Castle Must Be Mine AR

Castle Must Be Mine AR Game Review (iOS/ARKit)

Castle Must Be Mine AR is a Kingdom Rush like tabletop tower defense game. The player needs to build defense structures on building points around the map and stop the enemy from reaching his tower. For each enemy that reaches your castle, you lose health points, which once it reaches zero you lost the match.

CastleMustBeMine AR (that’s how it is written on the App Store, have no idea why) is a fantastic augmented reality game that bringing a great AR experience on all fronts. In this review, we’ll take a close look at what makes this ARKit game so great. By the way, there is a VR version of the game for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive on Steam.

Gameplay

I’ve been playing quite a lot of Tower Defense games, many of them I really like, including Terrorhedron, Tower AR, and Toy Clash AR.

CastleMustBeMine AR is similar to Tower AR and Terrorhedron, in a way that the player needs to position defense turrets on certain points on the map, and he has the ability to upgrade them as well. The upgrade options are improved as you progress through the game. At higher levels, you can upgrade your turrets up to four times. This improves their speed and damage output.

Tower defense augmented reality mobile video game
The blue armor icon means that those ogres are more resilient to physical damage and the purple robe icon means that those ogres are more resilient to ability damage.

However, Castle Must Be Mine AR adds another really cool gameplay mechanic that makes the game much more blast to play. It introduces a hero character, which unlike the turret structures, you can position it anywhere along the path and change his position anytime you want during the match. The hero has a health bar, and if his health reaches zero he dies, but he respawns back after a few seconds of cooldown.

Critical Strike hero's ability unlocked
Critical Strike hero’s ability unlocked.

The hero character has its own unique abilities which improve in each level and are automatically activated after a cooldown. The player can see the cooldown on the right side near the health bar. It’s up to you to pay attention to it and time and position your hero in different places on the map before the ability is triggered.

You also have an AOE ability which can be triggered manually,  like a tornado that slow enemies and damage them or fire blast which can deal a massive amount of damage to several minions at the same time.

The hero character makes the game feel much more dynamic and therefore more fun to play. It feels much more interactive and dynamic compared to tower defense games where you just put turrets and upgrade them, it becomes boring after a few levels.

I used the hero tactically. Sometimes I used it just to stop the enemy from progressing and fight against my hero so my strongest turrets can damage them. Sometimes I positioned it on an enemy that the turrets weren’t able to kill and it was about to enter my castle It’s essential to make sure that your hero stays alive. It’s not just a meaningless character, he is crucial to your success in the game. If you see that his health is low, move it far away from enemies and let him regenerate his health. His health is restored completely after each wave.

The hero feature really makes a big difference. I’ve already mentioned this feature when I reviewed the game Tower AR: So I really pleased to see what someone came up with this idea and implement it in his tower defense AR game. Here is the quote from the Tower AR review:

“I really think that being able to deploy my own character on the path and be able to interact with it (using touch gesture) could have enhanced the AR gameplay experience by a lot.”.

Unlike Tower AR and Terrorhderon in which the turrets have health and can be destroyed, in this game they don’t. There are three different turrets types in this game, Magic tower (close range), Archery Tower (mid-range) and Cannon Tower (long-range).

The goal of the game is to survive a certain amount of waves in each level. Once you finish a level, you get to enjoy some nice firework effects that congratulate you on your win.

CastleMustBeMine AR level progression screen
CastleMustBeMine AR level progression screen.

When the game starts you can see a board that shows you your progressions  The player gets a 3-star rating based on his performance for each level upon completion.

CastleMustBeMine AR features over 30 different monsters, including lands monsters and flying monsters. The fly monsters cannot be killed by the hero, only using the AOE abilities and the turrets. Furthermore, there are 5 gorgeous looking forest-style maps, 4 desert-style maps, and 3 ice field maps.

Before we move on, let’s take a look at some gameplay footage.

Game’s Difficulty

Regarding game’s difficulty. I’ve played the game for hours and still wasn’t able to finish it. The game becomes more and more challenging as you progress. I am stuck on one level and I just can’t beat the last wave.

You can easily screw things up by doing some mistakes like not protecting your hero or placing or upgrade the wrong turrets.  Building and upgrading turrets cost money, which you get by killing monsters. So it’s important to manage your economy well and invest only where needed. Sometimes the enemies come from different entrances, which means that you need to spread your defenses across different paths. You don’t know what type of enemies are coming from each entrance until they show up. I have to admit,  It can be quite tricky at times.

Some enemies also have unique defense capabilities, like being more resistant to physical damage, so you need to focus on damaging them with your unique spell ability rather than pointing your hero to deal with them.

So overall, the game has a decent amount of content, much more than many other AR games that I got a chance to play. It is well balanced and provides players with some very challenging levels. I personally don’t like very easy tower defense games that you can finish quickly without any need for strategic thinking, so this game is different in that aspect.

Graphics & Level Design

Castle Must Be Mine AR has stunning vibrant low-poly cartoony art-style, one of the best that I’ve seen in AR games to date. When I first played the game it immediately reminded me of another game called Toy Clash AR, which also a very high visual fidelity with cheerful and colorful level design that just makes the whole gameplay experience more visually gratifying.

castlemustbeminear AR level closeup screenshot
Beautiful and colorful level design with great attention to details.

The level design is diverse and changes in each map, so do the theme which changes every few stages. The path which the monsters walk alone also changes, sometimes it’s rounded, sometimes it’s more twisted. Not just that it makes the map look different every time, it also requires the player to think strategically and make sure all areas are covered properly or else you might lose.

Overall, magnificent and lively cartoon-style graphics followed by intelligent levels design that actually forces the player to adapt to strategically adapt to each stage in the game.

AR Experience

The AR Experience was second to none. It’s rare that I get to play an iOS ARKit game that works flawlessly without any issues.

CastleMustBeMine AR game board
The game board game can be adjusted in many ways to make the AR gameplay experience more enjoyable for players.

I was able to quickly deploy the game on the table. This is a tabletop game, and the map sits beautifully inside a wooden frame. I could easily change the size of the board, rotate it, reposition it and even elevate it.

When you increase its height, the game adds four legs on each corner of the frame, making the game looks like it sits on a virtual table. This is such an ingenious idea. You know how many times I have issues with AR games that don’t have this feature. Just think about it for a second, without this feature, I can either play on the floor or finding an elevated place that has a surface. This way, I can sit down on a couch and play it comfortably even without having a table in front of me. This allows the game to adapt to almost any situation.

Playing CastleMustBeMine AR on the table in small size
Playing Castle Must Be Mine AR ARKit game on the table with a smaller board size.

The game even allows me to resize, move it, reposition it and increase the height during the game using controls at the bottom of the screen. I found it useful even during the game itself, where the initial game’s placement prevented me from seeing the cave which the enemies were coming from, so all I needed to do is to rotate the map, I didn’t need to stand up and move to the other side of it, it all solved with a tap on a button.

This is just such a smart design. When you see this solution you ask yourself why this isn’t used for all tabletop games. I do hope that some developers are reading this review and can get inspired by this design, really, superb work!

There is even another amazing feature that really surprised me. When I was playing the game, I took a screenshot, but I locked the screen by mistake. When that happens in games, the game just quits and stars from the beginning. CastleMustBeMine AR didn’t, it did lose the ARKit surface location, so it asked me to redeploy the game, but what happened after was like magic. Instead of going back to the progression screen, it took me back into the game exactly where I left it. When you put the app runs into the background, I think there are a few seconds for the game to store some information locally and that information can be later retrieved when the app gets the focus back. I think this what the developer did here.

The game itself looks beautiful in AR. It’s not innovative as an AR game but it was definitely fun to play it in augmented reality. It’s among those games that let you fee the magic of playing a game in AR. It doesn’t happen in any AR game, but it happened to me in this game, I felt it and I enjoyed every moment of it. Just so you know, I played the game on my 9.7-inch iPad 2017. The iPad’s large screen really improves the viewing experience compared to a smaller mobile phone screen like the iPhone one.

Castle Must Be Mine AR game
You see those controls at the bottom, you can use those to change the game’s size, location and height at any point during the game.

I think it’s important to add, that unlike many other AR games that do require physical movement, Castle Must Be Mine AR does not. you will play it in a comfortable sitting position. There is no need to stand up or move around, you can rotate the board as you find fit. I actually like the physical movement aspect when playing AR games. Without it, the game feels like a standard game in a way. However, sometimes I just enjoy playing comfortably while sitting on the couch in the living room, especially at night.

Having said that, there is something that feels really nice when you play an augmented reality tabletop game with a large board. This is why I intentionally played it on a relatively large scale. I enjoyed moving my iPad camera around the board and being able to see the game’s map in a large size. When I play non-AR games on my phone and iPad, it’s very inconvenient zooming in and out during a game. Most games are made to adapt to the mobile phone’s small screen size by locking the map to a certain fixed angle and distance.  By doing so, you lost something, because you don’t get to see all the fine details and feel the full beauty of the game. In AR and in this particular game you can and this is one of the reasons I enjoyed playing it so much.

I know, it was a long section, but I really had to give it to the developer, XiaoFeng Wang, it did an incredible and I think that both players and developers need to know about those things.

Should You Buy It?

CastleMustBeMine AR is by far the best Tower Defense augmented reality game I’ve played to date. it has fascinating maps, it has decent progression system, it’s challenging, requires strategic thinking, it has a great level design, it plays wonderfully in Augmented Reality (AR) and most importantly, it’s really fun to play.

Many things that I’ve complained about Tower AR were actually tacked really well in this game. The game has great music and sound effects. The UI is simplistic, easy to understand and matches the overall design of the game.

The game isn’t too difficult (remember, I am still stuck at the last round) but it’s not too easy either, it feels just right.

Castle Must Be Mine AR nails it in the graphics department with vibrant and sparkling cartoon art style. It reminds me of Hearthstone, it’s a popular CCG game, which one of the main reasons I enjoy playing it so much is because of its amazing presentation—same goes for this game. It just feels like you open a physical board game on your table and it’s just amazing seeing it coming to life in front of you.

The gameplay is fun and addictive. Seriously, this is among those type of games that I wouldn’t mind spending hours playing. The Hero feature makes the game so much more enjoyable compared to other Tower Defense games that I’ve played.

The game tackled many of the issues that people can experience in AR that many other games missed. I play a lot of AR games and I encounter issues in almost every game or app that I use. Sometimes I just bang my head against the wall with frustration because of those issues—I had none with this game.

The game isn’t free but it’s worth every cent. If you love Tower Defense games, you shouldn’t in any way miss this one out.

The game doesn’t have the same depth as the Toy clash AR when it comes to character selection, and character progression and it would be nice to have some boss levels (unless you call the large monsters wave a boss fight). That being said, I think that the game is well balanced and provide a decent progression for a casual game of its type. No everyone enjoys seeing lots of in-depth progression features, some games are fun to play just like that.

Bottom line, an exceptional tower defense Augmented Reality game that worth your time and money. You can download the game from the App Store here, Have fun!

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AR Critic Editor's Choice Award 2017

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