Castle Defense — I Wasn’t Doing Anything for the Next Month, Anyway
Maybe the biggest thing Castle TD has going against is that you can’t fit “crack” anywhere in the title. This is because the game is terribly addictive. Like World of Warcraft — excuse me, World of Warcrack — it’s the sort of title you turn on, sit down to play, and wake up a few months later with a headache and a sweet new beard.
I exaggerate, of course. I’ve only played the game a couple of days, so I couldn’t grow a (longer) beard or anything. It’s still really, really good however.
Tower defense is one of those genres I can understand people liking but don’t personally care for. Being an impulsive, easily distracted person, I don’t really have the patience or attention span to build up a huge defensive network and invariably watch it collapse because I don’t have the mental faculties to strategize. Castle TD changed that for me. The game’s beauty lies in the simplicity it displays on the surface — and the impressive depth you find once you spend a few hours murking orcs.
When you start your campaign you select one of three types of offensive personnel: wizards, which root and slow your enemies so your structures can attack them; paladins, which are focused on survival; and barbarians, which do the highest amount of damage. As with most tower defense games, you don’t control the units directly, but your decision will have a huge impact on your playstyle.
Whichever you choose, the available buildings remain the same. The first few levels serve as a tutorial for the four basic types — bunkers, labs, forts, and cannons — and their various abilities. I found the lab, which slows advancing units and causes light poison damage over time, to be slightly overpowered when used in conjunction with the laser-shooting fort, which does huge damage, especially after a couple of upgrades. It’s nothing gamebreaking, however, and there were more than a few times where even that combo wasn’t sufficient to keep me alive. I will say I didn’t find much use for the cannon, a basic splash-damage unit, even after multiple upgrades. As always, your mileage may vary.
Another big plus for Castle TD is the variety. Levels, enemy units, and the skill trees for both your ground units and the buildings are incredibly deep. Some of the mobs, in particular, were pretty insane: As the game progressed, I found myself knee-deep in everything from basic ground melee units to attack birds to crazy boss-type baddies that counted as a single wave by themselves.
Visually, the game’s a mixed bag. The hand-drawn backgrounds are by-and-large wonderful-looking. This is good, since you spend at least three battles in each one before moving to the next. On the other hand, some of the units could look a little chintzy. Since every unit is a 2D sprite and there are a ton of them onscreen at times I can’t say whether this is a memory constraint (2D graphics, at least in the past, used to present a problem for developers, since everything needed predrawn) or a design decision, though I’m leaning towards the latter in this instance.
Smart level layout in conjunction with the units makes for a superb tactical experience. Like a lot of tower defense titles, each map comes with a number of preselected build points in which you choose which building you’d like to place. Killing an enemy nets you wood, which is in turn used to place those buildings (and upgrade the ones you’ve placed). Since many of the maps take the bad guys through pinch points, and many roads come close enough to provide multiple attack opportunities for your buildings, proper placement — and intelligent levelling — is a must if you want to survive. Placing a lab, for instance, near the end of your map may not make a lot of sense, depending on the units surrounding it: Slowing the bad guys down doesn’t mean a lot if there aren’t other buildings to attack them, and the DOT poison likely won’t kill them in time to prevent them from crossing the threshold.
The controls and GUI are perfect for the platform. Touching a build spot pops up a four-button menu, with each key representing one of the game’s basic structures. I can’t think of a single misclick or mistaken input, which is saying something when talking about a game so relatively complex. That I didn’t notice the controls being good at first actually says a lot about them, in my opinion… they did their job so well it was like they weren’t there. In other words, you don’t really notice your thigh until it starts hurting, and the input here works the same way.
While I liked the game’s monetization scheme, I can’t say I cared for the way it was implemented. Things get real expensive real fast. After the first few levels (which depending on the number of waves, can take a really long time), it took multiple fights to get enough gems to upgrade even a single item — purchasing them, on the other hand, gave me plenty to upgrade multiple things instantly. Since improving things is at the core of the whole game experience, the stinginess hurt. It’s a decision I can understand, I suppose, but not one I support. It’s not a huge gripe (and I feel bad complaining too much given the amount of stuff you get for free), but it’s worth noting. For that matter it’s also worth nothing you can three-star the entire game without buying an extra thing. It’ll just take a lot longer.
The game looked, played, and performed every bit as well on my Iconia Tab as it did my GS III. Neither version gave me any performance issues whatsoever – perhaps something to be expected given the fact that it’s a 2D game — and though it lacked any extra tablet features, the extra real estate at least made the battles a little larger and in-your face. Just like those 3D Doritos they used to have. I miss those things.
The ad placement is largely good, though I don’t like the way clicking the large “Continue” key at the bottom of some of the full-pagers that pop up after level takes me to a download page. Obviously that’s a little on me, but it’s an instinctual response… something I’m sure the ad designers were banking on. I don’t mind giving a dev a few extra cents for the trouble with such a good title, however, so I’ll let it slide. This time. But only because I’m dumb and entitled enough to think I’ll do anything different next time around.
If you have an Android device and you like gaming (a fair assumption given the site you’re reading) download this game now. It’s one of the best I’ve ever played this year on any platform. The “value” — a term I hesitate to use here since the game’s free — is absolutely off the charts. Without the ad support it would easily be worth $15 or $20 for all the features and gameplay it packs.
What are you waiting on? Go get it. I’ll talk to you in a few months. Can’t want to see that sweet beard.