And it gets wider again when you finish the Kingdom campaign, and realise that the Vikings are a fully realised strategic team, with their own full campaign. Oh, Zen Studios. You made us wait for the Vikings, you minx. Suddenly, you've got control of a new set of Level 1 units, missiles, spells and a new Hero. And again, the elegance is remarkable. This is a stunningly polished title, and while slick presentation doesn't make a bad game good, in the case of CastleStorm it's welcome icing on an excellent cake.
Multiplayer, both online or local, comes in three flavours. Versus pits two Kings against each other - using troops you've unlocked them in the campaign. The other modes are co-op - Survival puts one person in charge of the castle, and the other in charge of the Hero, facing waves of enemies. The Hero's role is less tactical, and death times him out for a while, but efficient use of the Hero's bow and arrow and strong attack can make the strategian's life a lot easier on the world scale. It's fun to play and swap over. Hero Survival puts you both in an arena as Heros, and asks you to defend a flag in the centre of the screen.
Normally, I'd suggest playing a game like this with local multiplayer. It feels designed for the instant recriminations of a single room. However, CastleStorm's split-screen is possibly the only uncomfortable element of the game. The two staggered screens take up less than half the overall screen, leaving the graphics feeling shrunken and indistinct. And splitscreen feels unnecessary in most situations. Hero Survival would be better served with a responsive zoom, and in straight co-op survival, why does the Hero need as much of an overview as the King? So play online, and you'll get the screen to yourself, eradicating these complaints.
(Survival modes have solo versions, too - but the difficulty is ratcheted a little slowly, meaning you have to wade through ten easy waves before you get to the real challenge. It's a way of earning gold, but it's not the best way to play.)
Picking your spells and missiles is easy - but if you want to choose an army loadout not provided in the 16 pre-built castles, you're going to have to build your own. This is easy enough, once you've got the trick of the castle editor, but it's a pretty time-consuming way to say you want Griffins and Golems in the same team. It's an unavoidable complication, though - considering the way your castle getting destroyed affects the availability of your units.
CastleStorm doesn't try to hide its inspirations, and it doesn't need to. There are enough of them to morph this action strategy into something fresh and exciting. It's warm, frequently funny, and stylish. It's extremely good value at 800MP. It's just hard enough to keep you biting. And most of all, it's just bloody great.
Download CastleStorm here.
Vikings have never been so stylish and affordable
- Extremely slick presentation
- Simple but instantly absorbing
- Brilliant campaign presentation
- Just plain likeable
- Poor local split-screen