Castlot review

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Castlot may be more complex than most of Kabam's social strategy games, but it lacks some necessary soul.

It's unfortunate, but I found my principal enjoyment of Castlot in the names that some of its most devoted players use to refer to it in the public and alliance chat channels. One person calls it "Cashalot," while recounting the dozens of dollars he spent on protection scrolls to level; another calls it "Cast Lots," referring to a gambling-based resource game. They speak from long experience. After all, Castlot isn't exactly a new social strategy game – it's been around for a couple years in beta, and the recent update simply introduced some upgrades to the gameplay and aesthetics. But if my couple of hours with it were enough to serve as any indication, they're not necessarily substantial enough to warrant casting lots of your own in the hope of a better experience.

At least the concept's noteworthy. Castlot takes place in the dark days between the fall of the Roman Empire in Britain and the rise of the Anglo-Saxons – the period, in other words, roughly corresponding to the lifetime of the historical King Arthur. In some ways, though, that's all fluff. Goblins seem almost as numerous as humans, and enough wizards pop up in battles to leave you thinking that the size of Morgan Le Fay and Merlin's graduating class must have dwarfed Harry Potter's by tenfold. In presentation, it might as well be just another fantasy-based social strategy game.

Thankfully, the story does much to set it apart. It might be a clichéd fare full of princesses in distress and clashes between good and evil factions, but it's a significant improvement over the bossy tutorials you usually get in city building/strategy combination games like this. As you level, you buddy up with Arthurian luminaries like Sir Gareth and Sir Gawain, or if you side with the bad guys, you get bossed around by Morgan Le Fay herself. Even the backdrop is appealing in that vaguely outdated browser-based strategy game kind of way, and the recent graphical overhaul did much to make the cities look more like cities instead of ramshackle outposts. (Indeed, the resulting roominess is something of a sore point among Castlot's veterans.)

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