Zen Studios is best known for its excellent pinball series such as Pinball FX and Zen Pinball, but the studio is expanding into other genres in the digital space. At this E3 we got a chance to play its creative twist on tower defense, and walked away impressed.
Unlike most tower defense games, CastleStorm puts you on offense as well as defense. Your main form of attack is a ballista mounted on front of your castle, which can shoot a variety of projectiles that work on cooldown timers. You can also deploy soldiers from the front of your castle, who will slowly charge into battle (Zen tells us that you will have the ability to directly control a knight, but it wasn't implemented yet in the E3 build). You will constantly shift your attacks between incoming enemies and the opposing castle. The physics-based destruction is reminiscent of Angry Birds; if you've ever collapsed a fortress with agitated fowl before, you'll know how satisfying the gameplay is.
But bringing down your enemy's fortress also has an element of strategy. Each castle section has an ability tied to it, so if you knock down your enemy's catapult room, he or she will no longer be able to attack you with it.
Zen Studios has imbued CastleStorm with a playful, cartoony art style, and you can expect to hear some Monty Python quotes during combat. Don't let the tone fool you, though: there's plenty of strategy involved in CastleStorm, and it didn't take long for the CPU to reduce my castle to rubble. Zen says CastleStorm will contain 12 environments and 60 levels, and feature multiplayer and co-op as well.
CastleStorm will be released on XBLA first, and come to PSN and PC later on as well. For more on CastleStorm, check out the announcement trailer.