Castles are cool. I ask for nothing more than the ability to build castles in games. Admittedly, I’ve never gone into Call of Duty expecting to build any forts, but I noticed a frightening lack of castle-building in gaming quite a while ago and began looking for something to remedy that.
Cue Castle Story and its Kickstarter at the end of July last year. Suddenly a real time strategy that not only lets me build castles but specifically focuses on it – it even says castle in the title! Of its $80,000 goal, Castle Story’s Kickstarter raised $702,516. So, it’s safe to say that it was a mild success. The prototype of the game has been available to backers for a while now, but it only recently became available to everyone via early access on Steam.[drop]Firstly, this is an early access game – it’s not finished. It’s buggy, it crashes sometimes, and things don’t always work properly, so don’t go into the game expecting it to be all sparkly and clean. Now, I don’t normally cover things that are in this kind of early state but I have made an exception in this case because Castle Story shows so much promise and fills a void in my (gaming) life. Once you spend some time with it you can figure out a way around the things that don’t work properly and experience what is a thoroughly enjoyable, though currently content-light, experience.
At the moment, there are two main resources in the game: wood and stone. Wood is gathered by cutting down trees, naturally, whilst stone is mined out of the ground. Both resources are stored on stockpiles (made from wood) and are then used to build things. Buildings are built brick by brick and subject to physics, so if you do something wrong you could very well end up with a pile of rubble instead of an immaculate fortress. As you place bricks a blueprint will appear allowing you to place further bricks on top, so you can place a blueprint for an entire wall for your minions to construct.
Those minions are called bricktrons and they will be doing all your work. They’re yellow, humanoid and adorable right up until they’re struck with unfinished syndrome and stop working for no apparent reason, at which point you’ll probably order them to walk to a few random points before reassigning them to their task. This often works, for some reason, but you’ll still probably unleash a verbal battering upon every bricktron that dares to stand around when it has something better to do.
There are two other resources in the game in the form of blue and yellow crystals. The blue crystals are taken to the spawn crystal which, once there are enough of them, can make more bricktrons to carry out your orders. Yellow crystals are stored in barrels and used as either lighting or explosives. At the moment there are far too many yellow crystals found while mining, which is a problem because you need a ridiculous amount of barrels to store it all or your miners will run out of room in their sack as they’ll have nowhere to drop all their yellow crystals. This is due to be fixed in an upcoming patch.
All of this mining, chopping, and building is done on floating islands, because while your buildings may be subject to physics apparently the rest of the world is immune. This means you also have to contend with accidentally dropping logs, bricktrons, or even half of your castle if you truly mess up over the side. Fortunately, your bricktrons are adept at not walking off the edge, though sometimes they’ll cut down a tree only to watch it topple off the side of the island into the nothingness below.[drop2]You have two modes to play with at the moment: sandbox and survival. In sandbox mode you have free reign to do whatever you want to with no threat other than finding more and more places for mines as you eat away at the landscape, whilst in survival you have a bottomless mine and are tasked with defending your spawn crystal from incoming waves of corruptrons. Corruptrons, as you might expect, are essentially the evil versions of bricktrons, but fret not as you have archers and warriors to man your battlements and fight them off. Also you can build a catapult to launch explosive barrels at them. That’s pretty fun too.
Once you get used to the controls and figure out how to avoid the bugs, Castle Story is a joy to play. Building a castle brick by brick is satisfying and oddly calming when you’re not shouting at your bricktrons. This is a game that is definitely going places and well worth your time if you’ve ever been struck with the need to build castles using yellow humanoid figures. Or even if you just like building things, like me.