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 (297 reviews)
Release Date: Jan 29, 2014

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Recommended By Curators

"A merciless and thoughtfully-designed online strategy game whose clever systems enable a unique and troubling experience."
Read the full review here.

Reviews

“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

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: XP or later
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Hard Drive: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    Minimum:
    • OS: 10.5 or later
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Hard Drive: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    Minimum:
    • Processor: 900 MHz
    • Memory: 40 MB RAM
    • Graphics: Onboard Graphics
    • Network: Broadband Internet connection
    • Hard Drive: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    • Additional Notes: Binary was built on Ubuntu 12.04
Helpful customer reviews
95 of 103 people (92%) found this review helpful
40.3 hrs on record
Posted: September 5
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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35 of 37 people (95%) found this review helpful
0.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 25
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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31 of 34 people (91%) found this review helpful
5.3 hrs on record
Posted: October 26
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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21 of 23 people (91%) found this review helpful
4.0 hrs on record
Posted: July 20
I was really excited about the idea of this game. The author did a good job of providing a sense of "hype" to those of us that enjoy old-school looking and brutally difficult games.

However, in no way did this game deliver what I had thought it was going to be. The author often touted how he doesn't believe in Steam sales and I thought that was respectable so I preordered to get a small discount. Big mistake. It's rare I regret game purchases, but this is some major buyer's remorse here. This game is about as bare-bones as it can get. It's esoteric, which I can enjoy (in, say, Dark Souls), but to a fault. You have to spend time designing a trap for your home and you have to be able to pass your own trap in order to "set it". This is sensible, since we obviously don't want people to make impossible traps. But that doesn't really prevent the creation of "impossible" traps. It's very easy to create a set of traps that are 100% guess work and one step in the wrong direction and it's impossible to escape.

At the end of the day, this just isn't a fun or good game. It looks, feels and plays like a high-school project. I absolutely do not recommend this game to anybody.
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42 of 65 people (65%) found this review helpful
18.6 hrs on record
Posted: July 24
http://www.falsegravity.com/?p=572

This is why I now hate this game. I loved it at first, but I won't let minutely novel gameplay override my principles. Think what you will, that's your choice - I've made mine.
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15 of 18 people (83%) found this review helpful
5.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 6
Used to be good but the game is dead. good luck finding new houses that are fun to rob... death is garentee nowadays
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14 of 17 people (82%) found this review helpful
0.7 hrs on record
Posted: November 12
Very good concept. Poor quality of the game. I personaly was taken by the opening inro and some videos I viewed. Playing it on the other hand sas severly dissapointed after a short while as you can't get very far with out falling prey to a house with a mechanic that traps you. I reget spending money on this and also take note there will not be any sale on this, part of this feels like a money grab with an underdeveloped game.
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13 of 17 people (76%) found this review helpful
0.6 hrs on record
Posted: September 25
I bought this game a while back. I thought it seemed like a cool idea, and it comes with the full code of the game to do whatever you want with. The developer included that with it.

It's a pretty interesting concept but as other reviews say, the game is dead.

Don't buy it.
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8 of 8 people (100%) found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
Posted: December 12
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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8 of 9 people (89%) found this review helpful
11.1 hrs on record
Posted: November 23
This is HORRIBLE! There are only about 5 other people playing it right now... I am serious, it sucks that bad!
The idea was pretty cool, however in actuality noone plays it :(
DO NOT BUY!
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6 of 6 people (100%) found this review helpful
114.2 hrs on record
Posted: July 4
Brilliant concept and really enjoyed playing the game. HOWEVER, the game needs a player base (its not a solo game) and active player numbers are very low. The developer has already moved onto other projects and while the price is still high then I cant recommend. The prices should be reduced to encourage a higher player base, or like me, you may feel you have been robbed both in and out of the game!!
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5 of 5 people (100%) found this review helpful
56.3 hrs on record
Posted: November 30
Game was fun enough in the past, but now there's so few houses around it is all but unplayable.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
4.2 hrs on record
Posted: December 5
It's Dead. Simple as that.
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2 of 2 people (100%) found this review helpful
85.9 hrs on record
Posted: December 15
Nobody Plays It!
And therefore, although it was ONCE a brilliant game, it is now impossible to play and will likely never will be possible to play, as for some reason there will never be another sale to bring in new players.
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3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
69.2 hrs on record
Posted: July 22
Even though this is a kind of totally different experience from most any other game on Steam, it is not particularly special except that it is within Steam's library of games, which makes it a semi active community. That is, you build a decently devious house with some dead ends and electricity for cheap death traps, with the safe behind some random door. After a day, perhaps 3-4 people will have died in your house, giving you a bounty of about 100$ or more each, which you can then spend to further extend the size of your trap er I mean house.

If you want to have fun, you have another approach to take, which actually benefits the new players. You can choose to spend your money on *gear* and go try to break/pillage houses. The reason this game is relatively dull is because, apart from its most elegant graphics and tutorial (not), it actually punishes you pretty severely when you die; you have to start completely over.

The point is, that there is no clear victory or progress. When you do rob someone, then immediately you have to secure your safe into a more safe position, upgrading your fortifications and making the way to your money more confusing and deadly. If you are idle for 5 minutes, you automatically leave the house, making it vulnerable to attack. Sometimes, you can find an easy 2,000$ by finding someone who has not built anything but instead left their house for any reason.

I could recommend it, simply based on how it is kind of logical, kind of puzzle-y, and so forth, but the absolute truth is that it just isn't your typical entertainment, and it somehow makes you wish that the general idea was carried into a more complete game, with upgradable room to build your house, a second or third story, the option to have a turn-based or real-time kind of interaction that lets you decide between buttons or reflexes, and a bunch of other really quite interesting things that simply are not done.

On the point of inspiring creativity, it does actually create a space for puzzle-craft. Where it fails is simply that it could be more visually appealing, it could offer a greater variety of tools for defense and offensive style of play, it could allow for coordination and teamwork rather than a strange list that magically "knows" exactly how much money is there, and therefore takes all the mystery out of things. Despite all of that though, with any of the things I mention, the game itself becomes something other than what it is. It feels like you should be able to put money in a hundred places rather than in the big obvious safe.
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7 of 12 people (58%) found this review helpful
84.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 14
As a "rouge like", expect to lose all progress.
It's fun for a little while, but then the interest curve off and die off quickly.

Interesting, but not recommended for long term enjoyment.
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1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
33.1 hrs on record
Posted: December 27
This game was great at its peak with many players. You would enjoy building your house and make a maze of deadly traps to watch via tapes later to see how people died only to enrich you further. But what you see now is a handful of people playing with a high priced game. The time I spent on it originally was well worth what I purchased it for but when the community is dead on a solely multiplayer game there's no way to recommend this game. What the dev needs to do is extremely slash the price for awhile to inject more players into this game. Until then you'll see the same type or reviews, fun but no one to play with.
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5 of 9 people (56%) found this review helpful
9.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 13
The Castle Doctrine is a brilliant game, and I love playing it. At least, building my house.

Because this game can kill you with one single mistake (even in your own home), and cause you to start from scratch, it is pointless to try and rob someone else, unless you are not trying to prevent people from robbing you.

Robbing others is not fun at all because of this reason, and thus I only rob noobs who still have $2000 and no defences, to build up my own. If you expect to be able to rob, well, this game is not for you.
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2 of 4 people (50%) found this review helpful
3.4 hrs on record
Posted: September 4
THIS GAME IS ♥♥♥♥IN AWESOME!!!! very challenging, your always wondering how to come up with new traps to kill everyone, 10/10
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2 of 4 people (50%) found this review helpful
19.4 hrs on record
Posted: July 22
If you like trap making games (Kagero: Deception II, for example) this game is awesome.

Instead of fooling a predictable AI into falling into the traps, you're fooling actual people.
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