Zen Studios made one heck of a cool game back in 2013 and CastleStorm finally has a sequel so let's see if it lives up to its legacy.
Ever since I played the original CastleStorm on Xbox 360 back in the day, I became a fan immediately. Its blend of real-time strategy with beat 'em up elements and an Angry Birds inspired ballista mechanic made for a phenomenally enjoyable formula that had me hooked. Since then, the classic has seen a few updated iterations such as a Switch release complete with touch controls and a version for PlayStation VR. The original has held up brilliantly and I highly recommend picking up the newfangled adaptations as they make enjoying it easier with plenty of modernizations. Anyway, considering I'm such a big fan of the first game, I was looking forward to diving into this long-awaited sequel and now that I have, I must admit that I'm pretty disappointed with what it has to offer.CastleStorm Review
CastleStorm II primarily consists of 2 modes: Campaign and Arcade. First, Campaign mode has you traverse a hexagon-filled world map while fighting adversaries, gathering resources, making allies, and managing your kingdom. Right off the bat, this perplexed me seeing as the original was all about immediately accessible fun-filled battles. Meanwhile, CastleStorm II forces you to slowly drag a cursor around the screen in order to select menu items and move your character around. It's as if Zen Studios didn't try to optimize it well for consoles which is surprising considering their console games are usually extremely well-polished. On top of that, there is a staggering amount of graphical slowdown and one time, my whole Xbox slowed down including the home screen while the in-game visuals started having a seizure so I was forced to shut 'er down. Again, this lack of polish is unexpected and frankly unbecoming of Zen Studios.
Don't get me wrong; I enjoyed the strategic layer to CastleStorm II's Campaign mode, especially after taking the time to learn its ins and outs. Although it doesn't offer the same accessible and streamlined fun that its predecessor had in spades, it's still quite rewarding for those who are willing to put in the time and effort to figure out how to play it effectively. Anyway, Arcade mode is simply a list of battles to master and you can acquire up to 3 stars by completing various challenges on each stage. I found these to be pretty fun although definitely not as fulfilling as the first game's grand-scale battles. Some of the battles can get pretty intense which is when CastleStorm II shines brightest but those fleeting moments are unfortunately outweighed by the overall sense of tedium and frustration.
Besides the annoying controls and frequent performance issues and glitches, CastleStorm II is simply not as appealing of a game as the first game was. Whereas the original featured colourful, charming, and detailed visuals, CastleStorm II is much blander in comparison. I wish more effort was made into making it look like a storybook come to life which is the vibe I get whenever I play the original. Finally, the battles themselves are quite clunky with unsatisfying combat whenever you take control of a soldier or hero and the ballista aspect is much less gratifying with its seemingly limited capabilities for destruction. These are vital aspects of what made the first game fun.
CastleStorm II isn't a bad game but it's definitely a substantial step down from the classic original. Speaking of which, after playing this over the past few days, I think I'll go back to enjoying the fantastic first game as it's a far more polished experience.
- + The campaign mode adds a new strategic layer to the classic gameplay
- + Arcade mode features some fun challenges
- + Some battles can be pretty intense
- - Gameplay is rather clunky and fails to satisfy in any significant area
- - Visuals are far less appealing
- - Too much added bullpucky and glitches