Foursaken Media’s latest entry into the crowded world of iOS gaming is Heroes and Castles (out now, $1.99) – a lovely mix of strategy, castle defence, and action-RPG. Before I dive into this review, I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of medieval-themed games, but as soon as I saw the third-person perspective in a screenshot on the developer’s website, I knew this had to be good. I wasn’t disappointed.
Like everybody else, I’ve come to expect awesome games from Foursaken Media. From simple games like Sky Gnomes to much more in-depth titles like Bug Heroes, they also put their best effort into creating their games. Heroes and Castles is no different.
All sorts of the undead are overrunning your castle, so you must summon a variety of allies and buy some extra buildings to defend yourself. There are over 20 enemy types including skeleton warriors, mummies, orcs, goblins, and trolls, so you won’t be bored of seeing the same faces every level. Each type of enemy has their own special ability. Some deal more damage than others, requiring you to rebuild your defences more often.
Although traditional tower defence games allow you to sit back and watch a fleet of enemies be killed off one by one, this game requires you to be right in the middle of it all. In fact, you can’t win without taking part. That’s what makes Heroes and Castles so unique. You need to be active throughout the battles, making it much more engaging than regular tower defence games which can get a little boring and repetitive.
You are presented with 3 different heroes – Knight, Paladin, and Engineer. You must choose one character to play as in each level, each with their own ability. The Knight focuses on singular unit damage and high durability, the Paladin is fast and has good ‘disrupting attack’, and the Engineer has a slow-firing but powerful cannon. They require their own specific approach to the game. For example, the Engineer has a slow cannon so you must focus on strong defences. This means you’ll need more gold and therefore you need more gold mines. I’ll explain what they are later in this review.
Before you begin each battle, you have the option to upgrade your Hero, Units, and Castle. You probably know what there is to upgrade for your hero – the typical health, damage, armor characteristics. There are also finer skills that differ for each type of hero. Then you have the Units. These guys are your allies. As you progress you unlock more units such as archers and dwarfs. They offer their own abilities too so you must choose them carefully. For example, the archers are really cheap but they don’t cause much damage. You can upgrade your units to be more effective, of course, but don’t expect a huge difference unless you’re willing to dish out a good sum of gold. Last but definitely not least, there’s the Castle. Just like the units, you unlock more buildings as you play through the game. My personal favorite is the archery tower. At a costly price of 75 gold, it defends my castle from enemies a good range away. I have yet to unlock more towers though, so I’m working my way towards that.
That’s the strategic side of the game. As you can probably tell, it’s the base of the game. Deciding what to buy and upgrade can take some time before you jump into a battle. It’s a lot of fun, but I wish I could say the same for the actual combat. There’s only one button you can tap to swing your sword at the enemy. The type of swing differs each time you tap the icon, but that’s not much fun. I ended up running around to different enemies and mashing the button several times. The combat could have been spiced up a bit more to enhance the action part of the game. Perhaps an extra button to hold up a shield would be more fun, then combo attacks could be introduced.
If you can’t seem to build enough towers or summon enough archers to help in battle, there is another way out – in-app purchases. There are times when you’ll feel like it’s the only option, so you have to be ready to spend a little more if you get frustrated easily.
I can’t complain about the controls. The strategy part simply requires you to tap and choose your towers, units, upgrades, etc. The combat is controlled like most iOS games – a joystick on the left to move and swipe on the right to look around. I would have liked to customize the size and arrangement of the buttons but I guess that’s just Gameloft spoiling us.
The graphics are crisp and the lighting is awesome. It’s nice to stare a bit at the sun before a wave of skeletons and orcs come charging at you. The goblins and trolls look a bit scary close up, but some of the larger enemies are choppy around the edges. I suppose the developers would have had to sacrifice performance for a few good lookin’ monsters, but that’s not a sacrifice they should be willing to make.
The content doesn’t stop there. You can play online co-op with a friend, so that should keep you going for a while. It’s the sheer depth to this game that makes me keep returning to it. Oh, and there’s iCloud sync saving which works flawlessly – I stopped playing on my iPad and picked up where I left off on my iPhone.
iFanzine Verdict: Heroes and Castles is a brilliant game. There are a few hiccups here and there but that shouldn’t stop you from trying out one of the greatest – if not the only – strategy, castle defence, and action-RPG hybrid on the App Store. Also, with Foursaken behind it all, you know the game will be supported for months to come.