The castle is surely one of the most stupid housing ideas in the world. They're cold, draughty, unhygienic and take years to build.
And then hundreds of years later, they fall to pieces and American tourists come and trample them to the ground in their loud Hawaiian shirts and take pictures of all the rubble because it's "quaint".
No, castles are not high on my list of great places to live. But here comes a game that promises to recreate the fun and excitement of building a castle, or three. All the joys of laboriously dragging huge chunks of stone across the country to construct a big, smelly castle.
In fact, I think the only reason people lived in castles was because they took so long to build that they had to live in them, or they'd have wasted half their lives building very big and heavy garden sheds.
So, can you make an exciting game out of such a dubiously entertaining subject? Well, almost. Naturally the rather sedate pace of such a task is going to startle the hardcore shoot-'em
On the other hand, if you're a more laid back kinda person who likes to ponder over problems and stroke your chin in a thoughtful, Jimmy Hill-type way, then stick around and we'll get stuck into Castles.
You just design the castle, making sure you stick loads of walls in for no good reason all over the place and silly towers just for a laugh, hire some peasants to actually build the thing for you, tell them which bit to start work on and leave them to it.
When they've finished, tell them to start work on another bit. And if you don't build the walls at the same rate, they become unstable and the whole thing crumbles to the ground. Not particularly tricky, and to be honest, it's too long-
So, just to keep your regal mouse button a-clicking, there are a profusion of other kingly tasks for you to turn your attention to.
Recruiting and maintaining an army in case of an attack is always important. Keeping a close eye on your spending should prevent you running out of readies, and if by some stupidity you do run low (ahem, like I did) then just up the tax rate and take it from the little people.
And every now and then, you'll be approached by one of your subjects asking for some divine advice from your good self.
So Ethelred the Obscene has been bothering livestock again, has he? Will you let him off? Will you send some knights round to give him a kicking? Or will you have some of his more tender organs removed with a large axe? Decisions, eh?
Everyone knows that a good medieval king just chopped everyone up, and it's pretty good fun bellowing "off with his doodahs!" at the monitor.
You don't just make decisions concerning the private functions of your more dubious peasants, either. You could become embroiled in a scrap between two feuding dukes or something and have to prevent a Civil War. Or you may be approached by a rival king who offers a truce. Do you trust him, or do you chop his head off? Exactly! You're getting the hand of it already.
All the while, just keep an eye on how the castle's coming along. Give the little fellas a holiday now and again, make sure their pay is just enough for a scabby loaf of bread and some dead pig, and they'll be as happy as Larry Whoever Larry is.
Inevitably, you'll come under attack and be forced to defend your half-built homestead. This is where the army comes in. Strangely enough.
You'll be given ample warning of where the enemy are attacking from, and then you get to arrange your archers in the towers of the castle, and along the walls, and set your infantry facing the enemy. When they're in sight, click on the infantry and watch them scuttle off to get beaten up while the archers do all the work and kill the enemy from afar.
If the enemy get close enough, they'll start to topple the walls and undo all your hard work.
The enemy also have another rather fiendish contraption. It's like a big tent on wheels full of dead pigs and stuff. They wheel it up to a part of your castle, usually one of the supporting towers, and then all the gas that builds up inside the pigs as they rot explodes and the wall collapses covered in bits of big. Very tasty. Who said chivalry was dead, eh?
After the battle, providing it wasn't a complete massacre, you start to repair the damage and mutter under your breath about what those dastardly Celts can do with their battle
And so it goes on until you've finished your castle, at which point you get to go to bed with a nice mug of Old Rumble's Gut Rot Real Ale and have a snooze in your new house. Probably (I couldn't actually finish my castle without running out of money).
Time to change into my Criticism Hat now, for a bit of nit-picking. First of all, it's slow. Not slow in a "badly programmed" sort of way, but slow in a "sit watching for 15 minutes while some stick men slowly build a wall" sort of way.
This means that it takes absolutely ages to build a proper castle, as they're usually made up of about 50 or so sections. Plus, and this really annoyed me, the manual doesn't actually contain instructions as such.
It tells you what to do in the form of a waffly tutorial about some king or other being told how to play Castles by one of his chums. Very funny (not!) and very useful (double not!). This meant that for ages I was watching absolutely nothing happen and I had no idea why.
A simple step-by-
Other niggles are the jerky scrolling, which makes the combat a real drag to watch and control, and the fact that it's sometimes hard to tell whether or not you actually did click on the options.
Some nice clear icons wouldn't have gone amiss. Still, even after these gripes, I quite enjoyed playing Castles. But it took a while. Let's just say that if you're looking for an instantly appealing game then you should run away from this screaming.
But if you like a bit of strategy with some building site-type bits bolted on, and you can ignore the sloth-like pace of it all, then this may suit you.
All in all, a nice idea that just doesn't work in the long run.