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By MrJenssen21-08-2013
Bobfish (editor)
BloodyFanGirl (editor)

The Defence

Zen Studios
Zen Studios
Strategy, Indie
Release Date:

The Prosecution

Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz
AMD equivalent
Nvidia GeForce 8600
AMD Radeon HD 3670
1 GB
800 MB

The Case


With CastleStorm, Zen Studios are making an attempt to combine different gameplay mechanics, from some of the most addictive games found on PC and mobiles, into one game. But does tower defense and Angry Birds really go together?

The Trial


If you’ve played Angry Birds, then you’ll already have some idea what CastleStorm is about. Through the game’s campaign, skirmish-matches and multiplayer modes, you arm your trusty ballista with all sorts of projectiles that are meant to deal death and destruction to your foe’s castle.

Yes! Yes! Destroy everything!

Yes! Yes! Destroy everything!

Somewhat similar to Angry Birds - which uses various bird-shaped projectiles with special abilities that make them fast, heavy, split into three smaller projectiles and so on - you employ an arsenal of deadly projectiles to win each match. You’ll have arrows, triple-shot arrows, rocks, bombs and all sorts of other things. One of the two end goals of most missions in the game is to destroy your enemy’s castle, by breaking down his walls and watching the rooms inside their castle collapse into rubble in a satisfyingly realistic manner.

CastleStorm goes further than that, though. A lot further. This is where the tower defense comes into play because, in addition to your powerful ballista, you’ll also be able to spawn in troops to fight the troops your enemy sends out of his own castle; footmen, archers, knights, horse riders, giants, trolls and even flying creatures like phoenixes and dragons help you in your cause. You’ll also have an array of spells that heal, protect or kill, and even powerful heroes that you can take control of to fight the enemy head on yourself. But we’ll get back to the heroes in a moment. Troops are not only useful for fighting those who would come marching to break down your castle’s gate and steal your flag, as they can do the exact same to your enemy. If your troops manage to take and bring the enemy’s flag back to your castle, you’ll win the match.

Oh dear.

Oh dear.

After each victory, you get a bit of cash that can be used to upgrade your troops and weapons. You’ll also be able to enter the castle editor, where you can place rooms, walls and blockades. You see, the type of troops you have available to you depends on which rooms you put in your castle and as long as these rooms remain undamaged during a battle, you can spawn in new troops of that type. However that’s only if you can afford it out of your ever-replenishing food supply and that you don’t exceed your troop limit.

You also have an assortment of special rooms that give you passive effects during combat, provided they’re not destroyed by a well-placed enemy shot. These rooms may improve your castle walls’ strength, raise your troop limit, reduce weapon cool down and increase the health of your fighters, among other things. These rooms and their effects can be further upgraded if you dig deep into your cash supply.

Art. This game has it.

Art. This game has it.

So, does all this work together? Well, yes it does, it works quite well. The gameplay is satisfying, and gives you plenty of options for how to deal with each situation. Though you can play it as a casual little time-waster, ramping up the difficulty will force you to multitask like a madman. Either way you’ll need to pay close attention to when weapons cool down, while watching the amount of food you have available to spawn in new troops and combining this with your spells and your heroes for maximum effectiveness. It’s quite tense, and you’ll likely more than once lose a battle and try it again with a different approach. That, or go back and grind some of the easier levels for some more cash to upgrade your troops, weapons, spells and rooms.

The campaign mode is good at gradually training you in the strengths and weaknesses of each weapon and troop type. Over a multitude of levels, you’ll be granted new ways to lay waste to your foes but the foes most certainly bite back, and you’ll often be introduced to new challenges in the actual levels. There are even a few boss fights crammed in there. Between almost every level, there’s a small cutscene where you’re treated to witty humor and references to other games in CastleStorm’s wonderfully artistic graphics engine. Halfway through, you’ll even switch from controlling a noble kingdom, to fighting as mighty Vikings, with different troops and weapons altogether.

Oh dear!

Oh dear!

After the campaign is over, you still have the skirmish mode to fiddle around with, along with three different multiplayer modes. There’s the regular 1-on-1 Skirmish, co-operative Survival, where one player controls the castle and the other player controls a hero, and Hero Survival, where both players are heroes that fend off waves of enemies. These modes have some issues. For example, there’s no chat - voice or text - and it seems to lack a lot of information, like how you never see your co-player’s hero level. It’s clear that the game was made for friends playing with and against each other, rather than with random strangers so the exclusion of chat is puzzling. But then I suppose it’s kind of okay, since online multiplayer is pretty much dead; I never found a single match against any human players online, apart from when I approached friends directly to ask them.

That’s not where the game’s issues end either; though the heroes you control are powerful, and can help a great deal in sticky situations, controlling them feels sluggish, inaccurate and inadequate. Taking control of them also means you won’t be able to defend your castle and shoot projectiles until the hero is summoned back or killed. The issues with the heroes is especially evident in certain missions that force you to only play as a hero fending off incoming troops; it wasn’t just tedious on Hard difficulty, it was damn near broken.



There are other, minor things that hold the game back from true greatness too. Though castle customization is fun, it’s very shallow, and there’s not much room for strategic placement of your walls and rooms. You always end up placing your most important rooms in the lower back of the castle and stuff a bunch of walls in the front. It can be frustrating to those who don’t want to enjoy the campaign but instead throw themselves straight into Skirmish, only to realize that the assets available to you in Skirmish are unlocked through playing the campaign. There’s also a jarring lack of voice-over dialogue for the otherwise entertaining cutscenes, something which would’ve made it all so much more fun to watch.

The Verdict


Overall CastleStorm isn’t nearly as great and addictive as it could have been. However it still makes a good attempt to blend multiple genres and make each piece function with the others. It has its issues, big and small, but it’s a solid technical piece of work, with good sound design and beautiful art. With a lengthy and varied campaign, witty writing, an okay multiplayer component where you’re allowed to bring your very own castles into battle and plenty of options for casual and more hardcore gamers alike, CastleStorm is a worthy purchase for the asking price.

Case Review

  • Beautiful: Whether we’re discussing sound or visuals, it can’t be denied that CastleStorm is pleasing to the senses.
  • Funny: Between the videogame references and silly jokes, it’s a game that’s as funny as it is fun to actually play.
  • Dead Kings: Multiplayer is fun, but there’s nobody playing it. Get a friend to buy it too.
  • Limited Sandbox:  Customization could’ve been a lot deeper.
  • You’re a Hero Damn It, Act Like One!: Hero control is sluggish, and mandatory Hero-missions are tedious.
Score: 3.5/5
With some minor issues holding it back from greatness, CastleStorm is still a worthy purchase for the asking price.


CastleStorm is awesomely fun. With visuals reminiscent of WarCraft 3, it shows that you don't need to melt a graphics card to have fun. Even if the concept is cobbled together from a lot of other famous games – Angry Birds comes to mind and every reviewer will probably say the same. Anyway, slinging stones (and javelins, and exploding apples...) at another castle while the enemy does the same is amusing enough and when the army element is brought in, this becomes a somewhat difficult game. There are a variety of victory conditions and the campaign makes a really good use of this.

And you make good use of headshots. Yes, headshots with a bloody ballista! Yes, it is as satisfying as it sounds. That said, this doesn't leave much incentive to magic yourself onto the battlefield and wreck stuff up. After all, while you're in ballista, you're doing a lot more damage to the enemy, be it bombardment or spells, or just intercepting their projectiles en route (it's almost a medieval fantasy point defense system). So yeah, it's a very enjoyable game that works really darn well. Give it a go!

Score: 4/5


CastleStorm is a game that starts with a number of concepts that anyone who has spent any amount of time playing flash games will be familiar with. There are a bunch of guys assaulting your castle and you must use a combination of your own troops, magical abilities, and the giant freaking ballista mounted on your gate to fend them off. From these humble beginnings, CastleStorm manages to hit all of the points that made its spiritual predecessors so damn addictive - I seriously struggled to pull myself from my computer screen to write up this appeal. The game is simple to learn but takes some time to truly master, something which there is plenty of time to do over the course of the story campaign. This campaign does its best to mix up the ways in which your battles are fought - in one particular level it turns out that you didn't provide enough latrines for your troops, the result of which being that you must fight without them. In another level a sheep has eaten through the cord of your ballista, so you must make do with foot troops and magical abilities.

The story is a simple one, but given the sole reason for the story is to lend context to the campaign's gameplay that isn't a surprising observation. Simply put, you take on the role of Sir [Insert name here], defender of the kingdom, who must hold back the invasion of the Viking hordes, and discover the deeper conspiracy of how they took the magical gem that was protecting the kingdom. While the general flow of the story was expected, what wasn't expected was the humor embedded throughout the conversations and events that occur. It's not particularly classy, a few subtle references or jokes for the diligent, but otherwise mostly low brow, but it's the sort of humor that both young and old can enjoy. Sometimes it's good to just switch off the seriousness and enjoy the simple things.

CastleStorm's art style is well done, with a wonderful, obviously lovingly drawn, cartoony look. But the best thing about it is how good it manages to look, especially since it's not trying to push any graphical boundaries (to the point that it runs perfectly on my much older PC). The sound design and music obviously owes a debt to a stock library somewhere though, with a lot of sounds I recognise from other games. That said I can't really fault it for that as all of them fit perfectly with the game and the setting. All in all, CastleStorm is definitely one to try out, no matter how old or serious you’ve become.

Score: 4/5
Comments (3)
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Posts: 1548

I REALLY have to give this a try. Liked how the castle building mechanics look.

Posts: 1317

Hey man don't be so sexist.

Posts: 3290