I’m about to tell you something you won’t believe. There are good tower defense games still being made that are pure in their adherence to the genre tropes. I know, I know. You can’t fathom that it hasn’t all been done before. Here’s something else you won’t believe. Kingdom Rush HD by Ironhide Game Studio doesn’t sport any features that could be considered innovative on their own, but the combination of them is still addictive and delightful.
If you’ve ever played a tower defense game, you’ll feel right at home with Kingdom Rush HD. The title started its life as a Flash game, but has made the move to iOS wonderfully. At your disposal, you’ll have archer and mage towers for direct damage, explosives for area of effect and barracks for slowing down incoming enemies. The barracks continue to generate up to three troops after existing forces are defeated. I also appreciated that the rally point for units could be changed, helping keep checkpoints flexible on more complex stages.
Additionally, players are granted two powers. Reinforcements serve the same purpose as troops from the barracks: jamming up the tide of foes. Rain of Fire drops giant flaming balls on a target zone.
Unlike many games in the genre, Kingdom Rush HD differentiates enemies by more than fast vs slow and walking vs flying. Foes can be armored against different attack types, but in a brilliant stroke, those resistances can be degraded with the right tower upgrades. This makes tower position as important as selection, as you want to put armor corroding towers closer to the starting line provided you have an idea of what’s coming your way.
This brings up one detriment to Kingdom Rush’s format. Campaign completion can net you up to three stars with two challenges worth one each for every stage. In order to earn the maximum on each of the 15 levels you’ll likely need to play multiple times to refine your strategy. This becomes important since stars are spent to unlock permanent upgrades that become critical to progress through the more difficult later conflicts.
Each tower and ability can be enhanced via stars earned at the completion of each stage. These are laid out like RPG skill trees, with each tower type and ability offering its own refinements. Decreased purchase and upgrade costs, enhanced range and attack power and (my personal favorite) armor degradation caused by magic attacks are just some of the 30 different upgrades available. In a brilliant move, Ironhide has made it simple to respec. This encourages experimentation with different strategies.
Game play starts out simple, with a single entry point and unified path. As players progress, though, the maps become complex with numerous access points and branching roads that make tower placement and upgrade choices the difference between a three star victory and defeat. As is standard in the genre, defeating enemies earns gold to spend on new structures and beefing up the existing ones. A small gold bonus is also awarded for triggering the next wave early.
In later levels, you’ll be able to unlock an ultimate upgrade for each tower type. These top-tier defenses then offer two different abilities that make the game really shine. For instance, mages randomly disintegrate enemies or teleport them back on the course. Rangers can poison foes or set up ensnaring thickets. These abilities look flashy (in the context of the accessible and lighthearted aesthetic) and feel powerful.
Once you reach the 15 star threshold, you can choose to enable heroes. Three of these are available for free, with the same number accessible via a $.99 in-app purchase (each). Heroes function similarly to Barracks troops and Reinforcements, but each has a unique personality and two abilities.
You can direct a hero anywhere on the battlefield, and your choice may influence your tower placement. For instance, Alleria Swiftwind (the archer) can attack with her dagger, but she is far more effective with her bow. Placing her behind a barracks will allow her more time to put a shaft through a foolish orc.
Kingdom Rush HD is an attractive game. The graphics are lighthearted, but not in a comical way. The animations aren’t excessive, but I never had any question about what was going on. It all comes together in a nice, colorful package that is extremely easy on the eyes. Additionally, it’s not something I’d be afraid to show my children.
The sound is equally enchanting. The comical sounds of troops in battle, announcing the completion of towers and sounding off upon upgrading are all quirky and fun. In some ways, they remind me of the added enjoyment that Warcraft and Starcraft units bring to the table. It also bears mentioning that HyperDuck, a fantastic audio studio, crafted the music played on the map screen.
Ironhide Game Studio has done a fantastic job of crafting a game that can serve as a masterful introduction to the tower defense genre for neophytes. It is also equally apt at providing a brutal challenge for veterans looking to put their skills to the test. The appealing presentation and aesthetics, incorporation of RPG tropes and encouragement to attempt different strategies make the game a winner. If you don’t like trial and error gameplay, you might be turned off, but then again, you probably aren’t playing tower defense games to begin with.
Here’s the Rundown:
+ Accessible game play that offers a significant challenge
+ Attractive presentation
+ Encourages experimentation with different strategies
+ Heroes add a new layer of complexity later on in the game
- If you don’t enjoy trial and error, you might be disappointed
- Difficulty spikes may be walls to progress for some
8 and 8.5 represent a game that is a good experience overall. While there may be some issues that prevent it from being fantastic, these scores are for games that you feel would easily be worth a purchase.
Kingdom Rush HD was developed by Ironhide Game Studio and published by Armor Games. It is available on the App Store for $.99. A copy was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.