Castle Conqueror Heroes 2
DSiWare | CIRCLE Entertainment | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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16th January 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
In terms that will generally be found uninteresting, Castle Conqueror Heroes 2 outlines a brooding war between multiple factions that stand to gain from a rebellion. Following a turn-based schematic, players will proceed to eliminate units one by one in an effort to secure the perimeter, gather information, and dominate foes. What makes this game unique is its use of stronghold infiltration and the connectivity of bases as a dependency for survival. Battlefields distribute a handful of bases evenly, with some being free for the taking once they've been bested. The idea is to claim all the bases in your name as per a territorial strategy, with a number of key principles being closely tied to these structures.
Recovery is only made possible by standing along the lines that link both types of bases together, almost like the units are robots tethered to a pipeline that offers refreshment at the conclusion of every turn. Besides just this meaning limbo for characters who put themselves in a vulnerable position, this process can be disrupted as enemies park in front of a base and attack from there, so when you put it all together, what's created here is a dynamic where you have to monitor your existing bases whilst also sending out an army of characters to overtake other bases that can be added to your arsenal. Gaining the victory over your enemies in battle will go towards your supply of MP, which can be used to deploy units from your base. These units are of a disposable nature, so you won't fail the mission if one or all of these die on you, and also unlike the main party members, their attributes cannot be upgraded. But the more you have, the less trouble you'll have in overpowering someone with a good supply of health. At first, this all seems quite tedious to have to backtrack and whatnot, but from a design point of view, this major component manages its duties to a fair degree.
Controls involve the use of the D-Pad for moving your cursor, A to make a selection, and L and R to jump between units on the fly (though it doesn't isolate those that have yet to make a move and instead goes through the entire squad). In terms of the formula and how gameplay operates, selecting a unit will bring up a grid of coloured squares that highlight range of movement and the possibility to link attacks up with one of the main soldiers by means of a helper assist system. This response is intended to be automatic after attacking from a blue-coloured square, provided that a party member is right there with you.
There's also a Siege attack phase where a four-way assault, at max, can be executed with persons at each side of the enemy taking turns to attack, even if they've already used up their individual turns. These methods are designed to share the load, and there are certainly cases where such can be advantageous, but the system is not always true to its word in the sense that it can either backfire with deadly consequences or simply be inconsistent about applying the automatic actions in conjunction with the rules of restraint.
With a proper consideration of the systems that have been put in place, Castle Conqueror Heroes 2 truthfully isn't a bad game, as far as its disposition and pitch for a strategy-based model are concerned. But you will lose sight of the good when you see just how extensive the surface design flaws are. I have to say right off the bat that the game doesn't set a good precedent in its earliest minutes, as the very first mission in the game sees players outnumbered three to eight. An hour and two training missions later, players are bound to feel worn out, maybe even drained before the game actually begins. Little did I know, however, this was just a foreshadowing of things to come.
The pace of each mission is greatly exaggerated and makes the game an incredibly long and arduous drag that not even I, a fan of the genre, had patience for. It's not uncommon for 30 or more turns to pass and many losses (of units) to be had before you finally begin realizing, "Hey, I might actually might win this thing!" But it's not just this aspect that's bothersome, but what happens in the interim. To put it in simple terms, a unit regeneration code is followed on the opposing side that will, as soon as you start to chip away at a base's health, deploy an enemy on top of it, preventing you from continuing to damage the structure until that enemy has been defeated. But just as it's defeated, the computer will bring out another enemy in its place. Plus, the attack power of the characters you have to work with is like shooting pellets at something made of sturdy armor -- you not only struggle to make very much ground, but you put your health at great risk, seeing as the counter fire coming from the bases is greater than your own forces. All of this, from the inadequate strength of your forces to the respawn mechanism, is so very aggravating and by the time you finally get the base on your side, you've exhausted around 10 turns and lost a fair share of units.
To add insult to injury, the design is just plain unfair, with surprise ambushes being a recurring event that causes groups of enemies to suddenly emerge from the shadows of inactivity, ready to take advantage of what little health you have left. Unless you quickly take out the bases, you might as well surrender. Otherwise, missions will quickly descend to a state of constant failure and obstructed progress, a perpetual stalemate that shows little signs of improving, or the initiation of serious, unplanned hurdles that severely damage the game's balance. I wish I could perfectly encapsulate how I truly feel about the design issues they have going on here, but all I can say is that it's unbearable to put up with. After more than four hours of this nonsense, I couldn't take it anymore and realized the game no longer deserved my or anyone else's time.
I have nothing positive to say about the presentation either. The music is terrible, there are technical delays in a few places, the animations and sprite work are on the poor side, and the visuals are of an overall unseemly quality. It could be worse, but I have barely any room at all to make a positive expression.
With an at times ill-advised design execution, Castle Conqueror Heroes 2 is injuriously influenced by some truly awful balancing issues that leave the entire construction with this rather rotten and unsavory feel. While there are underlying aspects that are functional as separate entities, the game is, through and through, more of a test of your resources than it is a provider of any notable fun factor. It's been poisoned by sharp and ridiculous flaws, and as such, I strongly urge against spending money on this anxiety and patience trap.
14/30 - Very Poor
Gameplay 5/10 - Good design principles at the base of it, not all mechanics work to a tee, ill-advised surprises, severely undermined by balancing issues
Presentation 4/10 - Bad music, technical problems, visual scope isn't very attractive or effective, crude animations and sprites
Enjoyment 2/5 - Way more frustrating than fun due to ridiculous nature of its design flaws, length and flow makes gameplay a drag
Extra Content 3/5 - Goes on for hours across a series of lengthy missions, players won't persist long enough to see the game to completion
Equivalent to a score of 47% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System