Castlestorm Review (PS Vita, PS3)
It’s raining stones! Hallelujah! …Yeah that’s enough of that, though it is raining projectiles fired from your trusty ballista. Castle Storm is a fun well-polished Castle vs. Castle tower defence game available on PlayStation®3, PS Vita, Xbox LIVE® Arcade and Steam. I had the fun of playing it on the PlayStation®3 for this review and thankfully there is a lot to talk about the game.
Now to start this is not a game you will rush home and play for hours on end, but it is a game you will happily whittle the time away with when nothing else takes your fancy. From the start you can see a lot of detail and time has been spent on polishing the game, as it just feels comfortable. You can jump into things quickly and get to grips with it as the in game tutorial leads you through the different play styles at a nice pace. All ages could jump into this game and feel confident quickly without feeling rushed or patronised, which a good few games lack in their tutorials.
So as you jump into the campaign you are thrown into some grand storytelling to set the scene. This was a little off-putting for me; the opening style is grand as I said it, is a simple story of warring sides coming to peace at last due to a goddesses heart break at the bloodshed. Yet the art style and the way it is laid out makes you feel as if something almost Tolkien-esque is going to unravel before you. That is where the first little disappointment hits.
With a grand set up it feels almost a let-down when things take on a more child friendly feel. I was built up for adventure and heroism, to be then pulled down a little with attempted witty jokes. This isn’t a big hit though, it just feels a little misplaced to me. There are jokes for everyone, and a nice blend of childish humour mixed in with popular references keep a nice smile on your face, as it is fun noticing when they mention Game of Thrones, 300 and Skyrim.
Enough prattling I hear you say, time for the gameplay! As your typical castle vs. castle game you are in control of a powerful ballista to help beat down the enemy, though there are other weapons and powers at your disposal to help you play the way you prefer. Your main weapon is the ballista which you can use to shoot enemy troops and volley shots at the enemy castle to level it bit by bit. You can customise your arsenal with five choices that you unlock as you progress through the campaign mode, from your trusty javelin to rainbow farting sheep. Each has their particular advantages either against enemy troops or their castle, though be warned same apply to your troops too! The friendly fire option is one that has made me hang my head in shame often unfortunately.
If accuracy isn’t your strong point and you get frustrated trying to shoot sprinting dire wolves you can always rally a call to your troops and send a wave of soldiers out to fight for your glory. The same applies to these guys as your projectiles; you can have five to choose in each battle and upgrade them to make them stronger. Though as I said before watch out when you try to give them artillery support as I have done more damage to my troops than the Vikings ever did. You can go from a full squad to nothing with one misplaced triple shot javelin. Due to this I ignored my soldiers unless I desperately needed them to shore up my castle gate.
Thankfully though you get a third set of skills in your arsenal the all-important magic and specials! Your usual compliments are there to deal damage to the Vikings and to heal your troops but the one I like most is the Hero. This is your trump card, the Hail Mary pass to sort out the more stubborn Viking bashing at your gate. When deployed, you shift from commanding your ballista to taking control of the Hero and zoom into the battle to dish out some personal melee damage. Briefly the game becomes a side-scrolling adventure game as you cut down Vikings with your sword while deflecting arrows with your shield. You can even use a trusty bow to take out airborne units before going back to slashing your way across the map.
A choice of play style does help add variety and keep the monotony of firing your ballista low. Even if you prefer one method over the other, the campaign is good for adding a restriction on to a mission, either ruining your ballista or requiring all your troops take a potty break. Your strengths and weaknesses get tested with this and overall it helps make you a better-rounded player as you progress.
Now we have a ballista, soldiers and magic, but one important thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the castle! At the start of the campaign you get a nicely designed little place of your own, and as you progress you unlock improved rooms with special features or different troop barracks. You can customise your castle from scratch and fit in the rooms you like. However this is one of my biggest let downs with the game. Given a fresh canvas to construct my concrete monolith, I got started with all my rooms as far back as I could with as much concrete between them and oncoming projectiles they would face.
You get a chance to test your castle before you use it by using a ballista to hammer away and test your defences. Though in my experience I am my own worst enemy, as the moment of starting the test for the first time, everything collapsed on its own. I wasn’t surprised by this really as it was my first go, yet time after time everything still just fell apart.
I gave up after a few attempts as it is somewhat consuming, placing each prefabricated piece in alignment and in a way you want. Things weren’t looking good for me as I couldn’t have the castle I wanted, but it honestly doesn’t matter. You get a chance to unlock and pick prebuilt castles that add newly unlocked rooms and have distinct styles as you progress, giving you the bonuses and troops you want. I used this feature all the time and didn’t look back at the editor after my abominable attempts. It was faster, easier and the prebuilt castles looked good so I can’t complain. Hopefully it was just my approach to the editor that was the problem.
Continuing with the “meh” points, there’s problems with the aiming of the ballista and the Hero’s bow. On the three difficulties the aiming for the ballista changes: on Hard you get no guide at all to where your shot will land (a word of advice: don’t start on hard like I did), on Medium you get a flight path as you aim, but it disappears while your projectile reloads making aim changing a little difficult and on Easy you get the flight path all the time, so you know where you are shooting at all times. This is a great to help get the feel for each projectile. What is disappointing is the Hero’s bow has no flight paths at all. Yes, his is to be used more close range, but it is still a pain. As well as the flight path you can use the cursor buttons to do “minor” adjustments to the aim for those important headshots, and by minor I mean a hairs width. I found myself mashing the up cursor to pull my aim up and over shooting as going slowly was just too ineffectual.
The castle editor and aiming are my two main problems with this title which saddens me, but if you use the pre-made castles and just practice your aim more patiently you can overlook these issues. Something else that helps you overlook this is the 14 trophies/achievement’s you can unlock which are quite easy to get. After about an hour of play I already had four which is always a good motive to keep playing.
Another plus that helps balance things out is the online modes from 1vs1, survival co-op and last stand co-op, all of which can be played offline too. You get to add the fun of showing off your shots and shouting abuse when your troops get KO’d by friendly fire to keep things interesting.
Alas though there just doesn’t seem to be enough to bring me back after a few days though. I really want to enjoy this game more, as it does have a nice feel and the progression flows well but I feel this is a game that would fit more with pre-teens than an older audience. So if you have a kid and want them to have hours of fun Castle Storm is for them, but if your middle aged I don’t think this will hit home. All in all a fun little time waster, but nothing that will make you want to go fighting some Vikings with a high powered ballista.
3 toppling home-made castles out of 5Castlestorm Review (PS Vita, PS3),