Tower defence games seem to come along like buses: there are none for ages and then two arrive at once. Most recently it was Space Raiders in Space that popped up in our review schedule, yet now we’ve got a much more traditional tower defence game – Kingdom Rush.
First released by Ironhide Game Studios way back in 2011 for mobile, it has now washed up on Xbox shores. Have the intervening years been kind, or should this have remained in the past? Let’s build some towers!
It must be said that any form of story is somewhat slight in this game, as you might expect from a mobile title. Although an effort has been made. We are a General sent to investigate reports of outlaws around a city, and when we get there, we find that the situation is a lot worse than that. The outlaws are actually Orc legions sent by an evil wizard called Vez’nan. Vez’nan has invaded the land we are sworn to defend, and what follows is an attempt to defend the capital city, and then push back, pursuing Vez’nan into the nearby mountains and administering a sound spanking.
The action takes place in the standard for the genre; a ‘from-above’ viewpoint, with a series of paths on the map that enemies can walk down. Alongside these paths are areas where you can place your towers, in order to defend the objective. The maps are not massively varied, mostly running as variants of either grassy landscapes or mountainous ones, and while there is a good amount of variety to be found in the actual layout of the maps, the graphics are pretty simple. I suppose they had to be to run on an iPad, though eh?
Equally, the sounds are pretty basic, with little snippets of voice overs breaking the tension. You’ll hear stuff like “dodge this” when you upgrade an archery tower, or the cry of “I put a spell on you!” when you build a mage tower. My favourite has to be the sigh that plays when you defeat an enemy before they get to your last lines of defence; it always makes me think I’m doing something right. The music is nice enough, if forgettable, and all in all, the presentation isn’t bad for a twelve year old mobile game.
However, those graphics and wotnot take a backseat to the gameplay in the best examples of the tower defence genre, and so it is here with Kingdom Rush. The actual gameplay is almost a classic example of “Easy to pick up, hard to master” and the difficulty certainly ramps up in the last few levels. And you’ll find that to be the case on normal difficulty. Unlock extra hard modes only if you are feeling truly masochistic.
So, what do we need to do? Well, we have a series of paths that enemies can walk down, and the idea is that we have to stop them getting past us, basically. We have twenty health points, essentially, and if an enemy sneaks past our defences, then we lose a number of HP based on the size of an enemy. If our HP is reduced to zero, we lose and have to start again.
In order to prevent this, we can build towers alongside the road, hoping that they pick enemies off. And those towers come in four flavours: arrow, mage, barracks and artillery. To add a little spice, certain enemies are weak to certain attacks, and so you can’t get away with building only one type of tower. As an example, armoured enemies are only really weak to magic attacks, and so on and so forth. As you build your towers and kill enemies, you gain gold, used to either buy new towers further down the road, or to upgrade your existing ones. As each tower gets to level four, you can choose which type they are going to be. As another example, an arrow tower can either become a kind of massive tree, full of fast firing archers, or it can become a tower full of musketmen; they don’t fire as fast but make up for it with power. Choosing the right upgrade path, as well as the right towers in the right places, is the name of the game.
Obviously, as you get better towers and abilities, you will face different monsters. There are fast ones, slow but strong ones, and even boss ones that soak up a serious amount of damage before dying. Luckily, you can also upgrade yourself to keep up in the arms race. See, as you complete a level you are awarded some stars, and these can be used to upgrade each tower, giving lower costs, increased damage, or the like.
There are also further strings to your bow, each of which can be upgraded in the same way. You have an ability to summon some extra troops to stave off a tide of enemies, and you also have the ability to summon a meteor shower to take out tough foes. The aiming of the meteors is quite tricky, as you have to lead your targets, as they are always walking, and there is a slight delay.
There is also another last line of defence – a hero that can stand between your foes and their target. There are plenty to unlock, and choosing the right one can make all the difference. One thing I have found, however, is that these heroes can only engage with one enemy at once, so if they are busy fighting, the rest of the enemies can amble past without a care in the world. It seems having your most powerful weaponry by the exit to the level is the wisest course. And don’t get me started on the necromancer enemies, who summon hordes of skeletons to attack you…
It may be an old game, but Kingdom Rush is still hugely enjoyable. It is simple but compelling, and when you are down to your last HP and a horde of enemies are bearing down on you, it gets extremely tense. It may not be the longest game in the world, but unlockable difficulties certainly up the ante, so if you are looking for a decent tower defense game with which to spend a bit of time, Kingdom Rush may just scratch that itch.
Kingdom Rush is on the Xbox Store