With the number of virtual reality titles rapidly on the rise, it's interesting to see how existing genres adapt to an entirely new platform. While hardware has been continually evolving for decades, few innovations have proven to be such a drastic shift as seen with virtual reality.
"Castle Must Be Mine" takes the well-established tower defense genre into VR, resurrecting a subset of games seldom explored as of late. Taking full advantage of the motion controls and room-scale capabilities of the HTC Vive, the game delivers new opportunities for interactivity and immersion. While still in Early Access with more content on the way, the game's current state is a promising basis for an enjoyable tabletop VR experience. Here are our initial impressions after getting hands-on with the Early Access version for HTC Vive.
Following the traditional formula for tower defense games, Castle Must Be Mine puts players in control of defenses for a medieval castle. With an onslaught of creatures closing in rapidly, your army of towers and abilities must be used to repel the oncoming attack.
In the styling of a tabletop game, each of Castle Must Be Mine's maps are spread across a large platform spanning your room-scale space. Using the game's motion controls, you'll have the opportunity to physically interact with the world, placing each unit onto pre-determined slots across the board. While I expected this board game format to be less immersive, the approach to interactivity makes for an encaptivating experience.
Divided into set levels which become increasingly complex over time, players are challenged with dropping units across the field and surviving a set number of enemy waves. New enemy types and variables will be thrown into the mix going forward and while they don't upset the game's core formula, this manages to consistently keep progression feeling fresh.
Though earlier levels can feel a lot slower-paced, Castle Must Be Mine's best moments can be found after just a couple levels. Once a wide toolset is at your disposal, with more choices to be made in combat, each wave of enemies feels more hectic and challenging than the latter.
The game often leads you to doubt your choices during and after battle
Tower placement is a crucial part of the setup process in Castle Must Be Mine, with each of these defenses being the main choice for dealing damage to enemies Three types of towers are available in-game, each with their own unique traits applicable to differing scenarios. While the basic Arrow towers provide rapid small doses of close range damage, Cannon and magic towers also come with their own unique abilities. This makes for a balanced range of available units which are best used in conjunction with one another.
Numerous variables are also thrown into gameplay, which adds a dynamic twist of interactivity over traditional tower defense. With controllable heroes and interactive props to skew gameplay, players are given the tools to directly interact and influence the game on the fly.
Even with these abilities, your success in Castle Must Be Mine still hugely depends on tower placement. With new units acquired scarce coins from dead enemies, every new unit is valuable in conflict. This aspect of the game often leads you to doubt your choices during and after battle, questioning whether alternate combinations of units would've been more effective.
Although Castle Must Be Mine doesn't introduce any hugely groundbreaking mechanics to the tower defense formula, the game successfully brings the genre into virtual reality. With a new level of interaction and engagement, the game injects a new angle not possible with a traditional desktop experience.
While still in Early Access with more content in the pipeline, the current version of Castle Must Be Mine is a polished framework for what is shaping up to be a compelling addition to the HTC Vive lineup. However, this relies heavily on whether the game's developer keeps up the pace of adding new content ahead of its scheduled launch later this year. For now, you get a significant portion of the package for a fraction of the game's full price, which still offers an unrivaled take on tower defense.
- Tower defense makes a great transition to VR.
- Additional layer of interactivity through props and abilities.
- Slight lack of variety in its current state.