Blurring the line between tower defense and real-time strategy, CastleStorm proved a surprise hit when we reviewed it last year. This time, Zen Studios’ clever mash-up is back on the PlayStation 4, with all of its previous DLC and a few new surprises up its sleeve. But how does this version stack up against the game that we claimed "brilliantly fuses various game genres into a single additive package"?
The gameplay still has you fighting to destroy your opponent’s customised castles, using various ballista projectiles, numerous troops, and an all-powerful hero character. The combat will take a great deal of practice in order to become fluent with the strengths and weaknesses of each element; between building a strong defensive castle, arming the ballista cannon, ordering troops, and commanding the mighty hero, this is one deep game. However, it's also a rare occasion where genres meld perfectly.
As a result, you shouldn’t get too intimidated. In order to train future castle defenders, the game relies heavily on a tutorial built into its main story. As each mission is completed, new elements are introduced, with fresh challenges and goals employed to keep things interesting. The witty dialogue and wild sense of humour makes for an enjoyable experience – well, if you don’t mind reading, at least. See, as with the previous edition, the voice acting is ‘in another castle’.
Destroying the castles in story mode is entertaining and all, but it pales in comparison to the joys found smashing apart buildings in multiplayer. Voice chat is one of the few new additions to this next-gen edition, making for a better online experience. Whether it’s local or online multiplayer, though, competitive matches among friends and strangers are a blast. Elsewhere, co-operative play returns, with the same exciting survival modes allowing you to work with friends to earn money.
Whether it’s via multiplayer or story mode, the money earned can be used to upgrade everything from the simple arrow to the food court for your castle. This means that completionists will have their hands full upgrading troops, heroes, ballistas, and more. Old fans of the game will also notice that a few new abilities and skills have been included, too.
Sadly, while ranking up your favourite gameplay element is both rewarding and addictive, in-game money and upgrades can’t solve everything. Unfortunately, our biggest criticism of the original version still hasn't been addressed: aiming the ballista is still strenuous in the heat of battle. Indeed, taking a break to try and position each shot contrasts heavily with the fast-paced combat, and generally makes the game feel more difficult than it should. Simple motion or touchpad support would have been welcome – or, dare we say it, PlayStation Move compatibility.
At least the graphical upgrade means that the bright and colourful world can reign in smooth 1080p at 60 frames-per-second. For those interested, this is also one of the few games on the PS4 that is playable in stereoscopic 3D. We tested this feature out and found it well implemented, offering plenty of depth without confusing layers or ghosting.
In addition to the pleasing visual experience, the ever satisfying soundtrack returns; the only thing more addictive than the ‘headshot’ callout is the brilliantly fitting soundtrack. In fact, surround sound may not seem all that necessary for a 2D tower defense type of game, but the music sounds particularly good with a nice 5.1 setup.
While this castle may still have some foundation issues, it holds a lot of treasure if you’re willing to devote some time and effort. The campaign and multiplayer alone make CastleStorm: Definitive Edition a worthwhile experience, with enough customisation to add depth without being too complicated. It’s a unique title, with enough small improvements that players who passed on the original version may want to consider taking another look – but without cross buy, it may be a difficult game to sell to anyone other than the most devoted of tower defense fans.