Castle Age comes to iOS with gorgeous art but well-worn gameplay

Castle Age HD is a new text-based RPG from Phoenix Age, Inc. It’s an iOS reimagining of a Facebook game that we last covered back in January 2010. Players must recruit heroes, purchase troops, grow their “army” of friends and battle their way through a fantasy storyline accompanied by some extremely well-drawn artwork. It’s available now for free via the App Store, but despite the HD suffix, it’s an iPhone-specific title.

Gameplay in Castle Age HD is similar to the myriad of other text-based RPGs in the App Store and on Facebook. Players develop their character primarily by taking on quests, which in practice amounts to little more than clicking the “Do Quest” button repeatedly until a bar fills up or energy points run out. In a nod to some narrative development — more than many games in this genre offer — the game does provide some description and occasional dialog scenes between characters as quests are completed. Unfortunately they’re presented as simple text boxes beneath the game’s main interface rather than cutscenes, which means they don’t provide much of a sense of achievement or story progression.

Certain quests may only be completed by specific heroic “General” characters, which the player must purchase using the in-game soft currency. No narrative explanation is given as to why only certain specific heroes may accomplish the tasks in question. Heroes also add certain special abilities to the player while “equipped” — some might provide bonuses in battles against monsters and other players, while others may provide bonuses to the player’s statistics. Other quests require the player to take troops with them, which must also be purchased. These troops perform the same function as the items of “equipment” collected in games such as Mafia Wars and iMob by adding bonuses to the player’s statistics when used in battle against other players.

Battling other players may be accomplished in two ways, both of which require the expenditure of stamina points. Firstly, a “duel” between two players simply compares attack and defense statistics and immediately declares a winner. The player may keep attacking their opponent until they are dead or “too weak to continue,” at which point they may send a taunt message to the other player. Players with large numbers of friends recruited into their “army” may choose to instead “invade” another player, which carries bigger rewards and greatly favors those who play more socially. There is no means for a player to avoid being attacked by rivals — like other games of this type, everyone in Castle Age’s world is fair game for an unprovoked PvP beatdown.

The player may also choose to battle boss monsters once they have been unlocked through questing. These strong beasts also require the expenditure of stamina to defeat. Since these monsters typically have a very large amount of health, recruiting assistance from other players is practically a must if the creature is to be taken down within the 72-hour time limit. The game provides the facility to issue a “call to arms” to members of the player’s army of friends to assist with this, and monster battles also have a “public” list where anyone is able to join and help out with others’ battles.

Daily play is encouraged in several ways — a daily “slots” spin which provides the player with useful items more often than not, and the ability to be blessed by any of the game world’s gods. Accepting a blessing provides a day’s bonus to a statistic and also builds up a pool of “Demi Points” with the deity in question. By acquiring increasingly-large numbers of Demi points, the player is able to unlock numerous rewards such as new equipment, special quests, energy potions and even hard currency, which may be spent on restoring energy, stamina and health, or purchasing premium items and heroes.