Genres collide in Foursaken Media’s new iOS mash-up Heroes and Castles. A unique mix of real time strategy, tower defense and third person action, this title provides a hectic but terrific twist on some proven concepts. Heroes and Castles tasks the player with managing not only units and tower construction, but also taking the defense of their castle into their own hands by hacking and slashing their way through everything the first two miss. It’s a fantastic concept, and it works incredibly well.
The first thing that I noticed when I booted the game up is the sheer amount of depth on display. There are five playable heroes (three available at first, with the others requiring jewels to unlock). The knight is your standard hack-and-slash character that can carve his way across the battlefield. The paladin buffs your supporting units. The engineer is probably my favorite design of the initial three. He’s a dwarf in a steampunk-style costume, with a rifle at the ready. Newly added are the last two: a bow wielding elven ranger and a reptilian mage. Each character plays very differently and requires a complete readjustment to the third person aspects of the gameplay and the supporting units you’ll need to summon to maintain control of the battlefield.
Once the action gets underway, the pressure sets in immediately. Make no mistake, there is a lot going on here. The goal is to defend your castle against the rapidly approaching undead horde. Gold is is used for everything from purchasing supporting units and towers to repairing damaged walls. It can also be diverted into higher-level mines, which speed up accumulation and allow more helpers. As if the unit management and tower building aspects weren’t enough, it’s critical to keep an eye on the player character’s health, as enemies barrel through on their way to complete annihilation of your keep. I found myself ducking behind the castle walls to regain some health. All of these things usually come together pretty smoothly, but I found it important to make a plan and stick to it. There are some pretty intense difficulty spikes here though, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
All of this comes together through a somewhat cluttered, but effective, user interface that tries to keep as much of the necessary ingredients at your fingertips as possible. This game looks pretty great for an iOS title, and everything from the art direction on the hero characters to the design of the enemies is interesting and sharp. The only real drawback here is the control of hero, which is accomplished through a serviceable, but stiff, set of on-screen controls. Hit detection varies from acceptable to flawed, but never seems unfair. These are really the only two flaws I found in an otherwise very functional system.
In between successful defenses there are several methods of improvement available. Runes are enhancements that can be found on the battlefield and provide bonuses such as additional starting gold or buffs to armor. Skill points can be spent to unlock special active and passive skills for the hero. Units, towers and the keep can all be upgraded and unlocked by spending gems, Heroes & Castles’ precious currency. There is a ton of depth here, and it adds a lot to the overall experience.
If you get tired of playing by yourself, there are also cooperative and versus modes available. The team play allows for some interesting scenarios and strategies that aren’t available if you’re playing solo. A recent update also added a really cool new siege option, in which take control of the undead hordes and attempt to storm the castle. This is a great twist on the formula and greatly adds to the longevity.
Heroes and Castles is a phenomenal addition to any gamer’s iOS library. For the $1.99 asking price, you get a ton of content and a really unique experience. Fans of each of the genres on display here will find something to enjoy in the whole, even those hesitant about some of the individual parts. Based on the most recent update that added the Ranger and Mage characters, as well as Siege and Versus mode, it’s clear that Foursaken intends to heavily support this title, and you should feel good about supporting it as well. Even with some stiff controls, it’s one of the best action games I’ve played on the iPhone, and it would not feel out of place on a larger platform like XBLA or PSN. Don’t pass this one up.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.