Posted by Nathan Michalik
Shocking, in a manner of speaking
Building castles, slaying enemy troops, and launching farting sheep. CastleStorm is built around the idea of both building and destroying castles using a variety of customisable methods. You'll control a massive ballista, which you'll employ to send out a variety of troops, some awesome special attacks, and a massively powerful hero. The main idea is to first build a castle in the castle editor, and then try and destroy the enemy's stronghold before they obliterate yours.
The single player campaign consists of various goals and challenges. In some missions, the troops will be on strike, forcing you to rely solely on the ballista and special attacks, while other times pesky sheep will be chewing on your ballista so that only soldiers are available to battle. The various challenges keep the seemingly simple gameplay fresh.
The campaign offers a fairly straightforward story of good versus evil, filled with wacky humour and fart jokes. Most of the dialogue is entertaining enough to keep you hooked between matches. Each mission also rewards you with stars based on performance, with challenges such as high accuracy with the ballista, scoring a designated amount of troop kills, or finishing within a specific time quota. These objectives help make replaying missions slightly more enticing, but it’s one of those campaigns where you’ll probably only enjoy it once before switching to multiplayer.
The Castle Editor is a fairly entertaining mode that allows you to customise and build a tower that caters to your specific strengths and weaknesses. If you prefer to focus your firepower on the ballista, for example, you could place certain rooms that provide damage boosts in this area. While it’s tempting to spam the castle with rooms that boost troops and ballista skills, it’s important to remember that the castle also needs defences from enemy fire. This balance can lead to interesting castle builds where some favour attack and others favour defence. Would you prefer a glass cannon or a steel pellet gun?
Everything in this game is also upgradable. Whether it’s increasing the power of each individual ballista type, individual troops, or the special abilities, it can all be increased to level ten. Consequentially, you'll find yourself playing multiple rounds in order to unlock an additional upgrade. Sometimes it feels as if enhancements are wasted on towers that become less useful as the game progresses, but for the most part, nothing becomes entirely ineffective if utilised correctly.
It takes a while to adjust to the control schemes in this title, and using a joystick to aim the ballista can be extremely difficult at times. Pushing square will open up the troops menu where L1 and R1 toggle between each type, while repeating the input will send that troop to battle. The joystick sensitivity is a bit high and cannot be adjusted, and none of the buttons can be remapped. The high sensitivity can turn the joys of building your own castle into an annoying act of precision when trying to place certain structures. The camera controls can also become a headache in larger maps where frequent panning and zooming are required to maximise ballista damage.
Online and local multiplayer is where you’ll either have the most or least amount of fun. To be an expert in this game will require a lot of time and effort due to the many different available actions. This can make for a frustrating experience for new players. Without a levelling system or matchmaking setup, there’s no way to tell if you’ll be up against a brand new player or the king of all castles either. It’s a game where finishing the campaign and attempting a few rounds on hard would greatly improve your chances at enjoying the multiplayer. Becoming skilled at this game is both rewarding and satisfying, making it worth the time and effort – even if you get slaughtered in the first few matches.
The co-operative multiplayer, on the other hand, is this title's crown and jewels. In co-op survival mode, one player takes control of the ballista while the other controls a hero character at all times. Teaming up to slay wave after wave of troops is extremely satisfying, and is a great way to earn coins to purchase upgrades for both single player and multiplayer. Hero Survival is the second co-op mode where each player must protect a flag in the middle of the map while slaying the never-ending onslaught of enemies.
CastleStorm brilliantly fuses various game genres into a single additive package. While the learning curve is a little bit high, and the controls can be quite finicky at times, smashing up castles is undeniably enjoyable. It’s a game where being skilled really pays off in competitive multiplayer, yet casually messing around with buddies is still just as fun. Colourful graphics, smooth gameplay, and a great soundtrack help to complete the release.