Today we’re taking a look at Castlestorm VR from Zen Studios which is based on the PC version of the game which released on Steam back in 2013. The VR iteration features the main game alongside the two downloadable content packs, “From Outcast to Saviour” and “The Warrior Queen”. It has to be said from the off that the regular 2D version with all the DLC works out at around £10.99 for the complete edition whereas the VR version jumps in at £18.99 so that’s quite an increase for the privilege of playing in VR.
In a nutshell Castlestorm is about heroes versus villains, vikings versus knights with swords and sorcery thrown into the mix. You take two opposing forces who face off against each other with the task of either destroying the opponents base or capturing their flag and bringing it home. There are several other modes which mix up the core theme whereby you can survive waves of attackers as a singular hero and fight to the death, or take control of a castle’s defence system and stave off waves of attackers. Essentially it’s a castle defence game where in the main mode of play you’ve got options to build up the strengths of the ground forces who come in all shapes and sizes and even include things like Dragons to help you out. Alternatively you can focus on the castle’s offensive capabilities itself with a Ballista firing off various bombs and battering ram type rounds which can be used against structures or troops in Angry Birds style block collapsing. The underlying theme is based around earning currency which can then be used to upgrade each section of your choosing, so there’s a bit of freedom to level up the areas you feel more comfortable with.
The skirmishes are fairly swift depending on your play style where each action has a timer before you can use it again. The more powerful attacks and stronger troops take longer to recharge or require more resources before you can use them again. However, if you become a dab-hand at aiming with the basic quick attacks you can make short work of the opposition especially as a frenzy mode is activated if you can amass a combo of five kills quickly which grants a brief moment of attacks free from any timers. Using this approach is a sure fire way of destroying the opponents castle which seems to be a more favourable method for winning swiftly.
That’s about it for the gameplay, aside from editing or building your own castles (which is optional), the variations on the main theme such as survival, hero survival and quick match Skirmish mode. You’ve got additional side objectives you can strive for to gain extra coin and a better end match rating during battles and there are leaderboards to be competitive against if you so choose. That said, the game is surprisingly addictive as you work your way through each of the campaigns and will take quite some time to beat them all in VR.
Gameplay aside, the visuals are why we’re here and in this regard the VR side of the game is a mixed bag. It’s comfortable viewing as there’s really only a 180 degree view to look at with a fixed side-on perspective which remains throughout the entire game. You’re not going to get motion sickness but unfortunately the static nature of the viewpoint means you can’t get close to the action resulting in characters looking tiny. There’s some impressive depth and neat variation of the battleground locales which means its good to see the expanse of the surrounding area across your view in glorious 3D, but aside from this the action is just too small and distant. It would have been great being able to jump into the shoes of the combatants (as an option) for a closer look at the characters and just feel a bit more involved.
It’s a bit difficult to suggest Castlestorm is a full VR game by way of its design although campaign cutscenes are told via an in-game cinema which is a neat touch. The hero survival also boasts a closer camera which is welcome but the same lack of dynamic viewing means it’s just doesn’t feel like it’s true VR and is more akin to advanced 3D despite providing smooth head tracking.
There’s a lot to do in Castlestorm VR, despite the gameplay feeling a little repetitive when playing over longer periods. It’s got an animated charm which is pleasing on the eye and plentiful audio bites to tie it all together nicely with its witty demeanour. The question remains, is it worth the price of entry though? Well, considering it’s pretty unique amongst the current crop of VR games then yes although the high price still stares at you without shame. It’s also not clear whether you can rip off the VR headset and play in 2D if your eyes are getting tired and you still want to play – we couldn’t find this option so it’s unlikely. For the price of entry you’ll get your monies worth though but the bottom line is, this is a very basic form of virtual reality experience which due to a lack of movement is very much like a game in 3D.