Review: Castle Conqueror - Against (DSiWare)

Another day in paradise

Another Castle Conqueror game? If CIRCLE Entertainment keeps this up, this just might turn into a monthly tradition.

It's worth reading our previous reviews of Castle Conqueror and Castle Conqueror — Revolution as the gameplay here is largely the same as its real-time predecessors.

The basic concept remains untouched: capture various fortifications in order to drive the invading hordes away. In this case, the invaders are "Westerners," who have come to your peaceful (but primitive) home to destroy your culture, your religion — and you. You take control of the native army to drive back and ultimately destroy the Westerners, along with their allied sympathisers, so that your homeland can remain the paradise you've always known it to be.

Spiritual philosophising might not be the sort of thing one thinks of when it comes to real-time strategy games, but Castle Conqueror — Against is not afraid to raise the topic. This game doesn't just reference real life colonialism and genocide: it bases its entire experience around fighting it off.

As you might imagine, this provides the game with a darker edge than the two previous games referenced above, and that's likely to appeal to some gamers more than others. Fortunately, the game also offers a refined gameplay experience, which may help to convert the non-believers.

Castle Conqueror — Against controls the same way as the earlier games: the stylus draws lines from friendly fortifications to those owned by the enemy, and that sends your little armies off to wage war. You don't need to capture all fortifications in a given stage in order to succeed, but you do need to capture all of those occupied by your enemies. Pleasingly, many levels consist of several separate boards, and completing those requires a chain of successive successes.

This title adopts many of the features of Castle Conqueror — Revolution, and those additions feel a bit more at home here. You can send out more powerful troops by holding the stylus down rather than just dragging and releasing, and you can also grant particular fortifications with additional security by dragging a circle around them. A nice touch in this game is that the added security is the direct result of divine intervention.

Yes, God himself is a character in this game, albeit one who works his magic from off camera. The effect cards from the original game return here, but they are used to call down heavenly wrath and/or bounty, and that's a lot of fun. You can bless your own troops or curse your enemies, and once you've experienced the bliss of cursing your enemies to become land-squids it's hard to stop.

The upgrade shop returns here, but it's thankfully simplified from the previous games, meaning you won't be shopping for stat upgrade items, which, bizarrely, were separate from normal upgrades in the past.

Additionally, there are some new features in Castle Conqueror — Against which we feel make it worth recommending somewhat more than Castle Conqueror and Castle Conqueror — Revolution: weather, and difficulty modes.

The weather is an ever-changing aspect of the game that can make you stronger, weaker, or even blind to your enemy's numbers. It changes randomly, but it can change your strategy more than you might think, and there's something strangely thrilling about sending your armies off to battle enemy troops of unknown size. It's no longer a simple numbers game; you need to watch the progress of each individual battle, and know when to send reinforcements, and when to retreat.

The other excellent addition is a long-overdue difficulty selection. Castle Conqueror veterans will find little use here, but for newcomers this is invaluable. This series is known for its steep difficulty curve, and the choice for a slightly more lenient battle is a welcome one. This also makes the game more fun to play on a bus or in a waiting room, as the battles tend to be faster, and you can accomplish more than you would normally.

The difficulty can be changed before every level, which means you don't have to coast by on easy mode the entire time, nor do you have to grind yourself into madness trying to complete a certain level in hard mode. It's a small change, but it has a big impact.

All in all, Castle Conqueror — Against does exactly what it needed to do: it took the best things from the other real-time entries in the series and sprinkled in a few new ingredients that made it even better. That may or may not be enough to warrant a download for those who already have a Castle Conqueror game (or two... or three...) but it makes this a perfect gateway for the newcomer, and a great reward for any fans looking to expand their strategies.

Conclusion

While it's easy to say that the Castle Conqueror series is mainly comfortable to provide the same experience over and over again, it's hard to see that as a bad thing when the experience is so much fun. Castle Conqueror — Against takes things a step further than most by providing an option for reduced difficulty, and that — in addition to the strong Castle Conqueror formula we enjoy so much — is enough to give this title a particularly strong recommendation.