Kingdom Rush Review – Xbox X|S

In the Wild West days of the Internet, Flash was the most common way for people to create online web games called flash games. Instead of trying to download a couple of gigabytes of data to play a game, these games could be played online right away. These flash games became the cornerstone of many childhoods of gamers, with them being signs of either a lazy weekend or being saved from boredom during computer classes. Some of these Flash games can even be lucky enough to transcend from Flash games to games still alive on other platforms like Steam, like The Henry Stickmin Collection, or even consoles, as what happened to The Fancy Pants Adventures. One such game that made the jump from computer to console was the tower defense game, Kingdom Rush.

You are a general of an army. One day your kingdom, Linirea, is placed under siege by an enemy army full of outlaws, serving an evil wizard who wants to take over the land. As such, your leader, King Denas, sends you and the army out to disrupt and defeat these threats. Thankfully, the enemies may be hostile, but they’re polite hostile creatures, and will only follow a road and will never go off it. This gives you a chance to fight back by setting up four different types of towers along these roads at strategy points to fight back against the army before they can reach past you.

These four towers you can put down are an archery tower, where they shoot arrows out at the enemies, barracks where soldiers come from and rush onto the field with a three-at-a-time mentality, wizards who cast spells down at enemies, and bombardment units to launch bombs at the enemies. As you progress through the game, you will find more and more ways to upgrade your towers. Your archers can fire off more fast and strong arrows, soldiers train and become stronger fighters, mages cast stronger spells, and artillery units fire bigger bombs. At the max level, depending on the upgrade paths you take, archers can fire poison arrows or actual guns, your soldiers can become holy knights or barbarians, magicians can learn either dark arts or reality warping spells, bombardment units can become Tesla units or the most powerful artillery cannon ever. There are different ways your towers can clear out enemies. If you keep your eyes peeled during certain levels, you may be able to find a hidden tower for the level to use, so keep your eyes peeled.

Alongside the towers, you have three other tools to aid you. The first is your ability to summon meteors from the sky to attack your foes. There is a bit of a delay there so be sure to plan around that. The second ability is reinforcements from the peasants, letting you stall the enemies out just a bit longer. Finally, is the hero. Every couple of levels, a new hero or two joins your crew, and you can command and control them around the field, fighting enemies head-on and stalling them so the towers can hit them. There are plenty of heroes to choose from and play around with, so feel free to pick your favorite hero with your favorite playstyle.

When you want to get these units even more powerful, you can use stars to upgrade them. You can get stars by beating stages, with them helping your towers and abilities get more powerful. From calling reinforcements more often and making them stronger hitters, casting down more meteors to damage foes, or making your towers cheaper to buy and place on the field, there are plenty of upgrade paths to choose from. Thankfully, it’s also free to reset your upgrade tree at any time, so if you find one set of powers that work well for one level, but don’t do well for another level, you can just reset and get a better layout.

In order to get the most stars, you will have to master each location you fight on. By beating each stage with 20 to 18 lives left, you can get three stars. For lives between 6 to 17, you end up with two stars. And if you can only manage to scrape by with 1 to 5 lives left, you get only one star. By getting three stars in a level, you can get harder challenge modes for that level, tasking you to defeat harder waves of enemies with certain towers and upgrades being limited, all in one life, so if you’re craving an extra challenge, getting three stars is the way to go. After beating a certain level, you will also unlock the endless mode for even more challenging fights. This game definitely does have a lot going for it for those who want to see every inch it has to offer. This all sounds very generous and promising for a tower defense game. So why, after all this complimenting for the gameplay, do I still feel lukewarm about it?

While tower defense gameplay is always something that’s going to have its own niche, something about this game doesn’t click with me. Again, this is the first game just ported to consoles, so it will definitely have some growing pains as a result compared to later games in the Kingdom Rush franchise. But here, while the gameplay is fine, it’s really the only big attraction to the game. The visuals are definitely reminiscent of the old Flash games era, but seeing the graphics compared to other games with a more defined art style, even if they are Flash games, does make this game feel flat and uninspired. The locations also really blend into one another. There are only three types of level variety here; forest, ice, and wasteland. It makes it hard to determine each level from one another, and as a result, makes them all blend in with one another, not helped by each land theme sharing the same music.

It all fits with the medieval theme of the game, but if someone isn’t into that theming, it can leave room for something more. It fits and ties them all into the same level type, but it does further increase a desire for variety as well, alongside the fact there are only four towers. Sure, the upgrades can make them look more and feel more distinct, but when the extra challenge modes limit the upgrade paths and towers you can use, it can make you feel trapped with no variety. Doesn’t help that the rounds also really feel slow, with even the more basic enemies requiring multiple hits for arrows to beat, and the sound effects sounding generic and uninspired, making it feel like there is no weight between each attack.

I’ll admit, I probably won’t be as down on Kingdom Rush if I didn’t already play, in my eyes at least, a superior Tower Defense game that was once a flash game before getting ported over to other consoles; the Bloons Tower Defense series. The Bloons in that game series feel both faster and more fragile, yet also have more and more crazy and insane Bloons that require you to use different monkeys and different upgrades. The rounds also don’t feel as long as they do in Kingdom Rush. There are also a lot more towers you can choose from, each with its own upgrade paths, with the latest game, Bloons Tower Defense 6, letting them choose from 3 different paths each. Rounds and maps also feel different and unique from one another as each map has not only its own unique route, location setting, and music to make it unique but can also have more varied gimmicks to really make each map feel unique from a gameplay perspective. It’s fast, frantic, chaotic fun that is something when even when I’m losing it feels fun just to see how insane the rounds can get. I know it’s unfair to criticize a game because it’s not like another game I like, but when I keep thinking about how I would rather be playing Bloons Tower Defense instead of continuing this game, there is obviously something that isn’t grabbing me.

Again, this is just one opinion, and the flaws that I may have pointed out may be positives to you, and that’s completely fair. Bloons Tower Defense and Kingdom Rush may both be tower defense games, but they both have their own type of gameplay. Bloons Tower Defense focuses more on the cartoonish and outlandish nature of tower defense games. Rounds feel a lot more action-packed and quick thanks to the smaller sizes of the stages, the quicker balloon speeds, and the powerful artillery the monkeys have just to pop the Bloons.

Meanwhile, Kingdom Rush is more dedicated to a realistic medieval approach, with there being only four towers with only one being dedicated to magic and witchcraft. The enemies also move slower allowing for more time for the heroes and soldiers to fight them head-on, letting rounds drag out a bit before giving you the chance to call the next wave early for a couple of bucks. Despite the similar genre, they both have their own unique selling points that make them worth checking out in their own right. If you’re into the more chaotic side of tower defense games and love seeing all the wacky scenarios that those types of games can bring, then Bloons Tower Defense is the series for you.

For the more dedicated tower defense game fans who want to perfect their craft and focus on a more solid tower team and work within those limitations to upgrade their tools and get more powerful, the Kingdom Rush games are the way to go. While I definitely fall into the former camp, I can also see the audience for the second style of game. Heck, those complaints that I had to this game could very well be positives and helped the Kingdom Rush series gain its staining power, and that’s completely fine. It may not have grabbed my interest in comparison to the Bloons Tower Defense series, but it is completely fair and valid for people to like this slower methodical Kingdom Rush in comparison to the wacky world of Bloons Tower Defense. There’s room for both of these towers to co-exist on this road.

Author: Bradley Hare
Gaming since he was three, Bradley always knew how to stay on the cutting edge of all the latest games. This didn’t stop him from being good in school as well, with him also graduating from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor’s Degree In Creative Writing. While he is a gamer, he is also a writer at heart, and is more than happy to combine the two and write about all the latest games in the world.

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