Who doesn’t like a good original idea? I sure do, so when I saw the opportunity to try out one of the latest titles in Steam’s Early Access programme, named Castle Story, I jumped at it. The fundamental principals are both simple and familiar; use your collection of minions to construct a castle that can defend them from attack. Stronghold, basically, only with an art style that’s more Despicable Me than Kingdom of Heaven. What gives Castle Story an interesting twist is the voxel-based creation system that sees your minions use the environment to create the castle of your childish fantasies.
That’s what Castle Story is really appealing to here; the ten year old boy or girl who built castles out of shoeboxes, sheets, or Lego. It’s the sense of freedom that really makes this game one to watch. You begin a creation session (be it sandbox or more focused survival modes) with a handful of Bricktrons, that’s the name of the amusing yellow minions. With these little chaps you can begin to collect the resources necessary to build a castle. What I found so great about the current build is the simplicity involved in creating a building. No super complex crafting is needed; just gather up some wood to create a stockpile, then order your Bricktrons to dig into the ground, thereby collecting the stone used to make castle bricks.
The UI is unusual but highly functional, although it’s currently a little more complex due to the lack of an in-game tutorial. There are some decent videos on YouTube, however, if you want to learn the ropes. The voxel-based system essentially means that everything is simple to create; I’m not the most creative individual, I must confess. Despite this, within a few minutes of playing the game I was setting up my first castle, planning out the structure, layout and defensive capabilities. Putting it all together is easy peasy; the voxel-based system means that everything fits together perfectly and requires minimal effort. The difficulty lies in working out the best layout for your castle or defensive building.
There’s a lot of potential in the game’s mechanics, potential that’s perfectly displayed by various YouTubers who have already created incredible structures. Giant castles on the side of a mountain, incredibly large and realistic fortifications and plenty of weird designs can all be found online. There’s even the option to create an underground bunker. While the basic bricks form the foundations of your buildings, there are plenty of extra materials and items to add on to your castle. Wooden boardwalks, bridges and towers are simpler tools for extending your structure. There’s also the option to create catapults that can sling explosive barrels on to enemies. Not to mention the fact that you can collect gems which allow you to spawn more Bricktrons, including archer and knight varieties.
Which leads me comfortably to the next point: combat. I mean, what would be the fun of creating an ingenious castle of impeccable strength if there was nothing to throw at it? While the sandbox game mode allows you to form your castle in peace, the aptly named survival mode tasks you with fighting off waves of attackers who are trying to destroy your giant gem (with which you spawn Bricktons). The waves are time based, so you’re given a varying amount of time to gather up the necessary resources and build your castle, giving gameplay a nervous edge. It’s glorious to see your plans pay off, however, as enemies are struck down by your archers and knights who defend the gates to their last breath. Ultimately, Castle Story is made for modes such as this, and I hope to see them evolve as the game progresses.
Multiplayer will be fully implemented as the game develops, although it’s unclear as of yet what it will entail. One can take a guess, though, and the concept of building a castle with your mates is enticing, almost as good as the thought of crushing their castles. Like any Early Access title, the game is still a little rough around the edges, but it’s always good to follow the progress of a game you enjoy. My time with Castle Story was certainly enjoyable, it’s shaping up to be a wonderfully inventive and original experience that should appeal to a fairly large audience. In reality, it deserves a lot more attention than it’s currently received, but here’s hoping that as the game develops and the fan base grows, Castle Story will become as big as its kickstarter page once promised.