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CastleStorm: Definitive Edition

Score: 85%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Zen Studios
Developer: Zen Studios
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Strategy

Graphics & Sound:

CastleStorm: Definitive Edition is a delightful changing of the gears from the normal deluge of fall video game releases. Instead of delivering a dark, dreary, open-world experience or yet another military shooter, here is a game whose bright, colorful, charming visuals belie a very fun action/strategy hybrid that feels like a mix between Angry Birds and tower defense.

I don't know what it is with me, but I love games that mix cartoony aesthetics with three-dimensional character models and environments. This game looks like what would happen if Game of Thrones was chewed up and spat out by the Sunday morning funnies. It's just as well; the bleak, medieval aesthetics and tone have kind of gotten old for me in the past few years, and it's refreshing to return to something lighthearted and totally committed to fun and laughter. Though you'll be participating in more than your share of death and destruction, CastleStorm's cheery graphical design will keep reminding you that it's not a serious affair.

The same is true of the audio design. This isn't a fantasy world populated by nothing but brooding, melancholic Byronic heroes. There isn't much voice acting, but what's here has all the bluster and pomp of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. This is completely consistent with the cartoony presentation and goes a long way in establishing a sense of identity for this already unique experience. The soundtrack is upbeat and vaguely militaristic, but it mostly just stays out of the way, for better or for worse.


Two castles enter. One castle leaves. I could describe CastleStorm: Definitive Edition thusly, but that would be doing a disservice to all the unique ways in which you can make your castle the one left still standing. But at its core, that's exactly what this game is.

CastleStorm's Campaign offers several missions that approach the core gameplay from a number of perspectives, but most of them focus on the destruction of your enemy's castle while you protect your own. You've got a lot of tools at your disposal, and I'll get into them in detail later, but what I can say at this point is that it is a far more active experience than you might expect from a game that has so much in common with standard tower defense.

In real time, you command units into the field to do automated (but no less entertaining) battle with the barbarian hordes. There's a light economy in place that allows you to upgrade your defensive and offensive capabilities, as well as add more units to the field of battle. This isn't a fast-paced simulation by any stretch of the imagination; rather, it's a slow, deliberate test of your macromanagement abilities; there are a few things you'll need to keep track of, and it's not always easy to stay on top of it all.


CastleStorm: Definitive Edition isn't a terribly challenging game. Perhaps this is due to the gentle difficulty curve and thorough tutorial. There is a lot to keep track of, but not too much to actually digest.

That being said, the user interface is clunky. I definitely get the feeling that Zen Studios tried their best to translate the controls to the Xbox One controller from what was probably excellent with a mouse and keyboard. Juggling between shoulder and face buttons with a functional but undependable aiming arc in a game in which time is of the essence is quite a challenge, and not always for the right reasons. But it's obvious that the developer did the best with what they had to work with.

Game Mechanics:

In battle, you assume control from a number of different perspectives over time. Mostly, you'll be in control of your castle's ballista, which for those of you who don't know, is a catapult capable of launching tons of medieval killing ordnance at your enemy. Spears, morning stars, and a few, shall we say, quirky weapons are thrown into the mix, making combat a joy.

The ballista may be the weapon you have the most direct control over, and it will remain that way through much of the game, but you've got a castle, and therefore, more resources to throw into your war machine. You can deploy individual units, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, into the field to automatically march forward and engage the enemy. This allows you to move your focus onto your ultimate goal, which is to destroy the enemy castle.

Once in a while, you'll have the opportunity to call in a hero. This is an extremely powerful individual that you actually have full control over. In these situations, you charge into battle, wantonly slaying everything in sight until your hero falls; don't worry, there's no permadeath here, and you'll have the hero back on the field before long.

There's a rudimentary economy system in place; while most strategy games go hogwild with them, CastleStorm keeps itself as accessible as possible. You earn money to upgrade your troops and castle by killing enemies. Food, the currency for purchasing and deploying new field units, regenerates at an automated pace, making the gameplay feel like clockwork.

CastleStorm: Definitive Edition comes with an easy recommendation. It's accessible, charming, addictive, and a lot of fun. Just goes to show you that amidst all the seriousness that video games so often attempt, smiling and laughing aren't crimes.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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