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Kingdom Rush Review: High Quality Tower Defense

There’s almost nothing new anymore in the tower defense genre, and so Kingdom Rush, the recent release from Armor Games, doesn’t try to give us anything too new. It just tries to do tower defense incredibly well. It succeeds.

Kingdom Rush is a medieval-themed TD game with fantasy RPG elements. The setting is a typical Middle Ages kingdom beset by orcs, trolls, wolves, and other fantasy baddies. Like in any TD game, you’ve got several basic tower types — soldier, shooting, magic, and bombard — and a variety of upgrades to purchase for each. As you go through each level you also earn stars that can be used to unlock even more tower abilities, as well as some character hero units. All of this is done well, with no complaints in terms of design or execution.

The gameplay itself can be difficult. Even on the normal difficulty, some of these missions are tricky! You’ll be pulling your hair out on the first Mine level, mark my words. I loved the challenge presented here, as it made each victory worthwhile. I can’t stand a blindingly easy TD game!

My favorite element of Kingdom Rush, and some of the most novel elements, are the on-the-ground troopers that tie up enemies, slowing them down so that towers can get more hits in. The ability to place them strategically when and where you need them is great, and really makes playing more than just building towers and then watching things unfold.

There are also rechargeable abilities that you use each round, including mercenaries (troop pairs you can place anywhere to tie up enemies) and a volcanic strike (rain fire on some enemies from above!). These powers are sometimes vital to a winning strategy, and so you cannot just disengage from Kingdom Rush; you have to pay attention. It’s a great addition to interaction in what is usually a passive play genre once the bad guys start marching.

The game is actually a port of a PC-based version, and it shows in some of the ways the game plays. An example: each level is long. There’s no casual 5-minute play here; a typical board can run twenty minutes and requires a fair amount of attention. While you can pause the game at anytime, I found that doing so would almost always make me lose, as I’d lose track of my board strategy. Kingdom Rush is a game I want to play at length.

My one major complaint about the game is its total lack of speed control. Like any TD game, there are times when I would like to speed up the game. I can’t do that here. It’s an odd omission, since it’s fairly ubiquitous in other TD games; and given the length issue noted above, it would help make the game more iOS friendly.

It should be noted that there are both iPhone and iPad versions of this game. This review is for the iPhone version, but the iPad version is substantively identical. I do wish they’d just gone with a universal build, but as with any game like this, I’ll gladly pay for different versions if I’m not being nagged to buy IAPs.

It’s been a long time since I kept a tower defense game on my iPhone, but Kingdom Rush will probably linger on my device for awhile. It simply does tower defense right.

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5

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