Because a tower isn’t a tower unless it’s packed full of knights, wizards and archers.

You know the phrase, “Have fun storming the castle?” That never made much sense to me, because castles really don’t seem like they’d be fun to storm. What could be fun is having your own castle and leading knights, wizards, archers and the like to battle, which conveniently is exactly what Castle Champions allows you to do on your iOS device. Build on the homefront and battle in the field with absolutely no storming required.

As you’ll quickly find out in the bare bones but effective tutorial, Castle Champions lives up to its billing as a tower building/RPG mash-up. Before you can do any battling, you’ve got to get a handle on things at the castle. Each floor of your fortress can hold a pair of rooms, each of which comes from three broad categories: lodging, business and military.

The lodging and business rooms work together. As people visit your castle, you can drop them off in one of the suites to make them a permanent member of the castle workforce. Each worker has a specific set of skills and a dream job in mind that makes him or her a good fit for a specific type of business. For financial reasons, it makes sense to match people up with the correct line of work, unless you’re just a mean sort who enjoys crushing their dreams.

Once workers are hired, you also need to stock the businesses periodically by spending some gold. Three different products can be sold in each business room, and visitors will automatically buy your wares, giving you a slow (at first anyway) but steady revenue stream. You get several minutes to sock away and/or spend money between battles, and a countdown timer at the top of the screen lets you know when the next one is about to start.

Battles, you say? Sure, and that’s where the military rooms come in. Instead of sending visitors to become workers or customers, you can also direct them to the training rooms that turn them into one of nine different troop types. You’ve got your melee units, ranged units and magic wielders, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, giving you a good variety of soldiers to send onto the battlefield.

Castle Champions

Like Bonnie Tyler, you also need a hero, since those troops aren’t going to lead themselves. Heroes are basically super tough versions of knights, archers or mages that cost a lot more to train, kick a lot more butt, and have special abilities that actually aren’t that special until they are leveled up. You can also send heroes on quests (regular troops can be used too, but heroes earn more money) and fend off wandering monsters at the castle to earn extra gold.

The battles play out automatically, leaving you with little to do other than activating the hero’s special ability each time its meter fills up. Little strategy is involved other than some obvious things like having your melee troops in front and your squishier ranged units in back. You are automatically placed in a league with nine other armies, and once you fight against each of them once, your “season” is over. You’ll win gold for victories and a bonus for how well you place in your league, and finishing in the top three gets you promoted to the next league up – kind of like European soccer.

As your castle gets bigger, you’ll find yourself busier and busier between each battle. That’s one of the nicest things about Castle Champions, in that it actually gives you more to do as you advance. The downside is that it’s all just variations on about three different themes, and some of the tasks (like running the elevator to drop visitors off at their desired floor) get old after a while. The RPG elements aren’t particularly deep either, consisting mostly of paying to level up your forces.

Castle Champions

Just like most freemium games, there is a premium currency called crystals that can shorten your wait times for many things. It’s purchasable for real money, but the game does give a surprising amount out just for completing certain tasks. That helps alleviate the pain from the pop-up ads each time you start a play session.

One other thing Castle Champions has going for it is its pleasing art style, which renders the people and creatures of its medieval world as caricatures. Or as my pre-schooler put it, “Those people have small bodies and big heads.” The combat is fairly bloodless as sword and sorcery goes, making it okay for all but the youngest gamers.

Gamenauts and Artlogic Games did a nice job marrying tower management with some light RPG and party battle elements, but nothing in Castle Champions really burrows its way into your psyche and sticks with you. It’s competent in just about every way, it just doesn’t feel like the kind of game that’s going to become an essential part of your everyday iPhone or iPad rotation.