It’s not very often that you get a strategy game on a console, and it’s even less common that a strategy game on a console works well. Whilst CastleStorm is very much a watered-down version of the kind of game that you’ll find on a PC with mouse and keyboard input, it still requires a good deal of thought if you want to progress smoothly, and there’s a fair amount of customization options that allow you to match your armies to your style of play.
Viewed from a side-on perspective, players control both the projectile weaponry of their base and the troops that belong to said base, using a mixture of the analogue sticks and face buttons to control both. Initially, the controls are a little confusing, as you’re required to switch from category to category, and then select the particular weapon or unit that you want to use within that category. After a couple of levels, though, you’ll find yourself skimming through the menus without much trouble, leaving your mind free to focus on building a winning strategy. Unfortunately, the one control issue that doesn’t improve with time is the aiming of your ballista. It always feels a little loose, and you can waste valuable seconds trying to line up that perfect shot, as even a slight nudge on the left analogue can send your reticule flying.
In terms of gameplay, CastleStorm plays much like your typical tower defense game, with a healthy dose of Angry Birds style demolition thrown in for good measure. Before each level, you select five different units from a variety of nine, five different projectile weapons and five different magic spells. Units are the most closely linked to a typical tower defense game, with standard soldiers, mages, and archers, with stronger, more unique units such as gryphons and golems unlocking later in the game.
Projectile weapons seem to have taken a page out of the Worms handbook as, while you’ll have javelins and chunks of stone to throw, you also have flatulent sheep that can be used as missiles and apples which explode like grenades upon contact. Although the different races within the game have different animations and names for each unit and projectile, most of them fulfill an equivalent purpose to each other, meaning that once you’ve mastered a particular race’s abilities, you’ll feel right at home with those belonging to a different force.
Visually, CastleStorm feels like it could have been pulled right from Azeroth, from the Warcraft series. Characters have a similar art style and color palate, and the environments and bright and colorful in a similar way to Blizzard’s efforts. CastleStorm does a good job of varying the environments, though, meaning that you won’t be staring at the same background for more than a handful of levels. Within the Royal Kingdom campaign alone, you visit cities, islands, mines and mountains, and other campaigns have an even wider variety of locales.
Whilst characters in cutscenes aren’t voice acted, each unit has a selection of catchphrases that they’ll utter during the course of a battle, such as the soldier’s ‘I don’t get paid enough for this’. Whilst initially charming, they soon wear thin, and it’s a good job that the music within the game is quite charming and upbeat, or I’d have been reaching for the mute button sooner rather than later otherwise.
The strongest aspect of CastleStorm on the Xbox One is that it’s been released as a Definitive Edition, and there’s a huge amount of content here. With four different story campaigns in single player, each containing a decent number of levels, a handful of extra single-player modes such as skirmish, and a separate multiplayer mode, CastleStorm contains enough to keep you busy for a while. There’s also good incentive for replaying levels, with bonus objectives featuring varied criteria, and star ratings to aim for. You also earn money within each level to upgrade your units and castle, so there’s definitely enough here to keep you busy if you’re so inclined.
CastleStorm is a great option for those looking for a strategy title on consoles. It isn’t as deep as its PC-base counterparts, but it still requires a good deal of thought, and there’s plenty of content here to keep you occupied for quite some time. With four different campaigns, a multiplayer mode and more, CastleStorm packs a lot of gameplay into an attractive package, and is definitely worth looking at if you’re after something a little different for your console gaming.