Castle Age is exactly what would happen if the makers of Mafia Wars spent their teenage years playing Dungeons & Dragons instead of watching Scorcese flicks. Instead of a mob you'll have an army. Instead of committing crimes you'll be completing quests. Rival bosses are replaced with orcs, different territories with lands of adventure… you get the idea. Yes, Castle Age is the latest casual MMO to get caught up in the “wars” phenomenon on Facebook – but that doesn't mean we didn't have fun.
Castle Age places you in the chainmail boots of an adventurer in a world of fantasy. Like every other “Wars” style game on the market, the objective is to level up by completing certain quests and doing battle with other players. Completing quests requires little more than meeting the requirements and clicking “QUEST,” and battle is no more difficult that selecting an opponent and clicking “DUEL” or “INVADE.”
style of game keeps things simple for a reason. It doesn't take much to learn, it doesn't require a large time commitment to play, and every move happens so quickly that you'll be eager to do it again. What's nice about Castle Age is that it adds a number of neat touches to the formula that will keep you tweaking your inventory to keep things moving in your favour. Certain quests will require you to have different soldiers. Upgrading your personal weapons and equipment will help you in battle. Putting different generals in charge of your army will change the stats and affect the outcome. There are so many nice little touches in Castle Age that you don't find in every other social war game out there, that it really helps it stand out in the crowd. Besides – who wouldn't rather take down a hydra than some swanky mobster?
The only downside to Castle Age that we'd encountered is the same downside you'll find in any “Wars” style casual MMO – the waiting. Once you've powered through the first few levels, you'll find yourself running out of the energy needed to complete quests and the stamina needed to do battle far too often. These essentials operate on a timer system, meaning you'll need to wait a set number of minutes before they recharge. Energy, for example, recharges at one point every 5 minutes. Even in the earlier levels, this means you could be waiting a few hours before your meter is fully recharged and ready for another go round. The driving force behind this mindset is twofold; knowing that you'll be able to continue soon will keep you coming back for more, and the impatient and wealthy can trade “favour points” to recharge these stats and keep playing. As you've no doubt guessed, these favour points will cost you real world money.
Still, the pay-to-play model isn't exclusive to Castle Age. If anything it would be remarkable to find a “Wars” game on the market that didn't feature the option. And since it's not required, it's hard to knock the developers for trying to turn a profit and opening up their players to additional opportunities. It's just a shame that we couldn't keep playing when we ran out of energy and stamina. If we like a game we don't want to have to put it down, and we really liked Castle Age.
If you're a fan of the orcs and elves set, this is likely the casual MMO you've been waiting for. This is the game Dungeons & Dragons: Tiny Adventures should have been. It's a well-rounded, fully-feature Mafia Wars clone set in a land of fantasy. If we were any geekier, we'd have to say that this game rolled a +17 satisfaction save on a D20. Good thing we're not that geeky, though. Talk like that would just be embarrassing.