Castle Conqueror EX Platform: Nintendo 3DS (eShop) Developer/Publisher: CIRCLE Entertainment Price: $3.99 The real-time strategy genre has only grown more prolific and advanced as gamers have gotten more enamored with it. This is incredibly encouraging for fans of the titles, but for those that have been too intimidated to make the plunge, or have the time to invest into such a commitment, the growing ferocity of RTS games might just end up keeping them from trying these games. Fortunately, Castle Conqueror EX is aware of all of this backstory and knows exactly how to subvert it. In terms of narrative, you're presented with a pedestrian enough storyline of you leading your soldiers into battle, trying to overtake the enemy’s castle, and prevent the evil e mpire from doing harm. This is hardly breaking new ground here, but it’s a basic enough premise to make all of this work. I don’t think anyone was going to this title for a deep storyline or originality. The game you're being given here is an updated version of its DSiWare predecessor, Castle Conqueror, but this is not one of those lazy, unmotivated updates. For instance every hero’s abilities as well as all of the items have been totally redesigned. Enemies are more challenging this time around, AI is greater, and even the levels are redone. EX is merely taking the skeleton that was in place—what worked—and cleaning up around the edges of everything else. Apparently 80% of the title is new content. Just one of the many conquerors of castles that you'll encounter on your mission. At its core here, Castle Conqueror EX is a real-time strategy game for casual gamers, which is a simple enough agenda. RTS titles are usually pretty insular and deep and if you’re not in on the genre, they can actually be pretty intimidating. To create a gateway game that can introduce gamers to the basics before they’re biting off more than they can chew is an admirable enough idea. There’s even a tutorial system that’s offered to streamline things even more. And while Castle Conqueror EX is hardly the first game to do it, it’s a pretty good example of doing it right, for a negligible cost. That being said, this game still does pose a difficulty to some degree and later levels will still find hardcore RTS veterans enjoying themselves too. There's still a relaxed tone to it all and you more than likely won’ t find yourself getting frustrated here. While the game does cater to newcomers, it’s not so far in that direction that longtime players will have nothing to take from the title either. When it comes to the title's presentation, unsurprisingly, there's nothing too groundbreaking going on here. EX uses a very humble, basic, cartoonish approach to its aesthetics that works well enough for it, but again, is nothing we haven't seen before. It makes sense for the game to adopt this style rather than say, a more realistic one, due to its instructional, gateway nature. Similarly, the audio is also the same, plunky sort of audio you would associate with this style of title. There's nothing going above and beyond here, the dialogue is through text, but there are still many welcome sounds and additions that help enhance the experience. As you might expect, there's also nothing fancy going on with the 3D effects, with them minimally being featured, but any use of them at all in a $3.99 title is appreciated. Welcome to the world of RTS, now prepare to never leave! As you work your way through the game's challenges, you have four heroes to play as, each of course with their own distinct battle abilities and gameplay advantages. There’s also a sizeable fifty levels to play through, and if you’re trying to do it with all four characters, you’re in for a fairly long journey for under five dollars. Unfortunately, there’s nothing gained by doing this and in spite of the longevity here, some unlockables or extras would help add some replay value to the experience. That's fine though, this feels entirely comfortable being its own thing and not drawing out the experience. Use it for what it's worth and move on and you'll find yourself having a very pleasant real-time strategy experience. As it stands though, it’s a soothing, comfortable game that will occupy you just long enough until you want to check out a beefier real-time strategy. As you're taking down enemies and protecting your territory, the game operates as smoothly as it can with its simplistic controls, using a basic card system to complement its real-time setup. There's not that much to muddle things up here and less is definitely more as you're given what you need to do damage with. Each hero also has tactical cards that are used in battle and have their own special abilities and perks accordingly. These cards bulk you up for a limited time, whether they're affecting your enemies with things like curses, or increasing your power. On top of this, there is also a tacked on element where you collect play coins to boost battle effects in-game, and earn other little bonuses to heft up your arsenal and battle experience. They look like ants down there. Little, turn-based, tactical ants! While hardly breaking the mold, Castle Conqueror EX is still a fun diversion, and a nice approach at breaking down a complicated genre. It’s not something that’s going to steal your attention away from the bigger titles that you’re playing, but it’s an enjoyable experience while you’re there. Castle Conqueror EX warrants a purchase recommendation of "THINK ABOUT IT" due to its simplified, streamlined nature that caters to newcomers of the real-time strategy genre. There's enough content to work through, and enough touches to the battle and special attack system to keep you interested but not overwhelmed. While hardly the most challenging or original title that doesn't offer much once you've cleared it, its ability to know what it is and how to break down the RTS experience is a delight. Pros: +Streamlined, enjoyable controls and gameplay +Introductory approach for first time RTS-ers +50 levels and four unique characters to play through them with +Cheap price Cons: -Hardly an original, creative game -Easy difficulty level -Lack of extras and unlockable content Disclosure: A review copy was used to evaluate this game.