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This Warcraft 3 inspired RTS game is like building castles with Lego

New RTS game Cataclismo is all about the mix of beautiful but functional castle design, inspired by Spanish architecture and Warcraft 3.

Castles have always been a great place to hold out against the hordes, and that’s as true in the likes of Lord of the Rings as it was in real-life human history, and even in the best strategy games such as Warcraft 3. Cataclismo is a new RTS game all about the beauty and function of great castle design, and PCGamesN spoke to Digital Sun’s game design director Vicent Ramírez Luzón at GDC about the game and the design inspirations of the team.

Cataclismo is a real-time strategy game about building out a functional castle, brick by brick, that’s capable of serving as a bastion to hold out against ever-growing swarms of horrifying foes. Core to that experience, then, is getting the castle designing right. While they can certainly be impressive, majestic buildings in their own right, “Castles look the way they look because they are useful for battle,” Luzón points out.

Getting that design right for Cataclismo “was most of my headaches,” he laughs. “We really wanted [it to be] that beautiful castles are also the most useful castles, and that was not what was happening [during testing].” Testers were creating incredible structures, he explains, but they weren’t working well. “We really wanted beautiful castles to be the best way to defeat the enemies.”

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Cataclismo encourages this design with decorations and unit bonuses that provide boosts when applied to optimal setups. Certain units such as archers will want to be higher up, while others need to be closer to the ground to be effective, all of which is complemented by your more versatile hero unit.

A lot of the team is from the Castile region in Spain, Luzón says, a name meaning “land of castles.” “So yeah, we kind of breathe castles,” he remarks. Digital Sun has also grown dramatically since its first game Moonlighter, which launched in 2018. “When Moonlighter was released we were about 20 people – we are now 60 people.” That includes some in other countries, but the core influences are very much rooted in the team’s Spanish origins.

While castle-building is the central focus, the game’s campaign, which is estimated to take roughly 25 hours, also features “adventure levels” focused on exploring with your hero and fighting smaller groups of enemies. Luzón compares this to Warcraft 3, one of the most iconic names in the genre – though he notes that the asymmetrical nature of combat in Cataclismo means it isn’t really designed for multiplayer.

Cataclismo - Hordes of enemies cluster around the entrance points of a giant castle.

Where that collaboration with other players really can shine, however, is the game’s creative mode. With the freeform, Lego-like creativity of the castle building, Luzón hopes that “a lot of people that are not that into strategy games are going to be interested in Cataclismo because of the building castles your way and tinkering with small pieces and other things.”

Digital Sun’s level editing tool will be made available for players in-game, allowing you to set up castles and cities however you want, spawn in enemies, and create your own challenges or scenarios that you can share via the Steam Workshop for other players to try. Even better, you can turn these designs into blueprints that can then be built during standard play if you have enough resources to make them.

That adds a really exciting element where players, given enough time and creativity, could replicate entire real-world structures – or even some of the most famous fictional ones. Luzón suggests Minas Tirith, the vast capital city of Gondor from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which is certainly somewhere that feels like a good place to hold out against the hordes.

Cataclismo - A small castle built among woods in a misty forest.

Cataclismo releases on Steam Tuesday, July 16. In the meantime, you can try it out for yourself right now thanks to a free Steam demo, and add it to your wishlist to keep track of when it launches.

If you can’t get enough of building and defending an impressive base, you’ll want to make sure to explore the best RTS games on PC right now. Alternatively, look forward to more of the biggest and best upcoming PC games in 2024 and beyond with us.

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Additional reporting by Nat Smith for PCGamesN at GDC.