Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Castles Review

I was just going to review Castles 2 specifically, but then I noticed that the game is bundled as Castles 1 and 2. Castles is an old strategy game, very old (1991 release), that is responsible for inspiring games like Stronghold and the Total War Medieval's. It was developed by Quicksilver Software and published by Interplay. I don't know if it was one of the first games to define empire managment and RTS, but it was one of the earliest ones to do it really well. Both games take place in a mythical land, except that Castles 2 has some historical and mythical inklings here and there. They are both strictly based in the medieval setting, no hints of gunpowder or future inventions. Castles one doesn't really have a story, but Castles 2 built upon the first game by adding an actual story, events, story decisions, more units and an empire map. Castles 1 offers nothing that Castles 2 doesn't do better, so I'm mainly going to be talking about Castles 2 since it's an improvement on everything from the first game.
Most importantly before I talk about anything else, I must talk about the castle building portion of the game. This was the original draw of Castles, because it did have a little RTS, but no real map. You had a castle to build and you got to pick every detail. You got to choose exactly where everything would be placed and how the division of manpower would work. While you managed your castle building you had to deal with military, especially since it took a fairly long while to build the castle. If you were ambitious from the start then you were likely going to lose; you needed to start small and have some kind of defenses for your archers. Enemy raids start off small, but they get increasingly larger. With Castles 2 this mechanic changes. The castle building gets a little more complicated, but essentially the same kind of overview building style exists, except now you have to defend yourself in multiple territories. In Castles 2 you generally get your castle built on the frontlines, or near it, so you may use it in defense. You can make some pretty crazy, or horrible, castles depending on how you design it.
You start out with one territory and a bit of a tutorial in Castles 2. Explaining how castle building works and what you should be working on. The tutorial guides you up until you take three territories or so and then leaves you to your own designs. I like that the tutorial has old looking videos showing you how to do things, but it has a bit of historical flair to it. There are several other kings on the world map ,which is just a fairly small area of land with ocean on the west and all land to the north, east and south. You have a bit of choice in the beginning of the game of where to start out, but it's the kind of thing where it recommends you starting out in specific areas. You have resources which you collect from your territories, but if you don't have any territories that provide something then you can trade for it with other kingdoms. The game is really brutal when it comes to resources, because to expand you need every type of resource, but the resources are random on the map. So, you may end up with starting territory that is all wood and food, but no iron. That would be pretty easy to trade for, but say it's all iron and wood then your in trouble. Food is the most important commodity; you need it to keep your troops and to keep your territories from revolting. Gold on the other hand, is also incredibly necessary, because without that you will also lose your troops, which means the enemies will just take whatever they want.
The other kings on the world map are pretty damn tough. They all start out larger than you and aggressively expand to all neutral territories. You can make alliances, which help a little, but it reminded me a bit of the Total War series; alliances will often back stab you or stand idly by while you get crushed. Kings will spend more time fighting eachother than you, but that also means that you have to be really aggressive to take territory, otherwise you will end up in game with two incredibly powerful kingdoms and you. There are some outside factors to help you though, like events. All of the story events usually present you with a "invest opportunity", during which you may spend a resource to help someone. The best I got back from these events was some troop reinforcements, which were a little too late. Speaking of troops, there is a fairly large variety to pick from...just kidding. This is a old old game remember? It all comes down to catapults, soldiers, knights and archers. There are few other types of units and overall it seems pretty lacking, but it was a pretty good variety back then.

This was one of the best games of the RTS genre for much of the 90's and it still holds a lot of acclaim with old school gamers. You can pick it up at, as with all old games, Good Old Games for $5.99 (Castles Bundle). I picked it up quite some time ago and played Castles one for a couple hours, but Castles 2 proved to be addicting, enjoyable and maybe a little frustrating. These are some great old RTS games. If you play it you can clearly see how this game influenced Medieval 1 & 2. These games haven't aged all that well, but it's still moderately fun, especially if you nostalgia is involved.

This game is sure to give you some Great Times
thanks for innovating the RTS Genre, even though you aren't really a RTS.

Thanks for Reading
-Written by Sean Cargle


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