Kingdom Rush from Ironhide Game Studio and Armor Games is a new iPhone port of last year’s popular Kingdom Rush HD. The title is a highly-polished tower defense game that has received universally positive reviews from press and public alike.
Kingdom Rush’s game structure is similar to most other tower defense titles. Monsters proceed down one or more “lanes” towards a point the player must defend, and the player is able to build several different types of tower at predefined “strategic spots” along the pathway. To begin with, the player has access to four different types of tower, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, but as the game progresses the player is able to upgrade these towers as well as gain access to eight specialist towers, “hero” units and a variety of special abilities.
While Kingdom Rush’s structure is very conventional, its gameplay offers a few pleasing new twists on the base formula. For example, the use of “barracks” towers summons melee units onto the battlefield rather than firing projectiles at enemies. While units are engaged in melee combat, they stop moving, so barracks towers can be combined effectively with other towers to slow the progress of the advancing hordes while pelting them with projectile fire. Similarly, the “reinforcements” ability allows players to summon soldiers onto the field anywhere they please, allowing for either the slowing of the horde or a last-ditch attempt to take out some of the attackers if they manage to break through the player’s main lines of defense.
Players may upgrade their towers’ abilities through spending the stars earned from successfully completing levels. These stars may also be used to unlock powerful “hero” units, allowing for great flexibility in the way players approach the various levels. After completing a level once, two different game modes also open up, providing the player with significantly more difficult challenges over and above the already rather taxing “normal” mode.
It’s the difficulty factor of Kingdom Rush that lets it down somewhat, because this difficulty isn’t always the fault of the player. Some levels appear paced in such a way that it is impossible to keep up with the advancing hordes, and the artificial intelligence of the “reinforcement” and “barracks” units sometimes fails, leaving them standing immobile on the side of the road while enemies simply charge past them. Similarly, some of the powerful special abilities (many of which have a long “cooldown” period) don’t make it entirely clear where their area of effect will be, meaning that they can be easily wasted.
These flaws aside, however, Kingdom Rush is a good entry into the tower defense genre, and many players will be pleased to note that the game does not rely on in-app purchases to progress. There are some in-app purchases available to unlock additional heroes, but at no point is progress halted (or at least made significantly more difficult) to those who do not wish to pay more than the $0.99 price of admission. Rather, the in-app purchases are present simply to provide a greater degree of customization to the player, and to provide additional income streams to the developer and publisher in a non-obtrusive, player-friendly manner.
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