Although fairly unimaginative in name, The Castle Game is a fun, original take on the tower defence genre. Developed by Toronto indie, Neptune Interactive Inc., the digital fort-building sim is currently available only on PlayStation 4 and introduces a simple yet effective spin on a well-worn template.
Set against your typical fantasy backdrop, The Castle Game has you fending off waves of skeletons, monsters, and other horrors, pausing between each one to repair and expand your defences.
In setting and appearance alone, it’s nothing special, showcasing the same low-detail models, environments, and architecture across a series of campaign missions. Each one borrows the same wave-based structure tower defence aficionados will be accustomed to, occasionally throwing new mechanics into the mix as each level becomes more challenging.
The only rift between The Castle Game and its contemporaries is the way in which it gives players command of the battlefield. Where so many popular tower defence games have players operating on a two-dimensional plane, The Castle Game invites you to make full use of its open 3D spaces. Of course, you can’t build everywhere, but the designated construction zones provide plenty of room in which to grow and experiment.
Another differentiating factor is the way in which enemy waves make their approach. For them, as always, the goal is to infiltrate your camp, fighting through whatever defences you’ve placed to destroy your castle. However, unlike the enemies seen in Plants Vs. Zombies or Pixeljunk Monsters, they don’t march down a predetermined pathway.
Instead, they’ll simply make a beeline for your castle, usually opting for the shortest route possible.
This one-track pattern many enemy types ascribe to can be used against them, however. Naturally, they’ll always flock to a hole in your defences so, if you deliberately miss out a section of your castle wall, you can essentially direct most traffic to one tactical choke point.
The game does suffer from the same kind of repetition and pacing as others in the genre, but as you progress you do see a variety of bigger, more complex enemies enter the fray, so that this particular strategy won’t work every time. For example, there are the fast-moving skeletal suicide bomber, capable of blowing up your outer walls in just one hit. There are also a number of ranged units that begin to crop up, many of which will target your archers, catapults, and guard posts instead of mindlessly trundling towards your castle.
Luckily, to counter these new threats, The Castle Game delivers a range of defensive options for players to experiment with. From camps that spawn melee soldiers to spike walls, barrel bombs, and teleporters, there are plenty of options when it comes to defending your castle. The number of structures you can place is naturally limited by a single resource count that is replenished between waves and with each enemy kill.
Perhaps the most unique thing about The Castle Game is how players are given control over each impending skirmish. Once again, we’re thinking in 3D here, with a control scheme that mirrors the way in which we play shooters and most action games. Using both sticks on the Dualshock 4 will allow players to move and angle the camera simultaneously, giving them a fast and accurate means to survey their defences. When hitting those hectic final waves of each battle, it’s a degree of speed and control players will come to appreciate.
One last thing I like about The Castle Game is its persistent skill tree that carries over between missions. Each victory rewards players with a gem that can be invested in permanent upgrades for your troops or towers. It’s a relatively minor touch yet provides a good incentive to replay missions, either in survival mode or on a harder difficulty setting.
Overall, there are some handy revisions made by Neptune Interactive, making tower defence slightly more appealing and manageable to those who prefer other genres. Of course, the game does suffer some notable setbacks. Most missions are fairly long with no save points and, after a while, those subpar visuals do begin to grate. These, combined with the unoriginal setting, give it little appeal outside of actual gameplay. Still, priced at around a tenner, The Castle Game is a fun slice of tower defence action that packs in decent amount of replay value.