Many defense games seem to be the same: a dull soundtrack, unimpressive graphics, and a rehashed theme. But just when we thought that the generic, overcrowded genre wasn't worth playing anymore, in glorious triumph and with much fanfare descends Ironhide Games' Kingdom Rush, a fantasy tower defense game that's an absolute joy to play!
As the king's military general in the vast Kingdom of Linirea, your task is to place towers over a fixed path and slay all the predetermined waves of bandits, goblins and other nasty fiends. If the invaders overwhelm your forces, they will slaughter your kingdom's helpless inhabitants and it's Game Over. Fortunately, you are given four basic tower types to choose from to hold off the invaders. Each tower type can be upgraded to two different paths and given special abilities. The "Barracks" tower is particularly useful because it sends out free-moving units that can stall the malevolent hordes long enough for more powerful towers to annihilate them.
This game teaches you how to play by trial and error. Each wave is perfectly balanced, which is surely the result of diligent play-testing. Losing a level is entirely your fault and not the developers being cheap shots. Besides placing towers, you may choose to rain fiery death upon your enemies with a meteor storm or summon bonus troops anywhere on the battlefield. These spells cannot be spammed because they are on a cooldown clock.
Unlike most defense games, the difficulty isn't artificially ramped up by increasing the bad guys' base HP and defense. Every enemy has weaknesses that may be exploited by smart tower placement and upgrades. Tower placement is accompanied by witty, humourous one-liners that are chock full of pop culture references. Upgrades allow you to slow down the enemy, inflict more damage, maximize range, launch some AoE shrapnel or even insta-kill. You'll also discover that there is no need to fast forward the action, since the bad guys march at a speed that keeps the flow of the game moving seamlessly at a perfect pace.
Every stage bursts with vivid colour; the high-quality sound effects and the stylish, cartoony visuals ensures that the game looks and sounds awesome. Watching the mini soldiers fend off fully tooled-up orcs, yetis, and shadow archers reinforces the fantasy-comedy theme that Ironhide so diligently attempts to create. On top of the balanced gameplay and cool graphics, Kingdom Rush boasts over 30 unique enemies, over 50 achievements, 8 specialized tower upgrades, hero characters, and a robust skill tree to customize your defensive strategy. The intense boss fights and zany enemy types are sure to keep you entertained as you hack, slash, shoot, bomb, and zap your way to victory.
This game brings us back to why tower defense games were great in the first place, but it leaves you wanting more despite its occasional updates. Kingdom Rush is a perfect balance of simplicity and depth. It didn't reinvent the genre, but it took everything we knew tower defense to be and refined it to the point that it almost feels new again. If you're looking for innovation, Ironhide’s smash hit offers nothing new. However, its fantastic presentation makes it a solid title that every strategy fan should not miss. This is tower defense at its purest: simple, effective, and loads of crazy fun!