Make better neighbors.
At E3 2014’s Indiecade booth, dozens of games invited curious players to try unique new mechanics and play styles, but Asher Vollmer, formerly of thatgamecompany and one of the creative minds behind the likes of iOS hit Threes and one of my personal favorites Puzzlejuice had a new game to show off. Close Castles pits up to four players against each other in a fight to secure land and ultimately take over a small patch of territory. Vollmer set the game up by stating simply that each player had built their castle far too close to their neighbor.
That’s understandable. Plenty of people feel like their neighbors might be a little too close for comfort but Close Castles does its best to establish a fevered and healthy rhythm to defending, attacking, and eventually capturing territory in minimalist strategy mechanics that allow for quick play above all else. The graphics might belie a sordid depth to the game, but I quickly started laughing at how eagerly each player wanted to crush their opponents and even attempted to gang up on a third player when he tried to take on Gil and myself at once.
Close Castles gives each player a castle in a corner of the map. Each castle corresponds to an element but no single player has a special ability or a particularly strong statistic that aids them in battle. The game is all about planning and placing your units to achieve the greatest effect. Everyone generates money at the same rate, unless they build marketplaces which add to revenue and allow for more building. Towers defend the squares next to them, but smart players will quickly realize that houses are absolutely necessary to winning a battle.
Houses are the only buildings that generate creeps and connecting houses via roads will allow you to send those creeps towards enemy placements. Towers can eliminate your citizens but they don’t do so at a rate where opposing creeps become less important. Even unit flow means no one will progress toward the castle, but redirecting creeps by deconstructing and building new roads could turn the tide if you’re smart and fast with your thumbs.
We played the game on a laptop connected to a TV with four Xbox 360 controllers. The user interface and menus moved extremely quickly making it easy to jump into rematches… perhaps too easy. Close Castles presented an almost addictive gameplay loop where “one more match” could have easily become a mantra, especially as people began to pick up the mechanics and think of new strategies.
For example, you could try to be very even with your tower and house placements, but in the end faster revenue frequently proved most important in getting off to a fast start. Further, houses that get landlocked by other installations don’t generate creeps so without road access they proved wasted space. There’s a definite Threes-esque minimalist art style to Close Castles, but in the end it endeared me to the fast gameplay loop all the more.
At the moment, there’s little more to know about Close Castles but we’ll keep an eye on this indie as it nears release. We don’t know if it’ll appear on consoles or strictly on PC, but it might also make for a great mobile game. Stick with GameRevolution for more from E3 2014.