One of XBLIG’s great, and unfortunately, rare, success stories, developer DigitalDNA Games is bidding farewell to the service with one final game, CastleMiner Warfare ($1.00). The first part of that title should sound familiar. I’m surprised it took this long for the Dev to make the no-brainer move of pairing its best-selling crafter (it made him a millionaire) with the developer’s penchant for building enjoyable first-person shooters (CastleMiner Z doesn’t quite count because it’s not inherently competitive). The resulting title sounds like a kind of mythical superhero, destined to bring peace to the galaxy, or something akin to it.
It doesn’t, though. I want you to know it brings me no pleasure to say this, but, for a last hurrah, the game is a buggy mess. CastleMiner Warfare brings with it the typical Call of Duty trappings that DigitalDNA has sampled twice before; you kill guys and / or complete certain gameplay challenges, for which you earn experience to level up / unlock new items, and cash to purchase a host of building block goodies. Perks and killstreaks are back as well, featuring mostly returning favorites, like sleight of hand, temporary armor, and a rocket launcher for your secondary.
Four maps are available from the start, with varying environments (Forest, City, etc.) designed to showcase what the game can do with its blocks, while the CastleMiner hook naturally allows players to take and edit those pre-existing maps, or build their own to then share in online battle. You are automatically equipped with a mining pick to alter the landscape, but in a twist, you’ll have to first unlock, then buy, the various block styles on tap. Once you do, you’re free to place them in-match, presumably to build fortifications (not advisable, since people are jerks and will shoot you) or play the troll and drop water blocks everywhere, like me.
Of course, this ability to flex your artistic muscle while simultaneously gunning down fools is all dependent on the online aspect being solid, which it isn’t. Granted, most online games have their share of connectivity issues, but more often than I liked, I was unceremoniously dropped from matches, while other games returned in search didn’t even permit me to join. I was even met with a pair of game-ending error screens, forcing me to return to the dashboard and reboot the game. Respawning caused some issues as well, placing me in the dark(!), underground(!), with no easy way to determine a route back to the surface. There’s probably a good ‘Six Feet Under’ joke in there somewhere.
When all its parts are in working order (that’s currently about 60% of the time), CastleMiner Warfare is a fun (but definitely familiar) shooter that plays it a little loose for a farewell. The new creative licence is a welcome addition, though you’re fine to pass on this and stick to something more stable in the ‘crafter / shooter’ genre. The game may leave a somewhat sour taste behind, but it doesn’t diminish what DigitalDNA was able to do on XBLIG. Here’s to hoping the developer does great things for Indies on Xbox One and beyond.