Game Review: CastleStorm (PS Vita)

CastleStorm PS3

CastleStorm is a 2D physics based tower defence game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita and PS3. CastleStorm provides a twist to tower defence games by introducing the ability of offence as you are given the power to fight and attack your enemy just as much as your enemy is attacking you; resulting in your best form of defence being offence.

There are four game modes including: campaign, skirmish, survival and hero survival. The campaign game mode involves a story spanning many levels with the majority of the levels being locked and gradually becoming available as you unlock them by progressing through the campaign. There are story cutscenes between each battle that help to tell the story of the rivalry between the two battling sides.

The skirmish game mode is a single battle from a choice of seven battles, although almost all of the skirmish levels have to be unlocked. You also have the choice of selecting a nation, your castle position to the left or right of the environment and the enemy nation from Norse or Kingdom. You also have the choices between which of the three difficulty levels you want to play in and the equipment you want to select for battle, which will be set at the levels that you have upgraded them to from any of the other game modes, although you can still upgrade them from the equipment screen before you set off into battle in the skirmish game mode too.

The survival game mode sees you attempting to overcome waves of enemy troops as they descend upon your castle with the only goal in mind to break the front gate down and steal your flag to return to their own castle. You have the choice of eight battles to choose from, although almost all of the survival levels have to be unlocked, while you also have the choice of selecting a nation, alongside the choices between which of the three difficulty levels you want to play in and the equipment you want to select for battle, which will be set at the levels that you have upgraded them to from any of the other game modes, although you can still upgrade them from the equipment screen before you set off into battle in the survival game mode too.

The hero survival game mode is similar to the premise of the survival game mode, but you are taking the guise of a hero, rather than looking after the entire castle. The similarities between the premise of the survival and hero survival game modes are in regards to the purpose of the enemy as they set out to steal your flag from your base and leave the arena with it and if they succeed, then it is game over and you are automatically defeated. The hero survival game mode can be rather difficult as you cannot choose your own difficulty level and you are going up against enemies of various shapes, sizes and levels that progressively become harder and harder as you endure as many waves of enemies as you can in order to stop them from stealing your flag. You have the choice of six battles to choose from, although almost all of the hero survival levels have to be unlocked, while you also have the choice of selecting a hero.

Throughout all four of the game modes there are various ways for you to win a battle. You can win a battle by destroying your enemy’s castle, completing a particular objective set for that level or capturing the enemy’s flag and returning it to your castle. However, if the enemy captures your flag and returns it to their castle, then you will automatically be defeated; regardless of how much you have the enemy on the ropes or how close you are to destroying their castle entirely.

You can build your own castle by defining the unique properties within the castle, such as being able to totally customise the look and feel of each room in your castle to make it standout from any other castle anyone else has created in the game, alongside being able to upgrade the level of various types of rooms in order to provide the castle with certain improved attributes and abilities. You can even test the structural strength and design of your castle by entering the test mode, which is a brilliant design choice and is rather fun as you can actually fire weapons at your own castle in an attempt to see were it needs to receive further improvements and refinements.

There is a wide variation in enemy, environment and weapon design that really keeps the game feeling alive and fresh from level to level as new unlockable weapons are introduced to fire at new enemies as you are set in battle between two warring factions in new environments. The evolution in design coupled with unlockable content is a really wise design choice as it is allowing the game to have breathing space to progress further without feeling repetitive and keeping your customisation of your castle and weaponry as different as you want it to be from battle to battle.

There is a five star performance rating for each level with a total of 190 stars to collect. Collecting as many stars as possible from producing a higher level of performance is of real importance as the more stars you collect; the more levels you will have access to. The five star performance rating consists of two stars for the accuracy of your attacks; two stars for the difficulty level you have completed the level on with a lower difficulty level potentially not receiving any stars, while a higher difficulty level will receive both stars; and a bonus for successfully accomplishing all of your objectives.

You can earn gold by defeating enemy troops and castles, alongside claiming victory in the battle and successfully achieving your objectives. Gold represents the in-game currency, which can be spent in the upgrades shop to purchase improvements to the level of your projectiles, spells, troops and the strength and size of your castle, although some of the items in the upgrades shop will remain locked and unavailable until you have unlocked them by playing through the campaign.

The statistics screen is quite a helpful feature as it allows you to analyse your performance with such statistics as: total kills; the amount of ballista kills; the amount of headshot kills; how many kill streaks were achieved; the longest kill streaks; the amount of kills made by your hero; the number of multikills; the highest amount of kills during a multikill; and your projectile of the day based upon how much damage it has caused.

There is downloadable content available for CastleStorm in the form of From Outcast to Savior and The Warrior Queen, which are available from the European PlayStation Store for just £2.39 each or alternatively as part of CastleStorm: Complete Edition for £11.99. From Outcast to Savior gives you the opportunity to lead your army into battle in a quest to capture the evil Chief Ramhorn across a new campaign spanning twenty levels with a new hero, a new class of Royal Guard troops and new weapons. The Warrior Queen sees you leading your army into battle once again against the villainous Chief Ramhorn across a new campaign spanning twenty levels with a new hero, a new class of Viking Elite warriors, new survival missions and new weapons.

CastleStorm supports cross-buy between the Vita and PS3, although it unfortunately does not support cross-save, so you will not be able to continue from your previous progression on the PS3 version and vice versa. Cross-buy presents a superb amount of value as it means that you will be purchasing both the Vita and PS3 versions of the game with just a single purchase.

The controls are well mapped with a combination of a face button and touch screen control scheme, which is split into two separate control schemes for when you are firing the ballista from the castle and for when you are controlling the hero. The combination of the face buttons and touch screen control scheme for the castle controls consists of pressing X to shoot the ballista; pressing square to spawn a troop; pressing triangle to cast a spell; pressing O to warn troops of any incoming projectiles; pressing L to cycle to the previous projectile; pressing R to cycle to the next projectile; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to aim the ballista; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan and zoom your view of the battle; pressing the d-pad buttons to fine tune the aiming of the ballista; and pressing start to display the pause menu. The touch screen can take the place of the L and R buttons to select the projectile you want to shoot from the ballista by tapping on the appropriate icon towards the bottom of the touch screen, while the touch screen can take the place of the X button to shoot the ballista by tapping on the touch screen for were you want the projectile to land and the touch screen can also take the place of the right analogue stick by swiping your finger along the touch screen to pan your view of the battle. The combination of the face buttons and touch screen control scheme for the hero controls consists of pressing X to jump or shoot your crossbow; pressing square to perform a melee attack; holding triangle to return from hero mode; pressing O to perform a super attack; holding O to charge super attack; holding L to wield the shield to block incoming projectiles and enemy weapons; holding R to draw the bow and ready your aim of the crossbow; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move the hero; and pressing start to display the pause menu. The touch screen can take the place of the X button to shoot your crossbow as you are holding the R button by tapping on the touch screen for were you want to shoot the crossbow, while it can also replace the right analogue stick by holding and moving your finger gently around the touch screen as you are holding the R button to adjust the aim of the crossbow and the touch screen can also replace the left analogue stick by holding and moving your finger gently around the touch screen as you are holding the L button to adjust the positioning of the shield in order to block any of the incoming projectiles.

The graphics look pretty good from their 2D side scrolling perspective with enemy and ally troops, weapons, spells, castles and surrounding environments all looking great and maintaining a high level of performance in both animation and frame rate, regardless of how many enemy and ally troops are spawned onto the battlefield with projectiles flying over the battlefield producing destruction to each castle.

The presentation of the game is solid with a great touch screen based user interface across various menus such as the main menu, single player menus, multiplayer menus, trophies menu, leaderboards menus, help and options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and rear touch pad, although that is not an issue considering the other methods of navigation that are available. The background of the menu screens consists of a still camera looking upon warriors that are set for battle as the sun shines upon them and the clouds move across the sky.

The audio consists of voice-overs, sound effects and music. The voice-overs only properly occur on an occasional basis and are otherwise reduced to mumbling as you read speech bubbles of text, rather than hearing full conversations between ally and enemy troops; the voice-overs usually only tend to include the cries of fallen enemies and allies, such as “I shall be avenged!” and the occasional dialogue from the story cutscenes, while the sound effects are essential as they include the firing of crossbows and the swinging of swords, alongside the inspirational classical music that captures the mood of the game perfectly.

The trophy list includes fourteen trophies with eleven bronze trophies, two silver trophies and one gold trophy, while the From Outcast to Savior downloadable content has five bronze trophies and three silver trophies and The Warrior Queen downloadable content also has five bronze trophies and three silver trophies. There are a number of trophies that are not necessarily easy, but that you will naturally achieve as you progress through the campaign, such as the bronze trophy for unlocking Donkey Island in the campaign mode; the Road Blocked bronze trophy for unlocking Mountain Passage in the campaign mode, the A Fistful of Hammers bronze trophy for unlocking Norsheim in the campaign mode; the Crowd Control bronze trophy for scoring an x5 or higher multikill; the Dropping Like Flies bronze trophy for scoring an x10 or higher killing streak; the Angry Demolition bronze trophy for destroying three rooms in the enemies’ castle with only one shot; and the Hard Hat Area bronze trophy for killing an enemy troop by having his own castle collapse on him. The hardest trophy in the game is certainly the All-Star gold trophy for reaching 100% completion of the campaign mode by obtaining all of the stars. The From Outcast to Savior downloadable content consists of trophies that you will naturally earn as you progress through the game with the hardest trophy having to be the Superstar silver trophy for earning all of the stars in the Royal Guard campaign. The Warrior Queen downloadable content consists of trophies that you will naturally earn as you progress through the game with the hardest trophy having to be the Megastar silver trophy for earning all of the stars in the Viking Elites campaign. I would estimate depending upon skill, a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take around ten hours to 100% the trophy list for CastleStorm and around two hours to 100% the trophy list for the From Outcast to Savior and The Warrior Queen downloadable content packs.

There are three difficulty levels including: casual, normal and hard. The major differences between the easiest and hardest difficulty levels involve there being more enemies that appear to move at a faster pace and destroy your defences significantly quicker resulting in you potentially having your flag stolen and being on the way to defeat before you know what has hit you.

There are online multiplayer features and online leaderboards. The online multiplayer includes three game modes featuring versus, survival and hero survival. The survival and hero survival game modes allows you to enter a quick match, create a player or create a custom match, while the versus game mode provides the same three options, but is the only game mode to feature a ranked match option. The quick match option puts you into a lobby as you wait for an opponent to join, alongside the ability to customise your equipment and castle before you start the match. The create player match option allows you to choose a level; the ability to set the lobby to private or open by selecting whether you want to only have a player join that you have invited or not; to select your nation from Norse or Kingdom; and to choose your hero from Sir Gareth, Sir Brutus, Freia or Captain Thorvard, alongside the ability to customise your equipment and castle before you start the match. The custom match option allows you to search for matches based upon the nation from Norse or Kingdom or the hero from Sir Gareth, Sir Brutus, Freia or Captain Thorvard. The ranked match option in the versus game mode allows you to select your nation from Norse or Kingdom before it places you into a lobby, alongside the ability to customise your equipment and castle before you start the match.

The performance during online multiplayer gameplay is excellent with no lag to be seen anywhere and a totally consistent level of performance that is identical to the single player. However, there is unfortunately no cross-play multiplayer resulting in there being no way of anyone being able to play against one of their friends locally or online with a player using their Vita, while the other player uses their PS3, which is especially disappointing for a game that has as many multiplayer game modes as CastleStorm.

The online leaderboards focuses on the campaign, survival, hero survival and versus. The campaign leaderboards cover the overall statistics and the statistics of each level, while you can compare your positioning on the leaderboards with such filters as friends from your friends list, your positioning on the leaderboard and those immediately above and below your score and globally with players from around the world with each leaderboard containing the overall amount of players within that particular leaderboard; each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); level; and score. Meanwhile, the survival and hero survival leaderboards cover all of the survival levels in single player and co-op with each leaderboard containing the overall amount of players within that particular leaderboard; each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); the amount of waves that were survived; and the best score. The versus leaderboards cover ranked versus matches with each leaderboard containing the overall amount of players within that particular leaderboard; each player’s rank; name (PSN ID); level; wins and losses ratio; and the overall score accumulated during ranked versus matches by each player.

The replayability of CastleStorm is excellent as it comes from many different areas as there are four single player game modes; a castle editor; a five star rating system for each level; competitive and co-operative online multiplayer; and online leaderboards that will collectively have you coming back for a long time to come.

Overall, CastleStorm is a superb spin on the tower defence genre with a destructive twist that delivers exactly what it set out to do. The only criticism I can level at CastleStorm is a lack of cross-save and cross-play multiplayer functionality, which are rather surprising omissions. Nevertheless, if you are a fan of the tower defence genre; you will want to play CastleStorm as you will find a fun, free flowing gameplay experience that is great value at their separate prices of £7.99 with £2.39 for each of the downloadable content packs or £11.99 for the Complete Edition, especially considering how much content is presented, alongside CastleStorm supporting cross-buy for Vita and PS3 with the PS3 version even featuring local multiplayer for two players and stereoscopic 3D support, which makes CastleStorm even more of a highly recommendable purchase.

Jason Bonnar

At A Glance

  • Title: CastleStorm
  • Publisher: Zen Studios
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: Yes
  • Cross Play: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes (2 Players/Online Leaderboards)
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 263Mb (Game – Version 1.01) / 758Mb (Complete Edition)

These are official screenshots provided by Zen Studios and are taken from the PS3 version of the game. They are, however, representative of how CastleStorm looks on the PS Vita.

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