Available :10/2004

Castle Strike © Witt Interactive
U.S. Preview by Scott Allred

“Have fun stormin’ the castle!”
That line from The Princess Bride sums up the goodness of Castle Strike. While not technically a castle SIM it does rely heavily on castle walls and other elements of castle building during the 100 Years War of Europe.

Making a castle oriented RTS that will play well for the average, as well as hardcore RTS gamer is not an easy task, but developer “Related Design” makes it look like a cake walk. They single handedly changed my whole opinion on castle based RTS. Here’s how!

By taking away much of the useless micromanagement in the resource gathering department you are allowed to concentrate on full scale siege combat and/or fast paced open field battles. I am a huge fan of Castle Strike’s resource management feature. All you have to do is train your villagers and assign them to their chores by way of a sliding bar. You can also emphasize the gathering of specific resources by simply clicking an icon representing that resource!

An' up thru the ground came a bubblin’ HUGE CASTLE!
Having the option to build a castle is what makes this RTS stand out and the means by which you build your castle is a simple task and visual treat. You can have your castle completed within seconds of starting the game, which makes combat the most important aspect of Castle Strike. Simply lay down the foundation of your dream castle (make sure you have the resources to construct it) and with the click of a button presto change’o, the ground will rumble the screen will shake and your castle will be built.

Once your castle is complete you can upgrade your castle walls and keep to allow things like HOT OIL to be spilled on your enemies heads! You can set your archers high on the castle towers waiting patiently for an enemy attack and when it comes they will rain down hell fire upon their foes! Ahh what fun, nothing like seeing hordes of dead soldiers lining the walls of your castle because the enemy forgot to bring their siege!

Hey look what I can do.
You can easily train units, set waypoints, and research any tech in the game without having to actually click on any building at all. The games interface is worthy of its own preview but I can’t go into to much detail now. I can tell you that almost everything in the game can be controlled without having to be near what you are doing. In other words from the interface you can control your empire even though you are on the other side of the map! Control will be as simple as click an icon (or press a hotkey for you player speed junkies) and that alone says a lot for the game.

I need a hero.
Then do like everyone else and host a tournament! That is the only way to hire a hero unit into your army. Trust me when I say they make all the difference. They add bonuses to hit points, attack points, speed, some have unit specific bonuses, and others can light stuff on fire... yeah, yeah, fire ownz huhuhuhuhuh. Units without heroes are still effective but wouldn’t be able to hold their own even against a small force under the banner of a hero let alone a force of equal size.

The siege units are some of the coolest renditions of the models I’ve ever seen. They are beautifully animated; troops load the cannon barrels and hoist rocks into trebuchets launching their loads into the air where they soon meet their targets leveling them in a beautiful montage of destruction. I wish every unit was as easy to recognize though, some of the units are just a little hard to find in a group of many unit types. Swordsmen are hard to tell apart from any other unit when zoomed out which creates a kind of jumbled feeling making combat micromanagement harder than it should be.

Finally something attractive that won’t cost a month’s salary to take home.
Castle Strike’s 3d graphics are fabulous but are nothing truly revolutionary. Sure seeing gigantic castle walls emerge from the ground is cool but it can be done in just about every current RTS on the market. The graphics are not plain but not extravagant either. You can tell that more work was put into making the game fun and interesting rather than gorgeous and lame. No one will complain about the graphics at all, well besides the units being hard to tell apart. But besides that everything seems up to date and visually enjoyable. This is also the first RTS that I really needed to make use of the rotate feature to find just the right spot to place your salvo.

The maps aren’t super huge but that helps in over all fun and gameplay. With up to 4 players on the field at one time fighting over territory and just general fighting is almost nonstop and is also a lot of fun. With hundreds of units kicking the crap out of each other at a fast yet still controllable pace the small map sizes start showing you the reason they are small; units are produced pretty fast and if you have to travel a long distance to reach the enemy you will be met by a full force even if you killed off their entire force just a few minutes earlier.

Hopefully Castle Strike will be released on its October date so we can all enjoy the yummy goodness of mass slaughter on a semi epic scale.