Storm Casters is the kind of game that makes my job as a reviewer especially difficult. In the few days since I’ve started playing it, I’ve had a hard time divorcing myself from my emotions to think about it critically – to look at it from a bird’s eye view with a dose of objectivity. The problem, you see, is that it’s simply too engrossing. Too enjoyable. Too many other words that start with the letter E. So rather than sit here haunted by the fifth letter of the alphabet, I’d like to move right on to the sixth and talk to you about Storm Casters in a way you’ll be able to relate to easily after just a few minutes with it: as a fan.
Combining literally all of the things that make me smile because apparently they designed this game inside my brain, Get Set Games’ latest can best be described as a medieval twin-stick action-adventure roguelike inside a collectibe card game. Or…maybe it’s the other way around? Whatever its classification, Storm Casters tasks you with guiding a magical hero or heroine through a seemingly endless labyrinth of baddies to rescue your imperiled family. Along the way, you’ll collect “Battle Cards” which you can equip to bestow yourself with magical powers, increase your strength, and otherwise lend you an edge.
The catch? Dungeon crawling is limited by the finite strength of an otherworldly portal, giving you less than a minute to tear a swath through the horrors that await. Lose your hearts or let the time run out and you’re zapped back to the entrance to have another go, keeping the items and experience you acquired along the way, but abandoning your progress to the void.
If any of this sounds complex or daunting, don’t worry. Get Set handles a concept they could have easily bungled with impressive deftness and peerless polish, reducing multiple genres to their most player-friendly form and mashing them together to deliver a game that is approachable enough for the bus, yet deep enough to occupy the bulk of a five hour plane ride. Believe me on that last point: that’s where I packed in most of my play time.
The key to Storm Casters’ success is how naturally all its simple elements string together to furnish you with an infectiously replayable experience. Fighting off the undead is as simple as walking with a virtual joystick, and tapping a fire button to pummel enemies with an endless stream of fireballs. To the victor go the spoils, and you’ll shortly be surrounded by them: piles of glittery gold, and treasure chests that pack the distinctly addictive pleasures unique to unknown loot. Because I’m being paid exclusively based upon how many idioms I can use, however, all good things must come to an end, and soon enough either the endless horde or ticking clock will punch your ticket (he says, bathing in that sweet, sweet idiom payola).
You’ll only have a precious few moments to be disheartened, though, because those treasure chests contained ability enhancing battle cards, that gold purchased more attack power and portal time, and the adventuring you just did? It earned you experience to increase your level and reap even more rewards. So of course you dive right back to give it another try, only this time your playthrough is enhanced by a Battle Card that gives you bonus gold for every enemy slain, and another that gives you a chance at finding a mystical “Dragon Shout” power up. And if you’re anything like me, dear reader, it’s here that you stop for a second. Just long enough to acknowledge, if only to yourself, that you’re completely and utterly hooked.
And how couldn’t you be, when everything is so rewarding? Frequent early losses are offset by how easy the controls make it to eventually feel like an expert. The seeming shallowness of the game’s two-button scheme belies how brilliantly it’s implemented, with pickups creating instant weapon variety as your primary fire button turns from a ball of flame, to a beam of electricity bouncing off of walls, to a machine-gun like spraw of purple beams.
The stress and pressure of the timer quickly gives way giddiness when the end of a round brings the opportunity to open new cards and enhance your abilities. The inability to choose your three-hand Battle Card arrangement even proves to be a boon, allowing you to experience the variety of all your cards and discover favorite combinations. You almost have stop and admire the interlocking brilliance of it all. Almost, that is, if you weren’t too busy playing Storm Casters.
If you’re going to stop and admire the brilliance of anything, though, definitely make it Get Set’s trademark artistry. Nothing in Storm Casters wants for aesthetic polish; the stylized vibrancy of each enemy and animation is grin-inducing; the sound of each coin collection or treasure chest pickup will tickle your nostalgia bone, and the deceptive depth and variety of Battle Cards will sink hooks into even the most casual collectible card game fan.
I couldn’t help but notice that along with one of Get Set’s trademarks came another, however: the studio’s tendency to push a little too much into a mobile package, resulting in semi-frequent crashes, occassionally missing bosses, and a few disappointing “legendary” card pickups that quickly disappeared from my collection. With that said, nothing was glaring enough that it couldn’t be removed in a forthcoming update.
Something else I often wonder about in my job as a reviewer is whether or not I find myself falling into the trap of writing “quote-worthy” lines subconsciously. Luckily though, I promised you I’d write this as a fan.
And to that end, Storm Casters is what you’d get if Disney designed Diablo, and spilled it in a vat full of Spelunky and Hearthstone. It’s every loot-gathering dungeon-crawling, card-collecting fan’s next transit addiction. It’s quite simply the best two dollars you’ll spend on the App Store in a long while.