Developer 5th Cell is most well known for its creative puzzle sandbox franchise, Scribblenauts. It has been years since we’ve seen a new game from them though. The failed crowdfunding for the action role-playing game Anchors in the Drift meant that operations were impacted. The studio then suffered heavy layoffs, with only a fraction of the team remaining. However, that has not stopped 5th Cell from making something new. 5th Cell just launched Castlehold into the Steam Early Access program. The developer describes it as a competitive strategy game that is free to play.
Castlehold is set in a world where time and space have basically collapsed. Civilizations from the past and the future have come together, resulting in islands across a vast ocean known only as the Drift. Humanity is not always on its best behavior in such circumstances, so it should come as no surprise that factions have risen up to take control. It is now up to you to liberate the people from these tyrannical oppressors.
The Active Resource Control mechanic, or ARC, is a core part of the experience. Controlling and denying your opponent the gold-generating Villages on the battlefield is key to victory. Players must decide when to hold onto their Villages (which allows for the deployment of stronger, more expensive troops), as well as when to attack the enemy’s Villages.
A strategic retreat can also be helpful at times. With four free battlefields already available, there are plenty of chances to learn about these maps.
Battles take place on hex-based maps made of islands seemingly adrift. Armies are made from decks of digital cards. 5th Cell is letting players start Castlehold with 70 unlocked soldier cards, with 300 in total. There aren’t any restrictions on how you configure your army ether, so it is entirely up to you.
Special units in the form of five unique Captains will enhance your armies further with special abilities. In order to buff up your strength, you can recruit squads of randomized Soldiers, or directly acquire up to four daily Units that are not already in your collection. You will need to spend in-game currency to do so, but completing Quests or levelling up will earn you a nice chunk of change.
More importantly, whether you find yourself winning or on the losing end, Castlehold rewards you with both XP and in-game currency.
As of now, Castlehold is all about the multiplayer experience. There are ranked ladders, casual play, and a mode for friends to enjoy the game together. Get up to speed with the tutorial, and get some skirmishes in with the AI before you start going after human opponents.
Castlehold is designed to be simple to learn, but ultimately difficult to master, according to 5th Cell. The number of different soldiers, abilities, and the way maps are structured definitely play into that. The last thing you want to do is be careless. Otherwise, you will pay the price. Strategy is a must here, as there are no easy battles in Castlehold.
For now, 5th Cell does not have a full release date for Castlehold. The plan is to keep the game in Early Access for the next six to 12 months. The game will stick to its free-to-play model throughout its lifespan as well.