star system. Stars are earned by meeting goals like having above a 70 percent accuracy rate or not destroying a single room in the opposing castle.
They can also be earned by upping the difficulty. Normal difficulty alone can be a challenge, but the game completely transforms itself on Hard mode. The all-important trajectory curve of the ballista, which many players rely on, disappears, making hitting even the largest target much, much harder.
The other game modes are perfect for gaining absurd amounts of cash. Each mode replicates one of the battle scenarios featured in the campaign. Scores from each mode are then uploaded to the server to be compared with your buddies.
Both local and online multiplayer modes are offered, allowing players to battle in a skirmish, survival or hero survival setting. All levels are reset from the single-player mode when using this, so be ready to do some serious leveling up when you join.
Although most of CastleStorm Complete‘s components have been borrowed from other games, they are combined and polished in such a way that they feel new, fresh and exciting. I would definitely play this game over the older titles I referenced. With lots of replay value and addictive gameplay, CastleStorm is sure to provide a good time.