Korean developer Alpha Cloud is a newcomer on the iOS game scene. Their first game for the iPad and iPhone is an AOS type of game though there is a touch of RPG element mixed in. This freemium game has a feel of games like Total War Battles and graphics that attract lots of attention on the iPad's sharp screen. It includes elements of RTS, AOS and RPG in gameplay, but lacks the AI and structure that could turn this game into truly amazing experience that matches those in Starcraft or DotA.
Now if you are very familiar with the abbreviations above, then you should have a good idea what the gameplay is like. If not, here is the run down. You have a map of dozens of castles, and your goal is to conquer as many of them as you can. The game starts you out with one castle, and since this isn't an online game, you fight AI opponents. There is an RTS element in the game but it's very limited. You build 6 buildings in each castle in order to upgrade it to level 3, and that's it. No tech trees or advanced buildings or levels. The buildings grant you more citizens who pay taxes and unlock army units that rank above scouts and spearmen. There are five different army units, the higher the rank, the more effective they are in battles and more expensive to make. There's a limit of 300 total units in each castle and you decide which units to make and how many in the mix, though balanced unit building seems more cost effective. You can train each unit to higher levels as long as you have the money and time to do that.
After you've built and upgraded your castle and your army, you can attack nearby castles. You can send a spy to get the intel on the size of the enemy army, levels of their units and the castle defense level, etc., and decide to attack or not. There is a timer for each attack, if you storm an enemy castle, you must kill the defending monsters and ramming down the gate within the time limit; and if you are defending your own castles from attacking enemy, the battle ends when their units are dead or the timer runs out. If you succeed you will occupy that castle in addition to your currently occupied castles. Battle itself is extremely simple, and the best strategy is to have larger number of units than your enemy and don't let your hero die! If your hero dies, the battle is lost instantly. The RPG element of the game is centered around your hero who has RPG character-like stats that you can level up, weapons and abilities you can upgrade, poisons to use for health and magic, and limited number of quests to complete. There is a simple town square where your hero can visit all the merchants for upgrade.
While the gameplay is simple enough to master and many fun elements of different genres of gameplay are there, the game doesn't have the structure that tie everything together to present you with an immersive experience. The short RTS building tree becomes repetitive after the first few castles, and the constant disasters that occur to your occupied castles become cumbersome to manage. The AI also lacks the depth of battle tree. Once you've occupied two or three castles, your AI enemies will start attack and take back your progress, and artificially slow down your gameplay rhythm. However, since there are only a small number of buildings you can build and 300 total army units in each castle, you are left with not much to do in the mean time while waiting to attack or be attacked.
As a freemium game, Castle Master 3D doesn't require you to spend lots of money to advance which is very nice. The only thing that require lots of "gems" which costs real money is the romance quest with the princess.
Castle Master 3D has eye-catching graphics that look good on the new iPad as well as iPhone's retina display. Battle scenes run smoothly and each monster and army unit have nice battle moves and some magic attacks. The 3D environment looks nice and static menu screens, castle building screens and army building and training screens look sharp. Touch control works very smoothly and intuitively.
There is a main sound track that mixes grand battle theme BGM and some battle drum pieces. It reminds me of the music in an old PS2 game, Dark Cloud. There are some accompanying music pieces in extra scenes like the fortune teller scene, but the game mostly plays just one main track over and over.
Castle Master 3D has lots of potential to be a fun DotA kind of game. It touches on many fun gameplay fronts including as hero upgrading and questing, castle and army building, AOS style battles and more. These elements of the gameplay will keep it interesting for a while. But the game needs an in-depth AI design to be truly great. You will enjoy the graphics, especially on a sharp new iPad 3rd gen screen and the iPhone's retina display, and work with the touch control nicely. If you are an AOS fan, this is worth a look. Hey, it's free to play. But it won't hold your interest for a long time.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 4.5 - Sharp, colorful, animations are smooth. Sound: - 3 - Not a big selection, the main track is nice. Controls: - 4.5 - Smooth control, intuitive menu. Gameplay: - 3.5 - Lots of potential, but no magic touch that puts it all together.
Playing Hints and Tips:
-After you successfully take over a castle, build up the army immediately in the old castle where you sent to attack the new castle.
-The timer for unit building and castle upgrade needs the game running to go at the normal rate, this means keeping the game screen live, not just running in the background.