I will confess – I’ve never been fond of tower-defense games. Whether it was the stale, transfixed maps, the lineal and controlled movements of the enemies, or the same 2 or 3 upgrades offered for each tower, I just can’t really get into them for the enjoyment factor. CastleStorm: Definitive Edition, Zen Studios’ next-gen upgrade from the original, is a risky combination of tower defense, tactical, and action based games that, ultimately, pays off for us skeptical types.
If you have played Plants vs. Zombies you’ll have a solid understanding of what’s in store when you start. You’ll spend the majority of the game manning a ballista that can fire different artillery at foes including a standard javelin, three spears at once, shots that explode with a button press after firing, and so on as the enemy sends troops and their own return fire in an attempt to bring down your walls. There’s a certain level of precision needed, as the game encourages javelin headshots against enemy troops – these reward you with additional money you can use to upgrade your stronghold, troops, and weaponry, while also being efficient.
Levels often have multiple objectives, which allow for more than one way to conquer your foes, and your troops often play a role in these differing goals. If hurling giant heavy things at the front door isn’t enough to bring down their stronghold, you can send troops in to capture their flag or to draw the enemies’ fire or summon creatures while you bring the house down around your enemies’ ears..
Your champion runs on a timer, so while getting in those close, quick kills it is important to make every attack count before they’re returned to the castle. While controlling the champion, it’s important to note that no one will be manning the ballista when you’re out hacking and slashing your way through the ranks, nor can the champion capture a flag, so they’re only there to even the score, not turn the tide. As with your troops and artillery, your spells and champion summon are mapped to a face button on the controller, and you can quickly and easily scroll through your different attack options with the bumper buttons while the battle rages on.
Different level requirements prevent you from constantly using the same tactics, though not knowing what’s coming next can see you upgrading a troop or weapon type only to find they’re not available for the next mission. I took to waiting and seeing what you had available before subsequently upgrading so it doesn’t cause too much of a problem. The different requirements are often linked amusingly to the story which is a nice touch. Side missions also crop up, which mark a welcome break from the standard levels, as you assault turkeys or save donkeys, earning much needed coins for your upgrades while you’re at it.
The game has a fantastic and quirky fantasy art style, reminiscent of the WarCraft universe. The game has a playful sense of humor, and although the writing is unlikely to have your sides splitting, it’ll certainly force a smile from time to time such as when your troops can’t join you for the next battle because “They took some arrows to the knees!”. The music also helps carry the playful tone, though at times it doesn’t necessarily match up with the on screen action or the setting as it drifts towards more modern beats.
In a way, I almost didn’t want to enjoy CastleStorm: Definitive Edition just so that I could continue being skeptical of such a niche genre of video games, but Zen Studios has boldly proven to me that, with the right mixture, any game can be fun for anyone.