CastleWars 2 is an unassumingly captivating turn-based strategy game that pits castle against castle, wall against wall, and decks of randomly selected cards against decks of randomly selected cards. Take turns with a computer player or a real human being as you draw from your pool of resources to play action cards that build your tower to the sky or crumble your opponent's castle to the ground.
Following the original CastleWars, the sequel keeps the same basic principles but shifts the interface and gameplay around a bit to make things more digestible. At the top of the screen you'll see both you and your opponents resources and health. There are three resources to keep track of: bricks, weapons, and crystals. You'll need these to cast cards that are dealt at the bottom of the screen. You can increase each resource's regeneration rate by recruiting workers for each one. So, for example, if you have three mages, you'll gain three crystals at the beginning of each turn instead of one. Other cards also shift around resources, but the bottom line is you need them. And in great quantities.
Each turn you can either play a card or discard cards. Most of the time you'll be doing the former. Cards either attack your opponent, recover your health, or have unique special effects, such as siphoning off resources or letting you take a peek at the other player's hand. You can win by either building your structures beyond 100 or by reducing the other player's castle to rubble. Which strategy you employ is entirely up to you, and choosing which cards to spend your precious resources on is where the challenge of this game rests.
Online multiplayer has returned in this CastleWars sequel, and as always, it's more fun to battle living opponents than computer AI. You can also head to the deck customization menu to choose which cards you want to carry into battle and how many. It's a great way to really refine your chosen strategy, but until you work your way through some of the campaign, it's best to stick with the default set.
Analysis: CastleWars 2 serves up the same balance of strategy and luck as CastleWars but with a new interface and much-improved visuals. The campaign mode offers a good challenge, but multiplayer is where you'll spend your time after chugging through the main part of the game. There's also the quick-round practice mode for when you just want to battle it out without all that progression stuff involved.
The interface, while easier on the eyes, does come off as more cluttered than its predecessor, and selecting menu items to discard, use, or get info on cards is a bit of a nuisance. Why not let us see what a card does via a mouseover bubble? A short "how to play" section available from the title screen is probably a good starting point for new players, as the game won't be immediately intuitive for everyone.
More CastleWars is a great thing, and the sequel provides just the right amount of turn-based strategy to keep casual gamers coming back for more.