In Castle Storm – Free to Siege, brawling, army management and Angry Birds style ballistic combat, all for the sake of a flag, is the name of the game. Yes, you read correctly. Castle Storm does all of these things simultaneously in a way that is both challenging and fun. However, the game’s pay to win mechanic, which manifests itself through magic, screen wiping spells, ultimately cheapens the experience.
Castle Storm puts you in control of a, well, a castle and your pitted against… another castle. The goal is to achieve one of two goals: Destroy the other castle by bombarding it with ballistics, or knock down the castle’s door, send NPCs inside to steal the flag, and run those NPCs back home, flag in hand. In addition to the ballistics and the army, you have at your disposal a hero, which you can teleport onto the battlefield for a limited amount of time, take control of him or her and start slaying the enemy yourself. Additionally you can spend gems, the game’s IAP currency, to cast powerful spells that are able to wipe the battlefield clean or rain hellfire down on the opposing castle.
There is quite a number of unlockables, including new weapons, army units, heroes, and campaigns. Additionally you can upgrade just about everything, including the castle itself. Some of this costs gold, some requires progression via completing challenges, and most of all of it can be cut short by spending gems. The result is a satisfying level of customizability. Want to focus on flag-stealing? Spend your gold on your army. Tower destruction? Upgrade your weapons. A mixture of the two? Perhaps buffing your hero is the way to go.
Castle Storm looks and sound great. Unfortunately, the high-fidelity graphics and rich sound effects come at a price. Despite being labeled as compatible with all iPads, even after a fresh reboot it’s not uncommon on lower-powered devices like the original iPad Mini for the frame rate drop to an unplayable level. Not only that, but we encountered on average, two crashes per play session. Newer devices, however, don’t have this problem.
For the most part, the controls are tight and intuitive, throughout most of the game. Controlling your hero feels like it should, with the left thumb controlling movement and the right tapping one of three action buttons. Summoning an army is equally simple. The only part of Castle Storm that is difficult to control is the firing of projectiles, which can require pretty precise aim; problematic for those with fat fingers. You can zoom in and out to improve your aim, but if you’re experiencing frame rate issues, zooming in and out while shooting may not be an option.
Being a free to play game, we expected some inconveniences, and for the most part they are tolerable. Using gems (i.e., spending real money), to unlock features sooner than you normally would seems fair to us. The slightly more unscrupulous practice is putting pay to win buttons at the bottom of the screen in every game. Being able to spend gems to wipe the battlefield or destroy the enemy castle seems like a bridge too far. Would they have made these abilities cost gold rather than gems, we would have much less of a problem with them. Although you can purchase gold with real money, at least you can also earn gold in-game as well.
That doesn’t, however, take away from the fact that the game is legitimately fun. Castle Storm is not only action packed, it’s highly strategic, making for quite a bit of depth. At this point, we question the game’s replayability based on gameplay alone, but there should be plenty of unlockables for those that choose to unlock them the traditional way rather than by spending money. Those people, however, may find that Castle Storm eventually turns into a bit of a grind. At any rate, the lack of timers and an energy system means anyone who wants to enjoy unrestricted gameplay is likely to get several quality play sessions in, even if they never spend a dime.
CastleStorm – Free to Siege Review: Fire at Will
-Blatant pay to win mechanics
-May be a grind for those who don't pay