Well, hello there! Did you also play those siege games back in the day? Do you also love Strategic games? And do you have some hidden fetish for Fantasy creatures? Then look no further: CastleStorm II is here. The long-awaited successor to CastleStorm one. But the question remains: did Zen Studios manage to live up to the expectation and deliver us an even better game? Let’s find out!
What we liked!
- Graphics: The game has an amazingly detailed character design. Starting from the way individual abilities travel through the air, you will see that the needed time was invested here all the way to moving map objects. I found myself staring at maps and troops quite a few times if I’m honest! Absolutely gorgeous castles, combined with good looking troops, makes for a killer combination.
- Nostalgic feeling: Back in the days, when we got our first computer in the house, I used to play a lot of similar games. This was back when you could play them on these “game collection websites.” Later, these games were not relevant, due to games like League of Legends and Fortnite. But when I first got my hands on CastleStorm and noticed some of the music (more on that later) and elements I know and love are in here, I found myself smiling like a little child!
- Music: As mentioned above, the game has some nostalgic songs used in the right situations. While I don’t know the title of them, they are, for sure recognizable! Besides personal vibes, the game also is full of appropriate tunes. During character movement and intermissions, you get some calm music to help you relax. In battle, the music gets more intense. Overall the right mix of music has been used to compliment gameplay.
- Commander leveling: I found myself perplexed when I found out that I could use my troops during the whole game. Each unit has its own outstanding commander, which can be leveled by completing missions while controlling that particular commander. These missions can range from the common: kill x number of enemies, block certain types of projectiles! For each level, your troops get better statistics, which down the line, allow you to use them as long as you want, without having to replace them with better units!
- Loot system: While you traverse the map, you can conquer individual tiles. And depending on the difficulty of the enemies, the loot gets better and better. Each tile can drop unique loot. The coolest part about this is that you can choose what you do with these earnings. You can decide to donate the spoils to increase your reputation. This will increase your land tiles’ productivity, or you can keep it all for yourself to use during battle. Overall a nice touch, in my opinion.
- Commander possession: Oh, boy, this is such a unique mechanic! While you are battling your enemy, you can choose to possess your commanders, which allows you to do all of their abilities! This is especially great when you are trying to level them to focus on the vital mission. What bothered me is that you can not perform other actions during possession. So you need to quit out of this mode to summon more troops, or fire your ballista, or basically anything else! On itself, this wouldn’t be an issue if it didn’t take you 5 buttons to get in this mode again, and then back out.
- Voice overs: The voice-overs are quite good overall. They are filled with some cringy humor at times, but they will make you smile quite a few times. But what I found is that some characters don’t have voice-overs during dialogues. This could be a bug, perhaps, but I found it disturbing when I had to swap from listening to reading multiple times in a single conversation.
- Turn-based map movement: I don’t really see the point about having specific action points per round. Each time you fight an enemy as your hero, then you spend all your action points. Action points are used for movement as well. But it takes multiple turns to move around the map to a new location, all while the whole map continues to progress, and you lose reputation. This makes it extra hard to control different resource tiles across the map. Which literally forces you to let them exist in worse circumstances.
What we disliked
- Loading times: Ahh, loading screen after loading screen, each taking 15 seconds or more. The whole game is filled with menu interactions that trigger a FULL-SCREEN LOADING BAR. If you go into troop manager, it takes 16seconds, backing out takes another 15seconds. Ending turns takes longer then I wanted. Getting into battle comes with a repeated animation that is paired with another loading screen. At the end of that battle, it needs to load the whole map again… This was extremely disturbing during gameplay and broke my flow frequently.
- Menu navigation: Maybe Zen Studio’s forgot to remove their developer option or something. Who knows? When you play on Xbox, you tend to navigate the menu by a simple arrow key. This is not the case at all. You move a virtual cursor around at an amazingly slow speed. During game saving and troop management, you have to control that same cursor again. It felt annoying to use and should be replaced by a simple arrow movement.
- Map control: I mentioned this above, but I will explain it further here. In-game, you get a notification that you can possibly have multiple hero’s. But during the first chapters of the campaign, you find yourself unable to traverse the map enough to defeat monsters or enemies that are making your farms less productive. It takes multiple turns to navigate yourself around. This could be fixed by allowing the player to control various hero’s.
- Air units: Enemy air troops feel overall impossible to hit. You shoot projectiles with your ballista. These all have travel time. Air units have a tendency to move unpredictable and fast. This forces you to use different ammunition that can hit enemies in an area. Since most of these flying troops are quite tanky, it forces you to use multiple shots—an overall waste of ammunition that is already expensive.
- Ammunition system: If you use troops during battle, you need to manually make new ones every time. Ammunition shot by the ballista, or spells used during combat, need to be recrafted—every single time. So after a battle paired with a loading screen and ends in another one, you need to go into army manager and endure 2 more loading screens. Because this is a strategy game, I would think that the whole goal would be to have a daily income to automatically craft new ammo. And if you can’t make that ammo again, that you would get a notification: “too little wood has been produced to replenish these arrows. Do you want to swap these out?” But no. Overall pain in the butt. The same goes for making more troops after every battle or defense.
While the core gameplay of CastleStorm II is good, I find it hard to recommend this to people looking to explore strategy games. Maybe if you are a die-hard fan of CastleStorm one, then you might like the game more then you should. But I would advise you to buy CastleStorm one over the newer version. Or just don’t touch it in general. If 20 euro is less of an issue, it can make for some pleasant couch gaming moments, but overall not a big fan.