The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
The Castle Doctrine is a
curious MMO with roguelike elements. To some, it may seem brutally unfair and punishing. To
others, it may be exactly the kind of competitive experience they have always
wanted. Players must protect their own assets while attempting to steal from
others to survive and thrive; it feels like a darker player-vs-player version
of 2013’s Monaco while making some grim observations about the nature of
society. As a strange social experiment and multiplayer playground,
The Castle Doctrine provides a genuinely interesting experience for those
willing to look past the shoestring interface and visuals.
The concept is simple:
You start with $2,000 to spend on various defensive and offensive tools like walls,
guard dogs, traps, guns, saws, wiring, wire cutters, crowbars, and more. You
create a lethal maze to protect your family and safe from other players who
invade your home. You have to navigate your own death trap before moving on, so
it must be possible to complete. There is an interesting assortment of items to
pick from and combine, and players that enjoy “mazing” and tower/dungeon
building games should find construction of the perfect death house enjoyable.
With your home protected, you spend the leftover cash on tools to assist with
breaking into your opponents’ houses.
Death is permanent. Once
your character dies – which can happen as a result of a botched robbery or by
being out of resources and committing suicide – you respawn with a fresh
character, family, and $2,000. This concept of permadeath makes each and every
choice have considerable weight, and that weight only gets heavier as you accumulate
wealth and growth during a character’s life. The longer you last, the more agonizing
the inevitable death becomes. On each attempt, you have the option of seeking
revenge; the security cam lets you check out players as they maneuver through
your traps, so you can write down the names of those who succeed and deliver
The leaderboards display
the current reigning champions and the success rates of robbers attempting to
break into their caches. The closer to the top you are, the bigger a target
your cache is, especially for hungry thieves with little or nothing to lose. It’s
probably a better choice to feed off the weak at first, and move up to the
dangerous mansions after you have some practice and a robust sack of tools.
As I became hardened from
each gruesome death, I was inspired by other players’ trap factories and planned
new ways to get back at my own intruders. When you rob other players, you may
push them to virtual suicide. It’s a good thing that the concepts are somewhat
removed from reality via heavily pixelated graphics, because this game is
incredibly dark. Will you become wealthy and powerful on the corpses of fallen
victims? Will you seethe in silence planning the ruin of Jordan Michael Roberts
or Hector John Herbert? Will you stop playing after losing everything?
The Castle Doctrine is a
player-driven PvP paradise of well-laid traps, vengeful voyeurs, and desperate
thieves. The presentation and traditional aspects like graphics, sound, and
interface are rough around the edges, and it isn’t deep enough to stay
interesting for long. Even so, The Castle Doctrine is an intriguing diversion
from uninspired copycats and clones that often plague the industry. It won’t
suit everyone, but I applaud its creativity.
Email the author Daniel Tack, or follow on Twitter, and Game Informer.