Age of Empires Castle Siege on Windows and iOS

Age of Empires Castle Siege Review

Microsoft Studios continues their experimentation in different business models and applications with Age of Empires Castle Siege, the latest entry into the AoE franchise.

This time around, Age of Empires has been adapted to fit what I have coined the ‘time waster’ model. Essentially it’s a full game, but actions are gated behind time sinks. Building a barracks will take just a few minutes, but upgrading that barracks to be able to build your next units may take 10 hours. Gathering resources plays a huge part in time waster games, and that mechanic is ever-present in Castle Siege. Have you played games like Clash of Clans, Star Wars Commander or similar games? If yes then you already know how to play Age of Empire Castle Siege.

Your Kingdom Can’t Run on an Empty Stomach

ResourcesGameplay is centered around building up your kingdom whether it be Briton, Teutonic Knight, or any of the other popular civilizations. To do so, you need three things: Apples, Wood, and Stone. Acquiring these three resources is done with buildings that generate the resource over time then storing them in another building. Each of these buildings (generators and storage) can be upgraded to generate faster and store more.  It’s simple and easy to manage in Castle Siege.

Building the Perfect Army

Army size is limited to how many units you can house in camps. This number can, of course, be upgraded. Upon using these troops in battle they are expended (again, just like CoC) and must be re-trained, in whatever combination you desire, up to the maximum number you can support before you can wage war again. Troop variety is fantastic leaving nothing to be desired. There are plenty of different units ranging from crossbow men to archers of various types, siege weapons, and melee troops. One particular melee unit can put ladders up to traverse walls and does extra damage to siege emplacements. Great at bringing down defenses for the rest of your troops to storm in.

You’ll want to figure out a good combination of units by evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. For a while I thought I would ignore the simple sword wielding melee units, but then I realized they were great for soaking up lots of damage from towers. The marauder units that deal extra damage for buildings are always nice to bring forward once the walls are down and you’re looking to sweep up. Hero units also round out any army nicely with active ability use and added strategy.

Multiple Civilizations and Challenges

Historic Challenges

Age of Empires Castle Siege offers several kingdoms to play, each providing some minor unique elements. As Britons, for example, I get some amazing longbow units and my hero is King Richard. I have yet to evaluate other civilizations, but the game does allow players to switch.

To spice things up, and add an extra layer of something to do, Microsoft threw in a few challenges to play. I think they are famous battles from history. I’ve done two of them so far and, other than offering pretty good resource rewards, they can be quite a challenge. I had to repeat one of them at least 10 times before I finally was able to barely squeeze out a victory.

Sieging Other Players

Sieging other players is the goal of the game. You can enter a random battle then pay a small apple fee to be faced against a different opponent if you’re not satisfied with the matchup. I will often skip enemies who do not have enough resources for me to plunder or who have done a great job creating their defenses and thus look like unappealing targets. When attacking enemies, one particular feature in Castle Siege is the ability to swipe where you want your units to go or what you want them to attack. In other games, units simply have a priority target list. In Castle Siege I can control my units — that’s an awesome feature.

age-of-empires-castle-siege-city-building

That segues into two great topics: (1) Losing resources and (2) Base setup. Resources are lost when you are attacked. This makes the time waster element extra powerful. Setting up your base takes more than placing things where you think they look pretty. Walls can be placed and upgraded, turrets and siege emplacement strategically utilized, and even troop reinforcement locations should be given thought. I spend tons of time trying to find the optimal defense layout to thwart off would-be attackers.

Does the Freemium Model Ruin Gameplay?

Cash Shop

No, actually it’s not bad at all. The current in-app purchases only speed up the rate at which you can play the game. Purchasing gold allows you to finish things quicker or buy missing resources. I haven’t spent a penny in the shop and I never will. It seems way too pricey, and I’ve been able to have all the fun I need without rushing the game.

Available on Windows 8.1, Windows Phone, and iOS

I play on both my iPhone 6 Plus and my PC running Windows 8.1. Logging in with my Microsoft account means I can play on my iPhone on the go then log in to my computer when I get home and pick up right where I left off. The transition works very well, with only a few little hiccups in signing in and out on my iPhone. I will often have to continually reenter my credentials, and throughout the day receive a connection error. I am not sure why this happens.

Worth Playing?

Age of Empires Castle Siege is free. So yes, it’s worth playing. That doesn’t make it without its faults. For those looking to rekindle the Age of Empires feel from your past… you might be disappointed. AoE Castle Siege could be called something else and you’d never even think to call it Age of Empires; The setting is simple generic medieval.  The wait times eventually become pretty ridiculous and, like all time waster games you eventually spend more time sitting there waiting to play.

Despite these flaws, it’s well-built and worth playing until you get bored of waiting around for resources.

  • See my comment on Civilization Online.

    >Available on iOS.
    Yeaaah no. Only exception to that reaction I know of is Hearthstone.

    Yes I know I’m being close minded.

  • I like the new (I think?) Review template! As a lifetime AoE fan, I hadn’t even heard about this game and was excited when I saw the headline. I really appreciate you particularly calling out the generic setting and that AoE fans shouldn’t expect anything special from it. Looks like I’ll pass for now. Good review!

  • I agree, this review format is very nice to the eyes both on the website or from my RSS Feed.

    Other than the game not being available on Android, I don’t think I would play it. I have trouble getting interested in these time wasters, most of them feel like I should arrange my schedule around each individual timer to maximize my gameplay experience. That’s not how I like my mobile gaming experience. I like to play for the length I want when it fits my schedule and mood, not the other way around. I don’t find Hearthstone to be very fun, but at least I can play it whenever I want.

  • I hate time wasters. Especially how they get me thinking I should set my alarm for 3 am to push a couple buttons. It’s just an endless march of not fun.

  • I’m glad you all like the new review format. I think it looks great too! I also think it conveys my the must-know information quickly. Now I just have to figure out how to make it work better on mobile devices, but the traffic we receive on mobile devices is less than 20% of our total audience. If anyone knows CSS and wants to help me figure that out please feel free to comment!

    I sorta hate time wasters too, which is why I was pretty harsh on the 6.5/10 for lasting appeal. I’ll only put up with it to a point. However, that point can be stretched if I play these games in bursts. I play once in the morning, once on my lunch break, and once in the evening. Or, I play whenever I remember to open the app. If I sit there waiting and waiting or checking compulsively then I’ll burn out and quit.

    In a way that’s telling to me. I want to play this game more, but the game itself refuses to accommodate me unless I want to pay money incrementally. How is that allowed to be a thing? I’d much rather just pay an upfront entry fee.

    Think about it like Disneyland. I’ll pay the entry fee (or the fee for a pass) but if I had to pay for each ride I go on, you can bet my experience in Disneyland would be much worse. Here’s the key: Even if I ended up spending just as much by piecing out each ride by individual entry fees, I would enjoy it less because I had to make that decision each and every time. The psychology of it kills my fun.

    When it comes to Age of Empires Castle Siege, I enjoy it. It’s well made. It’s fun. But it is held back by its own business model — not the game itself.

  • Played it a bit before uninstalling.
    Pros: a better clash of clans.
    Cons: it’s still clash of boring clans….

    The time waster I play most right now is spongebob moves in. (yes i can feel the angry looks)

    Normal games I play a lot recently is world of warships.
    But you need a lot more patience then in the tanks variant..

  • As with all of these games, to me it comes down to why you would play this over CoC/BB. CoC/BB run better, have better support, better balance, and are more feature-rich, especially with both having an ‘end-game’ that moves the game beyond “atk to get resources, spend resources to upgrade, repeat until max, quit”.

    As for the psych of playing these games, you just have to adjust expectations. It’s not a ‘play on demand’ style of game, at least not for an extended amount of time. For the simplest actions (attacking), you can do that little burst once when you have troops (and ideally when your shield is about to drop), collect/rebuy, possibly upgrade, and close the app (unless you are boosting and chain attacking for a larger upgrade, which then becomes up to 2hours of keeping the app open if we are talking min/max).

    And again this is why CoC/BB are much better; in CoC you CAN spend more time in the game during a war, providing support, watching attacks, and talking with the clan on how to best execute the next attack. Same for BB with Operations. How much you do that is up to you; if I’m working from home I often have CoC open for 5-6hrs during a war (and more than a few times have run up against the 8hr limit), since watching attacks and providing troops doesn’t interfere with a conference call or whatever. Now at that point, I’d say CoC becomes a more hardcore game than anything short of upper-tier LoL play or something similar, which IMO is what makes it so great; you can play it casually and progress casually, but should you want to actually dive into it, the depth is top-rate.

  • You should try/review Unison League. It’s fairly new on iOS and I’ve been playing it for like 3 days. It’s an RPG but you only control one hero. The rest are either CPU controlled (drawn from a pool of generic characters or offline players it seems) or player controlled. It’s the only RPG of this kind that has real-time multiplayer in the battles and I think that’s what has me drawn in at this point. When you go on a quest you either join an existing instance that’s on wave 1 or create a new one that other players can then join.

    The class system is better than any other free RPG out there. There are 5 classes each with 2 promotions and you can mix and match abilities. If you’re a cleric or a mage you can take defensive stance from soldier to help you stay alive. Some passives are global so the +def ones in soldier would be valuable to any class. You can change classes as much as you want.

    Gear is where their IAP thing comes in and gems are the currency. The free gems from clearing stages and getting achievements are pretty generous and will take you a long way. As always with these games you want to save your free gems for x10 draws to get maximum chance at top tier gear. From playing about 2 – 3 days free gems came in often enough that I could do 2 x10 draws. That is also enough to get you at least a few really good pieces for any classes you want to play.

    And lastly I have started working with CSS quite a bit at work. This site here is a good cheat sheet. http://www.w3schools.com/css/default.asp I know you can use the @media property to determine if someone is viewing via a mobile device and then completely change how the website is presented.

  • @Gringar: I’ll check out both the game and the cheat sheet for CSS. I’ve played around with @media on the site some (and on my wife’s site which is actually a way better mobile experience than this one) but I haven’t figured out how to get it to affect the div containing the review code.

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