4cr Plays – Castlestorm (Wii U)
Zen Studios has been releasing a lot of content on the Wii U and 3DS platforms thanks to their Zen Pinball line, but they’ve also been hard at work on non-pinball related releases. One such game is Castlestorm, which was released on Wii U right in the middle of the great Nintendo Network blackout of 2013. If you haven’t heard about this game I’m going to fix that for you right now!
In a nutshell, CastleStorm is similar to a tower defense since you have to protect your castle from enemy forces, but it also adds some extra elements to the mix to make the experience more fresh and unique than a traditional defense game. The game eases you in step-by-step, showing you what you can and can’t do while on your quest.
Castlestorm is controlled with every single button and stick on the Wii U GamePad, but the button layout and the quick response to each button you press makes it very easy and everything “clicks” within minutes of when you start playing. Your ballista is aimed with the left analog stick, or with the D-Pad in case you want to make minor adjustments. On easy and normal, a line shows you the trajectory of your projectiles, but said line is gone when playing on Hard, so be sure to play in the highest difficulty setting once you know what you’re doing for extra challenges. The A, B, X and Y buttons are used to fire your ballista projectiles, tell your troops to duck, send troops into the battlefield, to send your hero into the fight, or selecting a spell to use. Each button has up to 5 potential icons to activate (and said icons can be changed in the customization screen before entering each level), and you cycle through them with the L and R buttons. Again, it sounds like a lot to process, but the game does a great job at introducing new elements one at a time so that you get a chance to learn it before moving on.
The campaign is very fun and always keeps changing things around here and there to keep you busy (and never feeling bored), and there are even sub-missions that won’t advance the story but will provide you with gold that can be used to upgrade your castle, skills and tools.
Some of the later levels almost demand that you use your earned gold to properly upgrade everything up to a certain level in order to crush the opposing forces or to be quick enough to finish a level within a time limit or take care of an extra objective that rewards you with one more star for your level grade.
Each level is graded from 1 to 5 stars, and 4 stars are always awarded under the same parameters:
The first two stars are awarded for outstanding accuracy during the level, and you must maintain said stat at 80% or higher in order to secure both stars for your count. These stats vary depending on how many hits you land with your ballista, as well as the hits you land with the long range weapon of your hero. The second set of two stars is given to you depending on the difficulty level on which you’re playing. Easy gives you no stars, Normal gives you one star, and hard gives you two stars. Finally, the 5th star is awarded depending on a particular extra goal set for that specific level, which could be that you finish the level before a specific time limit, that you gain X amount of gold, that no more than a specific number of your troops die, or that one particular troop is named troop of the day (the unit that got more kills and was more valuable), to name a few.
Therefore, if you want to 5-star every level, you must play on hard, keep your accuracy stat at 80% or higher and achieve the extra goal for the level, something that is easier said than done because playing on Hard without upgrading as much as possible will only have you seeing the “defeated” screen in a heartbeat.
As you complete levels you will unlock several castles that change what troops are available as well as the special castle rooms that provide some extra help on your quest. You can either select these presets and carry on as is, or you can go into the editor to place more rooms and move around the layout a bit to better accommodate your play style. For example, one room provides you with food which is in turn used to send troops to the field, and another room increases the number of troops you can have active at the same time. If either room is destroyed, the bonus is gone, so perhaps you might want to place one extra of each and protect them behind a nice double line of brick walls in case your decides to destroy them to take away your army. This is only one example of what some of the rooms can do for you (and each troop is also tied to one room as well), so you can imagine the strategy that goes into editing a castle.
One of the complaints I had about Castlestorm when I reviewed the game on PS3/Vita was how long the game took to load the main menu and each of the levels, which was not a deal-breaker but did bring things to a complete stop until the level was ready to go and everything was in place for another round of destroy everything! and there was also some mild slowdown here and there when things got too crazy. I am very happy to say that all of these problems are gone on Wii U. Zen Studios did a great job on bringing Castlestorm to Wii U while taking advantage of the increased RAM and other higher specs from the Wii U because everything looks crisper, moves faster and sounds better! The load times are not an issue at all. Loading takes a couple of seconds at most which made playing Castlestorm start to finish on Wii U fun even though I had already 100%-ed the game on PS3/Vita!
Castlestorm is an extremely fun and unique game that Wii U owners should totally consider buying. The main defense mechanic make this a very addictive and hectic game which is great either for short gaming sessions or long Castlestorm marathons. There is plenty of content in here, and getting 5 stars in each level adds several hours on top of the main campaign. I found myself once again addicted to Castlestorm since I ended up beating 10 levels in a row thanks to the maybe I’ll play one more level nature of this game.