CastleStorm VR Review
The original Castle Siege came out a few years ago, but now it has come to PlayStation VR and been given a VR makeover in the process. So how exactly do you make an artillery game a VR game? Well, for Castle Siege it begins with the cutscenes. No, you're not thrust into the middle of the story cutscenes, but rather into a full VR movie theater-style experience. There you sit, in an anachronistic medieval movie theater with a giant box of popcorn and a huge soda by your side as the cutscenes from the original game play out on the big screen. It's all rather silly in a good way, although I found myself often spending more time looking at all of the little details that went into the theater than I did at the actual cutscenes on the movie screen.
When it's time to play a level, you leave the theater and are taken to a place where two castles sit facing each other, separated by a short, straight road linking their front gates. You won't be immersed in this scene, given the freedom to wander between the opposing fortresses or stride down the path between them. Instead the game is essentially a 2D side-scroller presented in 3D. It's a lot like you're in a museum looking at a Medieval diorama sitting in front of you, albeit a museum whose diorama maker views the Middle Ages as a time of cartoonish whimsy.
As for the gameplay, you are the lord of one of those castles who happens to be at war with the other castle. Your goal is to either completely annihilate the other castle or capturing its flag and returning it to you keep. As it so happens, those are your enemy's goals as well. The primary tool at your disposal for both attack and defense is a ballista mounted high on your castle wall, but you'll also have warriors that you can send out of your castle one-by-one. You don't have any control over your warriors once they're sent on their way, but they're useful for keeping the enemy's troops at bay even if they never make it to the enemy keep, so they're still useful if you want to concentrate on knocking down the other castle's walls instead.
You'll have a selection of ammunition available to perform your task of crashing castles and killing knights. Some ammunition types are better against troops and others against walls, but the stronger ammunition types have longer cooldown timers before they can be loaded up again.
You also have access to set of spells that can do things like heal your troops, bring magical swords down on the heads of enemy troops, or call forth a hero onto the battlefield. When you cast this last spell you get to take on the role of the hero yourself, smashing through enemy ranks with your sword or launching arrows in their direction - although the controls for unleashing arrows are a little awkward, so you'll probably just stick to bashing heads.
Adding an additional layer of strategy to the game are the castles themselves, which can be constructed by putting together different types of rooms that carry bonuses such as a higher troop cap. Of course, if your opponent knocks out a room with a few well-placed ballista shots, you'll lose any bonuses that it provided you with. The game comes with a good number of prebuilt castles for you to use, but if you want to design your own an easy to use castle editor is included.
The game has a single player campaign that has you fighting a series of battles, often varying the gameplay by disabling your ballista in one battle and forcing you to fight without troops in the next. There are also some bonus missions that vary the gameplay, such as arena battles in which you control the hero against waves of enemies. As you complete each level you're given a rating based on how well you did and are rewarded with gold that can be spent upgrading troops, projectiles, spells, or your castle. Leaderboards for every level in the game will provide you with some incentive to replay levels and beat your friends' or strangers' best scores.
The game's complicated control scheme takes a little getting used to, and adjusting the arc of the ballista's shots can be frustrating at times. The game likes to turn small stick movements into large changes in trajectory, which is a problem when you need to precisely place your shots to bring down a retaining wall or an enemy knight. I didn't have this issue when playing the original game, so I don't know how or why it made its way into the VR version. Overall, I enjoy the game's presentation, the cool 3D feel to its playing field, and its quirky mash-up of genres, but I have to dock the VR version points for its finicky controls.
Final Rating: 70% - The game looks better in VR, but plays better in its original format.