Thursday, August 16

Review: CastleStorm [Nintendo Switch eShop]


One trait I always like to see in games is when they provide players the opportunity to mostly choose their own course and style to find success. While along the way in its pretty beefy campaign there will be times where you’ll need to conform to a specific strategy or style, Zen Studios CastleStorm for the most part leaves you to decide which of its 3 styles you want to focus on during play, whether you prefer to aim and shoot, manage troops, or get involved more directly for some brawling fun. Of course the best strategy will generally be to do a little bit of each, but the fact that you can dictate your own personal upgrade path to best suit your strengths and weaknesses gets it off to a great start.


While there are some variant mode choices that will let you play against a friend, get right into a fight against the computer, or work to hold back waves of enemies focusing on strategy or action, the meat of the game is its Campaign mode. Here you’ll advance through 3 different campaigns composed of over 25 stages apiece, consistently working to defend your castle from enemies while trying to take them down. There are some periodic variations to the formula, whether sometimes involving a boss or doing things like require you to protect special units, but for the most part it’s all-out war and you’ll need to keep a steady and sustained attack while making sure nothing is sneaking by your defenses to steal your flag or destroy your castle.


To accomplish your goals there are multiple styles of gameplay to shift between: Aiming and firing your ballista at incoming enemies, setting up what can become a pretty wide array of units to either defend or attack, taking an active role using spells on the battlefield, or taking control of your hero, Sir Gareth, to go brawler-style and cut through enemy units more directly. As you complete missions and objectives you’ll earn gold which you can use to flesh out your overall strategy, allowing you to focus heavily on specific gear, units, or spells or to diversify and cover all bases. Since there will be missions that will have primary or secondary objectives that will challenge you to play with or without using certain methods you’ll want to leave some room for success using different means. However, for the most part you’ll be free to go with what suits you, which is nice since it’s easier to overlook the repetitive nature of some missions when you’re doing it all your own way.


In terms of criticisms aside from the fact that ultimately many of the missions play out very similarly, though they’ll have different primary and secondary objectives to throw in some variation, there’s not much to find fault with. The challenge to earn all 5 stars in all missions isn’t necessary for you to pursue but to get them you’ll need to work pretty hard in some cases, and work to flesh out your skills in all disciplines. I would say that the scaling of the aim assist line for your ballista in handheld mode gets a bit too hard to see to be of much help, but that won’t cripple your ability to beat missions, it just may harm your accuracy score if you’re unable to compensate. As long as you keep in mind this is mostly intended to be a casual game, and gear your expectations accordingly, it does a fine job of providing a balanced and fun experience.


Overall, CastleStorm offers a nice variety of action that most anyone could enjoy in a well-presented package. The ability to shift your focus between methods of play on the fly not only helps you address specific problems you may run into during a mission but it also lets you develop your own personal style for success. The upgrade system is very open-ended, allowing you to go wide and shallow or narrow and deep or anywhere in between, so while specializing heavily may pose a problem in some specific missions with some grinding you could always likely compensate and make your strategy work through sheer force. The potential for variety in approach is probably CastleStorm’s greatest asset and helps to maximize the audience that should be able to enjoy it.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • For the most part there’s no single path to success as smart upgrades can emphasize your strengths or compensate for your weaknesses
  • There are multiple ways to play, each of them offering its own flavor of fun and requiring different core skills
  • Secondary objectives and periodic variations in missions try to make things a bit less repetitive

Cons:
  • While there will be different objectives thrown at you for variety overall the majority of gameplay is ultimately similar
  • Some minor scaling issues in handheld mode
  • At some point there will likely be grinding