After being on every other format going, Zen Studio’s surprisingly addictive castle defence game, CastleStorm: Definitive Edition arrives on the PS4. Does it hold the fort or end in ruins? Charming cartoon visuals and a chirpy soundtrack set the tone for this light-hearted strategy game. Its bright and with good humour sprinkled throughout but at the heart of this cheery facade lies a deep and balanced strategy game that mixes up many aspects of other games to produce a compelling mixture.
The game’s lengthy campaign is where you learn the ropes and game mechanics are handed out individually and concurrently to show you how these should match up. You have a ballista at your disposal which is used to knock down opposing castle walls, not too unlike Angry Birds and you can spawn military units, providing you have enough food to do so. Heroes provide a small time frame for you to clear house with a single super-unit and spells can be acquired to heal and harm on the battlefield. There’s definitely a lot going on and, when it all works together, it feels pretty neat and frantic. Individually, however, some aspects don’t fair so well.
The game controls, for the most part, well enough. Using the analogue stick to direct ranged attacks can prove a little fiddly and maybe don’t feel as precise as you’d sometimes want it. You can fine-tune it with the directional buttons which, I guess is a decent compromise when you consider there’s no option to adjust sensitivity. Face buttons are used to bring up your projectiles, unit queue and magic attacks which all have their own specific timers. Managing time effectively and keeping things efficient seems key to success and luckily the controls aren’t an obstacle in this regard and hold together well in the heat of battle.
Progress in the campaign gates access to units and upgrades so playing through this part to improve your castle and funds is crucial. Its acts as a meaty training tool which, for the most part, does the trick. It buckles somewhat when it restricts you to a single mechanic though. Fending off hoards with a disabled ballista requires effective use of your troops and hero unit and sometimes this becomes an uninteresting chore. Hero combat especially feels underdeveloped. Thankfully, missions take no more than a few minutes so you’re never far from a mission you might like.
Between missions you can spend your hard-earned coins for unit and castle upgrades that improve your effectiveness in battle. There’s an extensive list to choose from and the campaign drip-feeds it at a slow enough pace to give you an idea of how to use each one productively. You’re given a certain amount of freedom to experiment and play as you see fit. If you’re into heavy infantry, go for it. Fancy using a hero as a tide-turning tank? No worries.
Adding rooms to your castle gives you access to new unit types, improve your food stocks and give you a steady flow of money during battle. A functional castle editor is provided to help manage room placement and default templates are supplied to give you a point to start from. You’ll have to apply some thought into it as a destroyed room results in you not being able to reap the benefits. In short: keep important stuff in the back.
Getting into an online game has been tough going at the time of this review but you can at least invite friends into quick matches for some bragging rights. You can outfit your castle prior to battle with a small sum of money and then charge into battle. Providing you can find someone to play against, the versus mode will have some considerable legs.
There’s a fair amount of depth to this little package which could provide players with a lot of fun and challenge. Going up against others online and just seeing how they approach the game can be quite an education, providing the community sticks around or has an opportunity to grow. The game is definitely competent enough but it needs to find the right crowd.