The Castle Conqueror games found success on DSiWare, and no doubt CIRCLE hopes the same will be true with this expanded release of the original.  Primary among the changes here are redone artificial intelligence and levels.  Some are more challenging, but why this was done for a “casual” title is a fair question.  Will the tweaks be enough to lure both those who’ve already experienced the game on DSiWare and newcomers?

Castle Conqueror EX is a real-time strategy game.  I tend to prefer RTS titles over turn based ones.  Its controls aren’t cumbersome, and the quick responsiveness of the touch screen is very appreciated.   It does feel that success often boils down more to speed with the stylus, and less strategic thinking though, so keep that in mind.  There are certain missions that do force you to adopt more strategic approaches, but they present their own issues.

Castle Conqueror ChaptersThe cartoony visuals displayed here deemphasize any fantasy violence.  I like the choice, but honestly there’s nothing special about these graphics.  The DSiWare origins show.  There wasn’t even an attempt to add 3D, although to be fair all the action is on the touch screen. The audio meanwhile is sufficient, with appropriate battlefield sound effects.  The music lacks variety, but at least is appropriately stirring.

This is a rather repetitive game all around.  In truth, there’s little variety to any of its aspects.  It doesn’t even try to modernize things with features from later titles in the series.  I do understand that this is a port of the first game, but still.  All the combat feels similar, and the necessity to grind for gold makes it even more.  Why is it that grinding’s unavoidable?

Castle Conqueror gameplayThis title is advertised as being “Intended for both casual gamers and hardcore gamers.”  Intentions are well and good, but frankly this is an area where CIRCLE has failed.  The reworked AI is so wildly inconsistent it’s shocking!  The game has some missions that are just outright unwinnable until you do multiple upgrades, forcing you into long grinds.  On the other hand, it’s peppered with insultingly easy missions that are over in seconds.  There’s just no balance!

There are other quirks also.  I was able to put my 3DS down for a few minutes with the AI on the march, and actually have more success when I picked it back up having not played.  Also, you earn a set amount of money, even when failing missions.  After several long attempts I hit replay and set my 3DS back down.  I earned the same amount of coins for doing absolutely nothing!  The game curiously rewards you for not playing.

Castle Conqueror menusIt’s certainly not all bad however, in fact there’s plenty to like here.  Besides the aforementioned good control, there’s something of an addictive quality present, especially with multiple characters.  The attempts to give the game depth through use of items, upgrades and cards is appreciated in spite of it’s unevenness.  And the pace is certainly more of an ideal fit for a handheld than similar titles.  The $3.99 price is fair for what’s on offer.

There are many Castle Conqueror games that you can download on 3DS.  Perhaps one of them would be a superior choice.  The reworked AI issues present in EX are indeed huge, but admittedly for some they might not factor as much.  Even if they can be tolerated though, should we really be forced to put up with such designs?  Fans of the series will still want this game, but newcomers may want to grab another Castle Conqueror title to start with, or wait for a sale.

Castle Conqueror title