You need to try building your own castles block by block in this brilliant RTS demo

Soldiers defend against mutant monsters in Cataclismo.
(Image credit: Digital Sun)

Well, I can now say definitively, if your country comes under siege from an unending horde of mutants, you do not want me building your defences for you. After my sloppy stonework left archers without a clear line of sight to their foe and bomb lobbers stranded on outcroppings as the stairs collapsed behind them, it's frankly a miracle my settlement survived the night. But I'm still having a blast anyway.

Cataclismo is a wonderfully clever new RTS from the developer of Moonlighter and most recently The Mageseeker. Based in a strange and apocalyptic fantasy world, it challenges you to build up a settlement and keep it safe from monsters determined to destroy it. The brilliant part is that you build your defences piece by piece, in a manner inspired by Lego, allowing you the freedom to craft whatever ingenious (or, in my case, useless) fortresses you can imagine.

Intricately layered systems add all sorts of wrinkles to your building. Different classes of soldier operate best at different elevations—so while archers, for example, like being high above their foe, lobbers actually need to be lower down to chuck their spikey explosives most effectively. Building special, lower firing platforms is a sound strategy—except it's the height of a wall that determines its overall toughness, making such structures points of vulnerability if not well-placed. 

Castles can also incorporate various "tactical pieces" to improve your chances—such as merlons (those spiky teeth shapes you get on castle walls) which improve the weapon range of any soldier standing behind them, or banners that buff the damage of anyone standing directly adjacent. It's only after setting up a lovely row of these enhancements that I realise my men don't actually have a way up there—to save on precious stone, I build a set of wooden stairs and parapets. Without realising it, I've ended up following real-world castle building conventions, and the results are as aesthetically pleasing as they are effective. 

Even inside the safety of your walls, building is a three-dimensional affair. Vital resources are often up on raised mesas, forcing you to construct efficient paths up and down for your workers. Certain buildings are even required to be high up—such as air filters that counteract the deadly mist that mutates people into horrors—and with some creative construction you can actually stack them on top of other buildings to maximise your use of space. 

(Image credit: Digital Sun)

With limited stone and wood to go round, and only a handful of warriors at your command rather than great legions, it's all about being clever and efficient with what you've got. And even though my first attempt managed to be neither, I'm immediately sucked in, eager to refine my designs and figure out the best ways of keeping evil at bay. Give it a go and see if you catch the castle-building bug too—it currently has a free demo on Steam, and if you like what you play, you can back it in its currently active Kickstarter campaign

Robin Valentine
Senior Editor

Formerly the editor of PC Gamer magazine (and the dearly departed GamesMaster), Robin combines years of experience in games journalism with a lifelong love of PC gaming. First hypnotised by the light of the monitor as he muddled through Simon the Sorcerer on his uncle’s machine, he’s been a devotee ever since, devouring any RPG or strategy game to stumble into his path. Now he's channelling that devotion into filling this lovely website with features, news, reviews, and all of his hottest takes.