Of the two new intellectual properties shown by Zen Studios at gamescom CastleStorm was arguably the more conventional. Which is saying something, as it would take a cynical gamer with a worldly knowledge of the entire history of the industry to argue that marching heroes and troops on an enemy castle under the guiding hand of a gate-mounted crossbow had anything in common with a notable corner of videogame development. And while it may sound like a simple premise, CastleStorm is looking set to become anything but simple to master.
The videogame is, as stated above, a relatively simple scenario to grasp. Taking direct control of a crossbow mounted atop your castle’s gate you have a chance to take drop opposing troops and make way for your own armies. The player has a series of different troop types to choose from, such as archers and each with different strengths and weakness, as they attempt to march on the enemy. Missions seen featured objectives such as capturing the flag before a swift moving enemy team and the more common task of breaking into an enemy base and stealing their flag before they do the same to you.
Troop types are limited in number and cost, while choosing from the various ammunition types available demands patience as their cooldown period extends with more powerful shots. While the boulder can make impact with a forward enemy and then continue across the floor to damage successive troops, Electronic Theatre’s favourite was arguably the triple-shot, which allowed players to be cautious about incoming arrows (arrows that meet in mid-air will immediately be destroyed before any damage is incurred) while still damaging opponents with every correctly placed shot.
The heroes that can be summoned into battle are the only point at which the player will take to the battlefield themselves. Controlled directly, heroes have the manoeuvrability of a 2D platform antagonist and the attack patterns of a side-scrolling beat’-em-up. They can do serious damage to opposing troops and the gate protecting the enemy’s flag, but their expense is a counter balance; call in your most powerful piece too early and a rallying cry from an opponent’s own hero may go unmet.
Arguably the biggest barrier for entry right now is CastleStorm’s somewhat clumsy control layout. Zen Studios admit that there’s some work to be done in finding the most ideal set-up – and in-fact noted that the control scheme was altered shortly before their attendance at gamescom – and there’s nothing to suggest that they won’t accomplish their goals by launch day.
Packing a huge amount of levels into its campaign and several accompanying gameplay modes, including co-operative gameplay both online and via a single system, CastleStorm seems to be aiming to repeat that generous nature seen in Zen Studios’ pinball titles. Offering the product for just 800 Microsoft Points is just further adding to the argument that the developer is keen to keep it’s reputation intact. CastleStorm will be launching soon on Xbox LIVE Arcade and followed shortly thereafter on other digital formats, and Electronic Theatre suggests you keep it firmly on your ‘one to watch’ radar.