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Als die PC-Version dieses Games erschien, behauptete ein englisches Magazin, sie wäre eine Kombination der besten Elemente aus "Sim City", "Populous" und "Railroad Tycoon". Nun, die Amiga-Ausgabe scheint eher das genaue Gegenteil zu sein...

Castles 1 Bevor bei diesem mittelälterlichen Bausparer-Strategical der erste Mauer seine Kelle schwingt, sind ein paar grundsätzliche Entscheidungen fällig: Will man nur eine Burg bauen oder gleich derer acht? Soll der Schwierigkeitsgrad simpel, moderat, angemessen oder gar Königlich sein? Bevorzugt der Bauherr als Szenario Mittelalter pur oder eine Fantasy Welt? Anschliessend muss noch ein Bauplatz ausgewählt werden, schon können wir den Betonmischer anwerfen.

Aber natürlich muss sich hier niemand selbst die Hände schmutzig machen, wofür hat man denn Menüs? Es existieren insgesamt sechs, wovon sich eines ausschliesslich mit dem nötigen Arbeiterheer beschäftigt. Man kann z.B. Zimmerleute, Steinbrecher, Maurer, Führleute, Schmiede oder universell verwendbare Tagelohner einstellen. Weil die aber allesamt nicht umsonst arbeiten, gibt's ein weiteres Menu für die Steuerhabung. Darüberhinaus wollen die Jungs gelegentlich was zwischen die Kiemen, diesem Umstand trägt des Food-Menu Rechnung. Ebenfalls nicht zu vernachlässigen ist der Einfluss, den die Witterung und vor allem heranstürmende Feindeshorden auf den Baufortschritt haben - auch hier haben die Programmierer vorgesorgt und geben dem Spieler Bogenschützen und Infanteristen and die Hand, die zwar nur wenig gegen General Frost, umsomehr aber gegen die Kelten ausrichten können. Schliesslich und endlich waren da noch das Options- und das Design-Menu: letzteres enthalt die allesentscheidenden Türm-, Tor- und Wandbausteine.

Was sich bis jetzt recht vielversprechend anhört, erweist sich in der Baupraxis leider als ziemlicher Langweiler. In der Hauptsache besteht so ein Digi-Schloss aus genau vier Bausteinen (Mauern, Tore, runde und eckige Türme), die per Mausclick positioniert und dann von den Arbeitern "faktisch" errichtet werden. Hin und wieder muss man einen Keltenangriff abwehren, damit aus dem Rohbau keine Bauruïne wird, aber dieses Feature wird durch seine ständige Wiederholung auch nicht gerade interessanter. Dasselbe gilt fur die gelegentlich hereinschneienden Bittsteller und Boten, die man im Multiple Choice-Verfahren abspeist - und für die obligaten Volkaufstände wegen zu schmertzhaft angezogener Steuerschraube.

Etwas mittelälterlich sind hier aber nicht nur Szenario und Gameplay, auch die Präsentation passt sich an. OK, bei der Begleitmusik muss dass wohl so sein, aber bei der Grafik?! Die Baustelle sieht weder in der 3D- noch in der 2D- Ansicht nach irgendwas aus, zudem ruckelt das Scrolling im Schleckentempo dahin. Sonderlich flott ist auch die Maus/Menu-Steuerung nicht, klappt aber ansonsten relativ reibungslos. Castles ist somit kein echter Flop, aber auch bestimmt kein Grund, den Bausparvertrag zu kündigen! (mm)

Amiga Joker, April 1992, p.95

Amiga Joker
Grafik: 42%
Sound: 53%
Handhabung: 64%
Spielidee: 58%
Dauerspaß: 53%
Preis/Leistung: 50%

Red. Urteil: 53%
Preis: ca 89,- DM
Hersteller: Interplay/EA
Genre: Strategy

Spezialität: Zwei Disks, Zweitlaufwerk wird unterstützt. Codeabfrage aus der deutschen Anleitung.

Castles 1 logo

A sort of medieval Sim City, Castles is half about building things up, and half knocking ‘em right back down again...

Game: Castles
Publisher: Interplay
Authors: Silicon & Synapse
Price: £29.99
Release: Out now

S Castles 1 o we have had (or are about to have) city sims, global sims, even ant colony sims. Winding the clock abck 700 years or so for an Englishman’s-home sim seems like such an obvious idea it is a wonder nobody thought of it a long time ago. Imagine it, designing your own medieval stronghold, lording it over the peasants, covering attackers in boiling oil. Ah, the life of an oppressive, sadistic, peasant-bashing feudal baron is the one for me.
Well, Interplay did think of it a while back, as Castles has been around on the PC for some months now. Now out on the Amgia, it offers the challenge of ruling a kingdom and building and defending your own stone castles. The simulation model is based on the castles built on by King Edward I (reigned 1272-1307) to consolidate the kingdom’s hold on those wild Celtic devolutionists, the Welsh.
I say ‘based on’ the ‘real world’ scenario is of a fictionalized medieval Albion, packed with all kinds of dubious characters who carry a sort of sub-plot to the main exercise of castle building in an attempt to give the otherwise mundane stone-stacking a storyline. And for those with weirder or wilder tastes, there is a fantasy world option featuring dragons, trolls and wizards too.

So how does it work? Well, to start with you can build either a single castle or conduct a campaign to subjugate the Celts by building a series of eight. While you are doing this, other factors are thrown into the pot such as attacks by berserk Celts, knights popping up to report on distant battles, annoying bishops hassling you for a game of chess – the usual petty trials of castle ownership. At least there is a dungeon handy for double glazing salesmen.
So, to building. Four levels of play are offered, each of which presents a different scale of resources. Such considerations as the convenience of local stone quarries; how much money you can raise through taxation; and the availability of labour serve to give the impresssion that building a castle takes a good deal more thought than knocking up a garden shed.

The main screen shows the local terrain and it is up to you to decide whereabouts to build. You cannot go building on rock, in forests (very ecological, I am sure) or, for obvious reasons, in a swamp. The best option here is to look and see if there is a convenient body of water handy, and, if there is, to build near it, thus limiting the number of directions from which an enemy can approach.

Next, it is time to lay out the foundations. There are two types of tower to choose from – square and the more difficult to undermine round tower – plus the facility to specify height and whether or not to have windows. To plan out your castle, you select the appropriate tower and paste it on the map several times to form the outline of whatever shape you want. Be careful though. If you get carried away and start mapping out a small city, your resources will rapidly dwindle, leaving no scope left for those most useful of defensive devices, walls.

Wall segments come in thicknesses of nine or twelve feet and, again, their heights can be specified. You can also include arrow slits and cauldrons (simmer oil at gas mark 6 for three hours), just to make the lives of any aggressors that bit more miserable. Finally, it might be nice to have a gate – getting in and out can be tough without one.

And there we have it. An impressive fortification standing all of about four-feet high. Not too good at keeping out the draughts really, so it is off to the Labour menu to hire some workers to build it up a bit. The size of the workforce depends on how much dosh you are raising from taxation (egad, sir, you mean to pay them?) – fork out too much on wages and they will all bog off when the money runs out. You can allocate work teams to parts of the castle, then sit back and watch as the little figures on-screen slowly start to build it up. And boy, is it ever slow. Things get really tedious as wall sections and towers gradually take shape, but – presumably in a bid to keep you awake – attacking bands of utterly anti-social types come wandering along regularly.

Suddenly you are thrust into battle. The workforce has run off and the marauders come and knock down everything they have built. Damn, I knew that Military menu was there for a reason. You can hire an army of foot soldiers and archers, the size of which depends on how many components there are to your castle. Of course, they will need paying and training, so there is yet more financial juggling to take care of. In battle, your faithful fighting units (a maximum of 20) are deployed in the same way as castle components are placed and, once given a target to attack, pretty well conduct the fight themselves. Hum. Do I really need to be here or would the computer have more fun on its own?
At least there are the visitors to keep me amused while the game plays with itself. In the fantasy scenario. Battered and bleeding knights arrive with dark warnings of savage troll armies on the move, and you are presented with a choice of answers: ignore them, send troops or form an alliance with the Celts. Decisions made earlier in the game supposedly affect how the story develops, but you know it will all end up with an army having a go at your castle so you may as well say ‘nay’ to messengers on the game options screen.

While it all sounds quite jolly, and while the sight of your castle design taking shape is fun, it can get rather boring. The battle scenes are more of an intrusion than an exciting aside, for the simple reason that they are not very dramatic. The pace at which the workers do their thing is somewhat snail-like too, and it is a tedious business having to manually relocate manpower every time a section of the castle is finished – haven these guys never heard of initiative?

But my main gripe is that, in trying to offer something a little lighter and more action-orientated, a lot of potential has been overlooked. A greater variety of military units – such as the inclusion of cavalry – would have been nice, and more fortification options should really be here. Sure, you can dig a moat, but that is the only earthwork on offer.

Castles as a sim is not very realistic and as a game verges on the tedious. There are some thrills to be had, but the ease with which an enemy can slight what you have spent hours putting together makes you wonder what the point of building it was in the first place. This is a game with plenty of potential, but too little of it seem to have been realised. I am sure oppressive, sadistic, peasant-bashing feudal barons used to have much more fun.

Amiga Power, Issue 13, May 1992, p.p.58-59

"Plenty of potential, but too little of it is realised."

I f, as the manual says, the purpose of Castles is "to allow you to experience both the romance and the reality of medieval castle building", then perhaps a little more thought could have been given to that old favourite – realism.

For starters, one reason castles evolved was from the importance of cavalry as a weapon of war – plonk a virtually impregnable fortress into hostile territory and you have a base from which to send out the medieval equivalent of the ultimate weapon. So why is there no cavalry in the game?

Another problem: the siting of castles in Castles has too few factors bearing on it. Castles were often built on hills or on man-made mounds for the very good reason that it is a swine trying to mount an assault uphill.
Okay, so 13th-century castle deisng may not have made so much use of the artificial mound (it is an unstable platform for a heavy stone fortification), but a more evolutionary model – perhaps featuring the whole range of castle design, from wooden motte and bailey fortifications to the stone castles that replaced them during the 12th and 13th centuries - would add more interest.

Finally, real castles had a lot more wood in them than Electroni Arts’ game supposes. Towers had pointed roofs, like witches hats, and wooden huts and lean-tos were common - However, your computerised carpenters pack their toolbags when a Castles castle’s crenellations are done.

The game has potential for something really fascinating and educational – but Castles just does not do its subject matter justice. I hope Castles 2 (if there is ever going to be one) takes advantage of it.

"Falls somewhat between two stools."

Upper UPPERS It is rewarding watching your very own castle design going up – much better than lego™ as you do not have to clear it all up afterwards. Potentially fun in a Sim City sort of way.
Downer DOWNERS However, it is less than rewarding watching your own castle design coming down with such ease after you have spent many tedious hours building it.

Castles sounds fun but falls somewhat between two stools. The lack of realism makes it not a very stimulating simulation, and there is not enough going on in the gameplay department. Disappointing, but it is bound to find a few dedicated fans.


Castles 1 logo

US Gold/£40.99/Out Now
Castles 1 Amiga review Ian: Castles gives you the opportunity to march into a foreign land (Wales) and attempt to subjugate the locals by erecting a whopping great stone structure in their back yard. You can then lord it over the peasants from the lofty heights of its walls and turrets.
If things go wrong, however, you can find yourself with rellious peasants, no funds with which to pay armies and workers, and your most trusted allies stabbing you in the back.

Managing your resources is the order of the day. First, choose the basic design for your castle, its location, and whether you want round or square turrets, thick or thin walls, a moat etc. Then start building with a blend of stonemasons, carpenters, diggers, double-glazing and Jacuzzi fitters and such like. The more men you employ, the faster their jobs are completed. To defend your creation from the likes of ogres and Welshmen, archers can be deployed along the walls, and infantrymen recruited. Sounds fun? It is. Sounds simple? It's not. All these men require payment, and this is more or less the crux of the game. Tax the peasants to pay for your extravagances, anything from being generous to tyrannical. Finding the correct balance is very challenging, but there can be no denying that it's most enjoyable.
As well as all these decisions, every so often you'll get a close-up of yourself (a noble, kingly-looking chap) and a messenger will appear. The nature of his message will require a further decision. For example: "Do you require pine, lemon or elderberry fragrance salts for your Jacuzzi?". Your decision could well determine the course of history.

The graphics are excellent, with tiny, cute men scruttling around carrying out your bidding. The only real drawback with the game is that it lacks that certain something which ensures repeated play.
The blurb on the front of the box misquotes this very magazine, saying: "Castles combines the best of Populous, Sim City and Railroad Tycoon." They should've added: "But it's not as good as any of them."

Zero, June 1992, p.58