The PS4 and the Xbox One have in their first year both become home to a number of re-mastered releases from the last generation. It’s admittedly a relatively risk free proposition for publishers and studios looking to wring every last drop of income from their work, but are consumers getting a good deal? And, is this really what gamers were looking for from their brand new platforms?
Zen Studios certainly hopes so with the release of Castlestorm: Definitive Edition, an improved and complete version of last year’s action/strategy/tower-defense title. This new release pulls together the original game, as well as its two expansions ‘From Outcast To Saviour’ and ‘ Warrior Queen’, tied up with those crucial next-gen watch words 1080p and 60fps.
For newcomers to the game, Castlestorm sees you take control of King Edgar’s knights whose peaceful kingdom has suddenly come under constant attack by barbarians and Vikings. Peace has been maintained for the last century by two mystical gems, one held by each side, but the theft of King Edgar’s gem sees war break out once again within their kingdom.
The gameplay is based around defending your castle and troops, whilst laying waste to your opponent’s, either with your castle’s ballista, a selection of troops or special heroes or powerful magical spells, all on a 2D plain. It’s a fun mash-up of play styles, with your ballista firing projectiles across the screen in a similar manner to Angry Birds, your troops requiring resources and strategy to send out and manage, and your heroes controlling directly in a traditional hack and slash manner.
On the whole this mix works well, though when the action becomes hectic switching between these different styles on the fly can be difficult, particularly when the controls aren’t necessarily as intuitive as you might like. The other side of that is that there is a genuine sense of danger when you’re trying to keep an eye on all the aspects of your castle’s attack and defense, and the controls perhaps amplify it like the tank controls in the original Resident Evil.
Different level requirements prevent you from constantly using the same tactics, though not knowing what’s coming next can see you upgrading a troop or weapon type only to find they’re not available for the next mission. I took to waiting and seeing what you had available before subsequently upgrading so it doesn’t cause too much of a problem. The different requirements are often linked amusingly to the story which is a nice touch. Side missions also crop up, which mark a welcome break from the standard levels, as you assault turkeys or save donkeys, earning much needed coins for your upgrades while you’re at it.
You’re given control over the build of your castle, unlocking new rooms and adding them granting you extra abilities or troop types. It’s a little unwieldy at first, with no real explanation of how it works, but I soon found myself happily building an impenetrable fortress. The castle editor does give you the option to test your build too so you’re not left wondering whether the east wing has a weak spot. At the outset you can find yourself visiting the editor after virtually every battle, but it soon settles down when you’ve unlocked a good portion of the upgrades.
The definitive edition certainly packs in a lot of content for the £14.99 asking price, with single and multiplayer options available across Campaign, Skirmish, Survival, Versus and Hero Survival modes, as well as access to the afore mentioned expansion packs as well. It’s a shame that the game isn’t cross-buy compatible with the PS3/Vita version mind you, or offers any discount for previous buyers, particularly as the older Complete Edition included the expansions as well. Zen have however added in new battles, modes, spells and voice control via the Playstation Camera to sweeten the deal, it’s just unlikely that their inclusion will prompt owners of the older version to buy into the title again at full price. I do think that a little forethought over discounts would actually increase sales of these definitive titles rather than hurt them.
The game has a fantastic chunky fantasy art style, reminiscent of the Warcraft universe, and the PS4 version really makes the most of it, with the improved resolution and textures making the game appear considerably more vibrant than the PS3 and Vita releases. Admittedly, it’s still the same game under the hood, though load times and performance have also been improved on the more powerful hardware.
The game has a playful sense of humour, and whilst the writing is unlikely to have your sides splitting, it’ll certainly raise a wry smile from time to time such as when your troops can’t join you for the next battle because they’re queuing for the toilet due to a lack of latrines, or upon completing a level to be told “They took some arrows to the knees!”. The music also helps carry the playful tone, though at times it doesn’t necessarily match up with the on screen action or the setting as it drifts towards more modern beats. It isn’t that it doesn’t work per se, just that it pulls you out of the world at times.
Castlestorm: Definitive Edition is exactly that – a remastered edition of an enjoyable game. Bar some issues with the controls the game offers an enjoyable mix of tower defense, RTS and action all wrapped up in a fun exterior. There’s probably little here to convince owners of the original game to double-dip, but for newcomers there’s a huge amount of content which should keep you coming back for some time.