I just played Castle Story!

It’s a real-time strategy game, developed and published by Sauropod Studio.

Castle Story was released for Linux August 17th, 2017.

I bought this game with the help of my incredible patrons.

Look & Feel

I’ve been loosely following the development of Castle Story from the very beginning when the game was Kickstarted way back in July of 2012. The game’s visuals were what immediately jumped out at me. The stylized, voxel-based approach to design, the bright hues, and the cute characters really sold the game to me.

Castle Story takes a similar vantage point to other real time strategies, except it doesn’t really put the player in direct control of units. Instead, you create tasks and assign priorities to these tasks, and your little yellow bricktrons will (usually) find something to do.

The music is great, if a bit repetetive. I can only recall two or three distinct tracks.

Gameplay & Performance

Now let’s talk about gameplay. There are several game modes here, conquest, sandbox and so on. You build a castle to protect your crystal from the corruptrons, manage resources, and in some game modes, try to conquer the map.

Building is great, but it can be a bit of a headache, especially when bricktrons don’t understand cause and effect with their brick placement… so you have to make sure you understand how to design your staircases and the like to ensure things get built without issue.

Castle Story is an immense amount of fun, if also seemingly impenetrable.

And when I say impenetrable, I mean most of the games instructions are presented in a wiki-style format on the right side of the screen. And even then, you have to know what you’re looking for, and parse a wall of text to move forward. I couldn’t even figure out what the ‘first move’ of the game should be to get my workers to harvest trees properly.

Which brings me to resource management. It’s a bit ham-fisted. A prime example of this would be planks. Planks are made from logs, which are harvested from trees. You need planks to build lots of other objects, but in order to make them, you have to have a chopping block. I didn’t realize this my first go-around. And when I told my bricktrons to harvest trees and build storage platforms, they just chopped down the trees and left a mess.

After researching (and by that I mean watching commentated gameplay on YouTube), I realized that I needed a chopping block. So I built one, and the bricktrons behaved the way I would expect.

Good enough. And that mechanic of harvesting a raw resource to convert it into something more useful is maintained into the late game. Iron becomes iron ingots and so on. But certain late-game objects and items have crafted prerequisites. So to build a catapult, you need to harvest ore that gets turned into iron ingots, which gets turned into gears. In order to make gears, you have to have the right station that your bricktrons will work at to manufacture them. Cool. But much like the chopping block, your bricktron will continue to produce gears until you run out of iron ingots. And since gears are only useful for one or two build recipes, a huge surplus of them--especially when it means you’re completely out of iron ingots--can be crippling.

Oh, and unless you keep your bricktrons working non-stop, you end up with storage sprawl like nobody's business.

And that’s where the resource management gets obnoxious. It’s a bit too much micromanagement for my taste. Not to mention, this tech tree isn’t spelled out for you. Let’s say you’re trying to build a laboratory station. In order to do this, you need glass ingots. But that prerequisite is tucked away inside a tooltip. So I build the station only to find out 30 minutes later that it’s not completed because I don’t have glass ingots. So I have to go to the smeleter and switch production from iron ingots to glass.

Why the game doesn’t have a little pop-up after 10 minutes that says “this structure hasn’t been completed yet, maybe you need GLASS INGOTS” is beyond me.

Look. I don’t expect to have my hand held the whole time. But I wanted to play this game and learn the ins and outs, so I took the initiative and sought out help on YouTube. But the fact is; this game feels like jumping into the deep end without knowing how to swim and someone who’s not a fan of the genre or unwilling to take such initiative like I did may end up asking for a refund. And that’s a shame since Castle Story is incredibly fun, once you start to understand it.

It’s so fun, in fact, that it’s my favorite strategy game I’ve played this year.

Performance

I played this game on my custom built Steam Machine featuring an Nvidia GTX 970. Castle Story performed decently, hovering somewhere around 50 FPS. Which is plenty for this type of game.

However with copious screen tearing, moments of framerates dropping to the single digits, and the odd crash, the game could certainly do better in the optimization department.

Something I’d like to see is a DPI setting, because I played some of this game on my sofa with a Steam Controller and the interface was a bit small. Also, more hotkeys would be awesome. Why doesn’t ENTER complete a task? Anyway. Minor issues. Final Score

Final Score

Castle Story is enormous fun, and a rewarding hill to climb. Once you understand how the game expects you to play, you’re left to your own devices. There seems to be a great amount of freedom with the varied block types and tapestry of game modes.

If you’re a fan of the strategy genre and you’re willing to spend the time to learn something new, Castle Story comes with my highest recommendation.

It’s available for Linux through The Humble Store, GOG, and Steam.

See the video review