The Castle Doctrine is a massively-multiplayer game of burglary and home defense. It's 1991, and things are bad. You're a guy with a house and family. Other players are coming to take what's yours. Build security to stop them. Study their houses, buy tools, and break in to take what's theirs. Everything you do is permanent.
User reviews:
Mixed (349 reviews) - 48% of the 349 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Jan 29, 2014

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“A powerful, memorable game.”
Alec Meer --- Rock, Paper, Shotgun

“Merciless and thoughtfully-designed... A brilliant but horrifying depiction of a risk society at war with itself.”
85/100 – Patrick Carlson --- PC Gamer

“The most disturbing game I've ever played.”
Russ Pitts (discussing his 5/10 Polygon review)

About This Game

The Castle Doctrine is a massively-multiplayer game of burglary and home defense. It's 1991, and things are bad. You're a guy with a house and family. Other players are coming to take what's yours. Build security to stop them. Study their houses, buy tools, and break in to take what's theirs. Everything you do is permanent.

I'm Jason Rohrer, and The Castle Doctrine is my 10th game. It's a bit hard to describe, because there's never been anything quite like it before. It's a brutal game in terms of its perma-death and perma-destruction consequences, and it is turn-based, so it's rather Rogue-like. But building such a brutal game in a multiplayer context, with absolutely no cushion between players to stop them from brutalizing each other, is quite strange and new.

Everything is real in this game. When you rob someone, you are actually hurting another player in a permanent way by destroying and stealing their hard work. When someone dies in this game, they lose everything and start over. If you devise perplexing security systems, you can perma-death other players when they come to rob you. Watching those security tapes, where someone gets what's coming to them, is an exhilarating experience. On the other hand, you just killed someone and perhaps caused them to lose days of their hard work. And you've been on the other side too, losing everything because of some thoughtless move you made in someone else's house.

But there is no randomness in this game, so everything is fair. When you die, it is always your fault. When things get dicey, you can always retreat back out the front door to save your own neck. Of course, human folly will get the better of you.

Here's what you get when you buy the game:

  • A lifetime account on the central world server that I'm running.
  • Access to the full game source code (after launching the game on Steam, go here).
  • Everything you need to run your own game server (requires a PHP/MySQL web server, download the source bundle to get started).

System Requirements

Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    • OS: XP or later
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    • OS: 10.5 or later
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Storage: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    • Additional Notes: Binary was built on Ubuntu 12.04
Customer reviews
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Mixed (349 reviews)
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318 reviews match the filters above ( Mixed)
Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
174 of 189 people (92%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
40.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 5, 2014
In this current state The Castle Doctrine is dead. This game lacks new players which every MMO game needs. At the time i'm writing this review, only 20 houses are available, and almost all of them are the experienced players so it's almost impossible for a new player to get used to it. In my opinion, it's developer's fault, who thinks this game doesn't need sales. Just don't buy it.
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483 of 633 people (76%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.1 hrs on record
Posted: January 29, 2014
I've had the alpha of this for a long time, so I've played it much more than my Steam account would suggest. I love the concept of this game. It's really a great idea behind it.

The problem for me is that the game itself has trouble matching up to that actual concept. I don't think this is the developer's fault at all. He clearly has tried to balance the game as much as is possible. It's just that it quickly devolves into a sort of class system. If you've got a ton of money, you can protect your house amazingly well and do some incredibly intricate work. If you don't have a ton of money, you're pretty much screwed, because you can't protect anything well at all. And the problem here is that being able to get more money depends on robbing some other houses of people who do have money... meaning that you're up against near-impossible traps and schemes.

And another issue for me is the family mechanic. Having a family prevents you from doing some things for protection because you need to have a clear path for them to escape. But as soon as someone kills your family, you're actually in many ways BETTER OFF, because it means you can make even crazier traps. The amount of additional income they add just doesn't make up enough for the amount of people who will die trying to rob your house if you're able to make some of the more deadly setups.

Again, I don't think that any of this is the fault of the developer. There have been a bunch of updates since the first alpha that have attempted to improve this situation. Unfortunately, it almost seems like it is a limitation in the concept itself - one that takes all the fun out of it for anyone who is starting out. I really wanted to like this game, but I just haven't been able to despite checking in after many different versions/updates.
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64 of 67 people (96%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Not Recommended
273.9 hrs on record
Posted: October 21, 2015
Jason should make this game free at this point, or at least greatly reduce the price. $15 for a game where you might have five houses to play in on a good day? Sadly, while it was a really great game at its peak, it's just not worth it at this point.
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163 of 213 people (77%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
9.8 hrs on record
Posted: January 29, 2014
Good idea, deeply flawed execution. You are not given enough resources to protect your own meager safe, nor go out and rob someone else's.

I have a feeling only those who have been playing a long time have been able to experience the intricate trap building that should be accessible to every player in this game; and is in fact the primary allure of purchasing The Castle Doctrine in the first place. For new players, however, the game is simply a race to rip off someone else whose stash is as equally completely defenseless as yours.

For new players, this is not a thinking man's game. You don't spend your time solving puzzles and building. Instead, you leave your "castle" empty so you can attempt to rip off other new players, as they too cannot afford defenses. While you are out you're hoping you aren't ripped off from someone more powerful or equally desperate, so you can put together some funds. Improving your situation isn't possible in practice. You are barely even given enough money in the beginning to properly wall off an area, let alone build a simple logic trap, or electrified door. Needs balancing.
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98 of 120 people (82%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
12.0 hrs on record
Posted: January 29, 2014
In the games current state, I would not recommend it. There is absolutely no help for you once you jump in the game, no tooltips or tutorials whatsoever. There is a user guide which was very helpful to me, but I don't think that people should have to rely on guides to figure out the basics of a game. It's all pretty much trial and error for noobies, and can be very overwhelming with all the different types of blocks and such, especially when you have no idea what any of them do. While trial and error is good and all, when it's the only way you have to learn the game's mechanics, it becomes quite tedious. I also think some of the games mechanics need to be reworked - such as dying in your own home. In order to finish booby-trapping your house, you have to reach your vault yourself, which I think makes perfect sense. However, if you die while testing out your defenses, you start over from scratch. Sure it makes sense, but I think the player should just simply be cut a break here. How are we supposed to know if a certain trap works if we can't test it ourselves? There's also a five minute rule. In which if you are inactive for five minutes, the game kills you off; this happens even if you are testing your own home. As far as I understand the developer is frequently updating the game so I'd advise waiting for a few patches to roll out before trying this game.

Edit: After playing a bit more of the game I'm starting to realize how broken it is. Rather than using clever traps that require the robber to think in order to break into the vault, I'm finding most people just use simple game-breaking tactics that make it pure luck if anyone succesfully robs you. An example of this that I've seen quite often is making columns with walls with a door at the end of each one, behind one door is their vault, behind every other is a pitbull ready to bite your face off. That is just one of many examples I've seen, which makes robbing other people's houses nearly impossible. This game is a great idea and I hope the developer can find a way to fix these issues, but until then this game is not worth your money.

Second edit: The game can certainly be fun, after doing some research on traps, tools, etc. via the wiki and understanding the game a bit more it became pretty addicting. I still would not recommend this game because robbing others houses is just simply too hard. There's many cheap tactics you can use and in most cases I find myself either stepping inside someone's house, turning around and leaving, or walking around a bit and end up dead with everything I worked for lost. The addicting/fun part of this game for me is building my house, then watching people attempt to run through it, while killing my family in the process. Robbing others is just way too risky, and about 99% of the time will end up getting you killed. As a lot of others have mentioned, there is also a huge level of unfairness depending on how much money you have. I think that as long as the people on the top of the list don't get themselves killed from robbing others, then they'll just stay at the top from people trying to rob them (you get a bounty reward when robbers die inside your house). These giant maze-like houses become literally impossible to break into after a certain point, when just one false step can end up being fatal; and with dozens of doors to choose from, it's pure luck if anyone were to ever succeed. Definitely could use some balancing - for starters I'd suggest raising the measly $2,000 starting cash; even an extra $500 would be enough to make a difference. Whether it be more money to defend your home, or buy tools to break into someone elses, or have more in your vault to attract robbers attention to get their bounty, or more money for them if they successfully rob you - the more money that goes around, the better. As long as it doesn't go to the rich scumbags, haha.

Feature requests: Due to how often you die in this game, it would be nice to have layout saves, which would be especially useful for the start of the game. There's not a whole lot you can do with the beginning $2,000, so once you find a starting layout that you like it'd be nice to not have to build it over and over again each time you die. It would be useful for the end-game as well, and maybe the developer didn't add it in because he didn't want people to use the same layout each time, but I know that a majority of people will find one they like and stick with it rather than going through the trouble of coming up with a new one, if the developer wants them to or not; so a layout feature would just make it less of a hassle.

Secondly, because of how hard it is already to rob peoples houses, I don't think that you should lose every item in your backpack if you make it out alive. Dropping the items to make room for their cash in the vault makes sense.

Third, improve the search at the menu. As of now you can only search by name, and the list is sorted by richest to poorest. Add some more filters, such as "people who robbed you" or "sort by poorest", even the option to search by money rather than name would be nice. Obviously the people with the most money will have the hardest houses to break into, so if you're starting out you could try breaking into some low/mid-tier houses instead.

Lastly, a hand tool when building your house. When making a mistake while building you have to flip through the different items/blocks/animals and re-place them where you want them. It would be much easier and speed up the process if I had a hand tool that allowed me to just pick stuff up and drop it somewhere else, which could then be doubled as a tool that let me select multiple items by dragging a box, and moving them all at once.
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66 of 75 people (88%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
5.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 26, 2014
It was a really good game! The thing is it "was" a good game and it still is. The only problem is the community is dead I tried it out again today, and... 8 houses were present, that's it! I would not recommend it in it's current state
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68 of 79 people (86%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 25, 2014
Pointless to buy this game now, the community is not as active as it was and this hurts the game completely.
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192 of 273 people (70%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
72.2 hrs on record
Posted: January 28, 2014
I bought the alpha a few days ago before it was on steam, I have to say I didn't think much of the game at first till I started to learn more and more about it, it seems hard and complicated at first till you fail a few times and then you are off improving your designs further each time.

One of the coolest features of the game is the security tape system which allows you to see your house being robbed, where weaknesses are and what you can do next time to improve upon it.

This is more akin to a roguelike where you only have one life, things can get rather tense very quickly and it draws you back again and again! .. this is one of the best games I've played this year.. mind you this review is written in January!
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59 of 69 people (86%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
5.5 hrs on record
Posted: December 12, 2014
I wouldn't advise purchasing. What is the point of purchasing to play when only maybe 8 people are playing? This is a multiplayer only game. Some stats following.

Month Avg. Players Peak Players
Last 30 Days 2.1 8
November 2014 2.4 8
October 2014 2.5 9
September 2014 3.1 8
August 2014 3.1 8
July 2014 5.0 13
June 2014 4.8 12
May 2014 7.8 22
April 2014 13.9 31
March 2014 22.3 53
February 2014 84.2 298
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42 of 48 people (88%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
19.5 hrs on record
Posted: May 29, 2014
Don't bother. There is plenty of cheating. Some people even bought the game for two accounts so they could ghost and get insider information into peoples layout. Since it's release, the playerbase has fallen apart. I was so excited for this. This game was brought to its knees by the dev's personal politics and his failure to close some basic gaps.
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Recently Posted
XSG Calculon
0.1 hrs
Posted: August 28
I wish it had better graphics.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
2.3 hrs
Posted: August 7
can i get a refund?
Helpful? Yes No Funny
jus' chillen
65.0 hrs
Posted: August 2
Honestly, I adored this game. I loved it in every way, played it often and thought the creator was brilliant for such a simple yet complex idea. But please make this game free already so the community can grow and thrive, then (if you absolutely have to), when it's at its peak you can pull the plug and demand your (at this point) ridiculous $17.99 (for a 100% dead game). Everybody reads reviews and nobody will buy this in its current state. If money is what you're truly after then make it free temporarily and then you'll eventually get your way because everybody will want to buy / play it when there's thousands of houses to burgle.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
1.0 hrs
Posted: July 14
This is a brilliant game, and it's sad that no-one plays it anymore. I've played it a bunch before I got it on Steam and sadly that was too late. I'm still gonna recommend it, because in theory this game is still great. Just unplayable.

If you're in some community and are able to get people playing again, it's actually great fun. Having 30-ish people online is already great, let alone hundreds.

An update or changes to how the multiplayer works could still save this, but chances are pretty slim to nonexistent.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
AWOL Atom Bomb
5.5 hrs
Posted: July 7
I must say straight off that i really love this game, i have had it for a very long time and I have became very good at this game. Sadly the game has died and it is imposable for any new players to get into the game due lack of players and when you start a new game, experienced players with lots of cash/tools will come in to your house and bugger you over quickly. I don't see the game coming back untill the developer adds in some sort of system to stop high/rich players from straight away accessing new houses who can't defend themselves.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
0.3 hrs
Posted: June 30
Cool game, it's dead.

Check out terminal heist, it's free.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
17.6 hrs
Posted: June 21
The game at its core is simple and great, and the producers pulled it off decently. All in all it is a good game that I WOULD put a lot of hours into, if it were not for the lack of people playing as the games greatness hinges on the amount of people playing it.

So I do recommend this game, in hope that more people will play. But as it is with the current community, it is close to unplayable...
Helpful? Yes No Funny
2.9 hrs
Posted: June 3
Impossible to play due to hypercomlexity
Helpful? Yes No Funny
0.2 hrs
Posted: May 28
This game relies entirely upon that 'massively' part of the multiplayer tag. It lacks that aspect and is now a wasteland of bordeom and abandoned houses.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Nothing to see here
0.4 hrs
Posted: April 16
Describe a game in one sentence #4

15€ I'm never getting back
Helpful? Yes No Funny