By Thom Compton 17.04.2017
When conquering is on the mind of an explorer, it may not be enough for them to accept what they can't do. It's about gaining that precious thing they want so badly. They must gain it, or die trying. Castle Battles is all about conquering, but the voyage is just as important as the reward. This voyage is one that way more gamers should be aware of, and that's where Cubed3 comes in.
Castle Battles is an unassuming name for such a unique little game. An entry into the top-down strategy genre - a genre that really doesn't get enough attention - there's a lot of love about this one. If top-down strategy doesn't appeal to you because it's too complicated or too slow, Castle Battles rectifies that with ease. Players must choose hexes to build castles on, based on the resources nearby. Building a castle against stone means the player will be able to build more castles quicker.
Each castle next to gold will produce more combatants, ready to slay enemy castles. This functions as a simple, yet incredibly powerful form of attack. Each combatant, so each piece of gold, does a single piece of damage to enemies and their castles. For each dollar, your army gets a hit point, to summarise the general point. Each army will quickly overtake the map depending on how well castles are placed.
The battles are less of a bloody affair and more like watching fleas take over a picnic table. This works to the game's central idea of distilling the basic ideas of strategy games into a simple formula. Each collision between friend and foe ends with both being sent to the grave. Soldiers are expendable pawns, and sending them into battle means watching each of their faces disappear into oblivion. Because battles happen so quickly, the caps just flows together so nicely. It's rare a game can move so quickly and yet feel so easy to understand, moment to moment.
There's even more beauty in the game's presentation. Every second of Castle Battles is a joy to watch. With what appears to be inspired by both hard neon colours and stained glass, the visuals are not only unique, but incredibly beautiful. It's a nice juxtaposition to the humour, which the game is soaking in. While many games might be okay with making the story itself funny, Castle Battles goes as far as to make some of the gameplay pretty funny. The best indicator of this is how the soldiers react when they finally win a map. It shouldn't be spoiled, but it's pretty charming and humorous.
The game seems to be a bit content keeping things easy, and sometimes doesn't feel like it's getting any more challenging as it goes on. It's somewhat unsatisfying, but it's also not a huge scab on the game. Much like the voice acting, which is often a bit too corny to be believable. One early character sounds more like he's calling with a random note than telling the player an incredible tale. None of this ruins the experience, but it is noticeable and slightly annoying.
Castle Battles is something even people who are intimidated by strategy games should invest in. While perhaps players who enjoy deeper experiences will find the simplicity trivial or beneath them, this game is just satisfying enough to give them the successful feeling that they want. There are some minor issues, but they don't make the game any less fun, or any less worth your time.