+ Addicting, unique gameplay
+ Variety of Units
+ Castle creator is awesome
+ Local and Online Multiplayer
+ Amazing Value
- Some control issues
- A few levels are more annoying than anything
CastleStorm is an interesting mix of genres. If you would throw Angry Birds and Tower Defense in a blender, the results might be something similar to Zen Studios’ CastleStorm. Defined as “where medieval warfare meets 2D physics destruction”, it might be hard to know what to expect. Luckily, this unique blend creates some very addictive gameplay that performs well with CastleStorms’ creative enemies, modes, and multiplayer. Without a doubt, this is one of the best games available on Nintendo’s Wii U eShop.
In CastleStorm, you play as a brave knight who must defend his castle from an onslaught of wolves, bears, turkeys, vikings, golems, and even dragons. The premise behind this is that Knights and Vikings were constantly at war with one another until they were given a bit of civility in the form of sacred gems. Unfortunately for our knightly friend, the Vikings attack and steal the Knight’s gem, and now he must figure out why the vikings have become hostile.
Your castle serves as the base of your operations. The first thing introduced in your castle is the ballista. Your ballista comes with an array of ammunition, from the traditional javelins to explosives to even animals such as sheep. Each weapon is designed to have their own use, such as doing massive damage to castle walls, gates, or enemies. Depending on the rooms you have in your castle, you may also have the ability to spawn your own soldiers for the cost of food, just like in an RTS game. As you progress through the story, you’ll unlock a variety of new units and rooms to add to your castle that will upgrade both your soldier’s abilities and their efficiency. Lastly, there are hero units you can summon and take control of in order to deal with difficult enemies. These heroes are absurdly strong, yet have a very limited duration so they are not overly powerful. There’s a very fine balance between all of your skills, and you’ll need to make use of them all or else your enemies will be pounding at your gate in no time.
One of the coolest features, however, is the ability to design your own castle. You can place each individual room and supporting structure in your castle, which can totally change the way you play. For example, if your goal is to bust through the enemy’s gate and steal their flag, you might want some stables in your castle. If you want to lay waste to all those that oppose you, consider rooms for catapult bearers and barracks. Add in some utility rooms, such as the training room to increase your soldier’s attack power, and you’re set to lay siege on your enemy.
It gets a bit complicated when you start running into enemy castles with more rooms and more units than you. Fortunately the controls are laid out in such a way that it’s easy to switch between different commands. Each of the four face buttons are linked to a different group of commands, such as Units, Hero, or Ballista. Pressing that button lets you see your different options for that group, and using the L and R buttons, you can easily switch between 15 different commands. While it might seem a little confusing at first, it works very well for how the game operates. The only difficult aspect in terms of control is fine-tuning your ballista aim. You can use the control sticks to quickly aim at different things, but often you will need to move slightly to score a head shot on an enemy. Using the d-pad, this is possible but it’s much harder than it needs to be, which left me using the control stick more often than taking my time to line up a perfect shot. In CastleStorm, every second counts.
As you go through the campaign, you’ll find a variety of objectives to complete. You’ll be capturing the opponent’s flag, destroying their castle, and even defeating a boss monster or two. There’s a huge variety of objectives, however some of them don’t fare so well. In certain missions, you will be restricted to your hero and you will have use his bow to shoot other archers. This isn’t fun for a number of reasons, but mostly because the game is based around your castle and you have no castle interaction in these levels. You’ll also be ranked on each mission between one and five stars, and given gold for your efforts. You can use your gold to level up any of your possessions such as rooms, units, or ammunition.
There’s several other game modes aside from the campaign as well. There is, of course, local cooperative play with one player using the gamepad and the other using a pro controller with the TV. Online functionality is also present, although I was regrettably not able to find a game to join as of now. There is also hero survival as well as regular survival, both of which act as an excellent way to score more coins.
In the end, CastleStorm is a wonderfully addictive game. It’s beyond satisfying to watch your ballista hit a weak spot on an enemy castle, and consequently have their castle crumble to the ground, or watch as you cavalry tear through the enemy ranks. CastleStorm is hectic, challenging, and downright fun, all for a price less than the average movie ticket. If you have a Wii U and you don’t own this on another platform, then you should do yourself a favor and pick up this gem.
CastleStorm is available on Steam, Nintendo Wii U, Xbox Live Arcade, and Playstation Network. This review is for the Wii U version set to release on December 26, 2013.