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Do you remember your first… tower defence game? My first real love for the genre was PixelJunk Monsters on the PS3. Back in the olden days, before the kids came along, this was one of those rare games my wife would play (these days it’s reserved to birthdays), but it was a title I would happily sit and play for hours on end, striving for perfect scores on each stage. Well, Kingdom Rush is a little like that, and ever since loading it up, I’ve been hooked.
This might be a good entry point to cover the story, but I’ll be ultimately upfront: I didn’t pay much attention to it. Not because it was bad, but it was quickly skippable between stages that all I knew and cared about was I had to defeat an evil king. Evil is pretty much it, the guy was a douche, standing from his balcony mocking me. Well, who’s laughing now. Hahaha. Me.
Just like any other tower defence game, you have a static battleground with a select number of points to build your towers. Unlike PixelJunk Monsters, instead of protecting your kin or even the buildings, you’ve got to stop the marching hordes from getting through an endpoint. The strategy then is the same sort of concept of choosing the right tower for the job, upgrading it, and on a few occasions, selling it and swapping for another type of tower. Slightly different from its peers, Kingdom Rush has infantry units that you can use to slow down the flow of enemy traffic. This is an excellent device as you send them all to their deaths, while your towers pick them off.
The usual types are available; arrows, magic, barracks and artillery. Arrows are the go-to tower as they release a flurry of arrows at ground and air units and the cheapest offering. All of these towers have two variants when fully upgraded and two additional perks. The arrows, in particular, can be upgraded to shoot faster with poison offerings, or a slower more accurate musket tower. Magic breaks down armour and pretty powerful, barracks eventually create paladins who can self-heal and stop the enemies in their tracks, or barbarians to cause maximum carnage. The final offering is the artillery options; cannons. These are usually my favourites as they do spread damage and have heat-seeking rockets and cluster bombs, or the tesla coil.
You can upgrade the towers using currency earned from killing units, but the game is pretty stingy, so don’t expect to update everything. Again, that’s the point of the strategy side of things. Additionally, you have to progress through the game to unlock all the benefits, but it doesn’t take too long. Aside from these towers, you have two further perks: mortars and reinforcements. With the former, you can rain down meteors from the sky with a relatively slow cooldown. These need to be upgraded to get the full effect, so for the majority of the time, they are a marginal bonus. The better of the two options are reinforcements. Press up on the d-pad and drop them off anywhere on the map for a couple of farmers to slow down enemies. Granted, they aren’t strong, but they buy you some time to get someone like a hero there.
Looking for a hero? You can send one hero to each battle, of course, with varying abilities. Mostly this includes melee-based heroes, ranged using arrows, mages or even inferno-like beings. My favourite was probably Thor who electrocuted enemies or perhaps the ranger with a wolf (her name escapes me). Heroes level up with the enemies they kill (per stage, it doesn’t carry over) which increases their health and damage. They can die but respawn after a brief cooldown. In many cases, they can make or break a game if you choose the right one.
As mentioned, there are further upgrades available for your abilities and individual towers. With each battle, you have the chance to earn three stars (the latter awarded for a perfect score), and they can be used to speed up cooldowns, improve the damage of towers or a reduction in their cost. It takes a bit of time to unlock it all, which is great as that means plenty of replaying levels, which I subsequently did when finishing the main campaign. What was interesting after finishing the story was a new map of EPIC BATTLES to play, and they really were epic with relentless waves of enemies, and once again, not enough money to upgrade everything.
My biggest criticism of the game was the size of the units. They were ludicrously small in handheld mode and on a 55inch screen. I get they need to be small for the maps, but it’s hard to see unit details, only the heroes. The only way I knew my units had upgraded was when they got to their top-level upgrades where the appearance of characters change, i.e. paladins or barbarians. It took me a few battles to get used to it, but once I did, I more or less forgot about it.
Otherwise, the gameplay was immersive and the ‘5 more minutes’ I was saying to my family transpired to hours at a time – I had that much fun, and that involved. One of the other perks that was a bonus more than anything was the in-game achievements. It was a nice incentive at times to unlock a trophy for how many cluster bombs you dropped or how many people you poisoned. I soon realised how long I’d been playing when the ‘killed 10,000 units’ announcement was made. I have no regrets.
Kingdom Rush is my kind of strategy game. It isn’t overcomplicated with lots of units or tricky hotkeys to learn, doesn’t feature a convoluted plot, and it’s so rewarding to get a perfect score after so many attempts. If you’re a fan of the genre, I highly recommend it.
TBG Score: 9/10
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo
Release Date: 30/07/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Strategy
Developer: Ironhide Game Studio
Publisher: Ironhide Game Studio
Download link: eShop