Castlestorm has some problems with its controls, but this two-dimensional tower defense brawler is challenging and entertaining nonetheless.
In Castlestorm, you find yourself in the middle of a medieval battle between two armies and you must do whatever it takes to protect your castle from the enemy kingdom. To do so, you can aim and shoot a powerful ballista, conjure up spells, send troops to the battlefield and even teleport your hero to dispatch enemies yourself. Castlestorm has some problems with its controls, but this two-dimensional tower defense brawler is challenging and entertaining nonetheless.
As part of your main assignments, you need to defeat the opposing team by either capturing their flag or destroying their castle. But there are also side missions that put you in the shoes of a knight and you need to destroy a handful of targets as fast as you can and from time to time, you’ll also stop hordes of hungry wolves, escort donkeys to your castle or hunt boar.
All missions (both main and additional ones) give you gold as a reward which you can use to upgrade your arsenal which includes projectiles, spells, troops and even the rooms of your castle. As part of your artillery, you’ll use weapons that shoot arrows, bombs, stones and even sheep. The spells, on the other hand, include the possibility of transporting your hero to the battlefield, regenerating health and magical arrows. Finally, the troops feature the usual classes, such as tank, healers, soldiers, archers and paladins.
Building your own castle is also a possibility in Castlestorm and customizing your own fortress gives you an advantage because this determines the troops and resources that will be available during the missions. As you progress through the game, you also acquire more rooms that you equip to your castle to receive bonus features, such as increasing the size of your army, faster food regeneration, stronger walls and so on.
There are two campaigns as part of the game: in one you play as the Vikings and in the other you play as the Knights. While the controls remain the same, some of the weapons and abilities are different, making the two classes feel fresh and unique. As part of the two campaigns, there’s a story, but the plot is minimal and pretty unimportant, so while I like to see that there’s something tying all the missions together, you can skip all the cutscenes if you want and still understand what you’re supposed to be doing.
Although the first version of Castlestorm came out on the Xbox 360, the game controls better on the PC, since most of the game involves precise aiming and shooting that seems perfect for mouse and keyboard. On the Xbox 360 though, you use the analog stick which lacks the precision you need to land some shots. To make up for this, you can use the D-pad to make small adjustments, but it isn’t as precise as using a mouse.
Apart from the story mode, Castlestorm offers a handful of other modes that can be played locally and over Xbox Live. In Skirmish, you play a battle where you can choose a level, castle position and difficulty. In Survival mode, you fight against waves of enemies and you try to make it as far as you can. In Hero Survival, you also fight waves of enemies, but instead of commanding a ballista in a castle, you play as a hero in a sidescrolling action game. The best part about it is that soon you’ll be overwhelmed by enemies from both sides of the screen who are trying to steal your flag. When you control the hero, you can jump, defend with a shield, attack with your sword or bow. The only problem I had while controlling the hero is that sometimes, you clearly push the attack button and nothing happens and this is infuriating when it happens.
This tactical strategy game can be entertaining when you’re on your own or when you’re joined by a friend. The only problems I had with it is that while some of the dialogues are charming and the game certainly has some style, the story doesn’t add anything meaningful to the game. Furthermore, the Xbox 360 controller lacks the precision of the mouse and keyboard and when you’re controlling the hero, you need to learn the precise timing before you can face dozens of enemies. Other than that, Castlestorm is a challenging and entertaining mashup that doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it manages to remain entertaining for a few hours.