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:
Overall:
Mixed (353 reviews) - 49% of the 353 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Jan 29, 2014

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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
    • Storage: 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
    • Storage: 10 MB available space
    • Sound Card: Standard Audio
    Minimum:
    • 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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Overall:
Mixed (353 reviews)
Recently Posted
Turtle
( 17.6 hrs on record )
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
dedelower
( 2.9 hrs on record )
Posted: June 3
Impossible to play due to hypercomlexity
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Shagie
( 0.2 hrs on record )
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
Swagetti
( 0.4 hrs on record )
Posted: April 16
Describe a game in one sentence #4

15€ I'm never getting back
Helpful? Yes No Funny
<~{Grizzly}~>
( 115.6 hrs on record )
Posted: April 5
Everyone says the community on Castle Doctrine is dead, but there a still a good number of active people that arent structural engineers. People not buying the game because of the "dead community" is completely contridictory, the community would grow if people actually bought the game and played, and this would likely bring back some of the older players as well (which im sure some are thinking, thats okay, we dont want the engineers coming back designing houses so elaborate that not even the creators of the game even understand how to get through, but really there is no time advantage on castle doctrine. 1 mistake and your at square 1).

Anywho, i highly recommend this game to anyone intrested in buying, the community currently isnt very large but new member could easily fix this problem.

The learning curve is rather small, you'll build your house, you'll get eattin by your own pitbulls. The game has a built in note pad type of thing so you can write down the way through your maze, or the combination of switches to disable a door. If you stay sharp and play it safe, and remember how to get through your own house, then you will thrive.

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•☾ Teddie ☽•
( 1.3 hrs on record )
Posted: March 22
Imagine a strategic multiplayer game that limits its accessibility because the dev. believes that sales would wrong people who bought the game early. That is Castle Doctrine. Jason Rohrer made an excellent game and screwed its survivability over.

Don't buy this. There are literally less then ten people online with ultimate builds.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Wet Bird
( 1.0 hrs on record )
Posted: March 14
A game with an interesting concept that suffered from the all-too-common problem of disappearing devs. There are other variants of this game that have a decent player-base still, with actual developement, if you care to search. For this game, however, the price tag is way too much and did not help the dwindling player-base.
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Haydon
( 3.9 hrs on record )
Posted: March 5
2 ppl playing currently
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Im Trigger Happy
( 0.8 hrs on record )
Posted: March 4
it was a good game back in the day now the player number has fallen down to 9 or 8 (if u are luckky) there used to be at least 50-100 players but now its ded dont buy it its a waste of money and time R.I.P castle doctrine :( u will be missed (at least by me)
Helpful? Yes No Funny
Timmy the Tooth
( 0.3 hrs on record )
Posted: February 15
From what I've played of it, it's more akin to a FTP mobile game then a paid for PC game. I got the impression the dev is a bit of a prima dona, from the way he did the "last chance to get a discount" to pretty much abandoning the game. I only wrote this review because I couldn't get the game refunded (think I purchased it before the refund option was available) and wanted to make sure people stay far away from this garbage.
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Most Helpful Reviews  In the past 30 days
3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.2 hrs on record
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.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
159 of 173 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 ♥♥♥♥♥♥me 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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478 of 628 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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160 of 208 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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60 of 62 people (97%) 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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97 of 118 people (82%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
11.9 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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64 of 72 people (89%) 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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66 of 76 people (87%) 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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224 of 318 people (70%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
0.2 hrs on record
Posted: January 29, 2014
I rarely write negative reviews, but this game is one of those games that I feel I must warn people about. As a note: I played the Alpha before this version was released so my playtime is actually above what is listed here.

Given the locked price after release there will be two problems, the player base will stagnate (making the game even worse) and only the 'hardcore' fans will stay playing (again, making the game even more difficult for newbies and therefore worse). I will be very surprised if he does make it, but this game is not Minecraft so it really shouldn't follow that pricing model. It has very little appeal and it has very little replay value, and I would hardly consider it an "MMO".

This is not "hur-dur the graphics sux". This is just saying the gameplay is too vague with regards to what you have to do. As other reviewers said, it's better if your family is out of the equation, and it's only really easy to keep your house well protected and your family up there if you have enough cash.

Unless he goes back to the drawing board and rebalances the entire game and makes actual "neighborhoods" and improves on how the game plays, looks, controls, and feels this game will just remain unplayable. A game should be fun, and this game just isn't.

For now, I'd recommend playing some other "MMO" if you're into actually doing something. This is just 'fix up your house and wait for someone to either rob you blind or kill your family or you die trying to do the same'. Kind of boring. There's really nothing extra in this 'game' to do.

I actually regret buying this 'game' and I feel kind of bad giving it a negative review because it is a good concept just horribly executed.
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191 of 272 people (70%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
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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