Tower defence gets quite a mixed feedback from gamers over the years. On one hand,there’s the casual feel of planning and placing towers and just sitting back while the game does the work. On the other, there’s the tendency for repetition and boredom to set in rather quickly,unless developers can constantly add new options and features to prevent the tedium.
From their first title in 2011,Ironhide Games has gained a reputation and much respect, as one of the forerunners with their Kingdom Rush series of tower defence games. Kingdom Rush released as a free flash browser game on July 28, 2011,on the iPad on December 19, 2011, on Android in May 2013, and a Unity port in January 2014 via Steam.
Sequels have followed,with Kingdom Rush Frontiers,Origins and Vengeance over mobile formats and PC.
In this review,we are looking at the original game being released on the Nintendo Switch,with comparisons to its version as a free to play title on mobile. Primarily, is the Switch version worth paying the price? and what features and improvements warrant the price tag ?
Set in medieval times,the object is pretty standard tower defence fare. Over various maps,place towers to defend against waves of oncoming enemies,and prevent them from reaching the position of your home base and destroying it.
Each tower to place in Kingdom Rush has 4 variants to choose from. Archer tower to take out oncoming enemies from a distance.Defender barracks that will send out three soldiers at time to stand on the path and fight anything approaching. Mage tower that will zap enemies with magic and finally a Cannon tower that will blast projectiles when enemies come into range. Naturally,with every enemy killed comes a small amount of coin that can be used to upgrade your towers as battles progress and stronger defences are needed.
There are also other options to help you turn the tide of battle. After the initial first few maps,a few extra abilities come into the frame that are permanent but take time to regenerate after use.
Always located at the bottom left corner of the screen.We get a mercenaries button that will send a couple of buffed soldiers to help your soldiers,and can be placed anywhere with the cursor,and the big one..a Fireball attack that will blast any area selected,with a torrent of fire and rock but with a much slower regeneration time.
Each map completed is graded with up to 3 stars. This depends mainly on the remaining health of your home base and the time taken. These stars can be spent on an upgrade screen. A tree of abilities that can include everything from upgrading the distance of your archer arrows.Soldier health and armour improvements and increased power/speed in mage and cannon towers.
In the mobile version,gems are also awarded that can be spent in a gem shop to buy items. These items can be pulled from a bag in the bottom right of the screen and can include sticks of dynamite,freeze potions and even a jar of hearts to boost the health of your home base.
By map 4,comes the ability to unlock and use a superhero. These buffed guardians come with standard abilities and stand outside your base awaiting any enemies that come into their range. These guys also level up as they fight and become a useful and essential addition as maps get more complex and waves of enemies get greater and stronger.
From standard enemy soldiers,you will eventually confront everything from fast moving beasts,thieves,evil mages,flying gargoyles up to large orcs,and final bosses.
So after playing the mobile version of the game,I was pleasantly surprised. Not outstanding and looking slightly dull graphically. The gameplay and options available were pretty impressive. Each battle is pretty intense,with enough action to keep you engaged as you plan out strategies and keep the enemy from advancing.
Not surprisingly,as a free to play game. The superheroes screen requires micro transactions to unlock certain characters which didn’t surprise me. So with the upcoming Switch version at a price and on a bigger screen,the outcome and outlook was looking positive.
Firstly, the switch release certainly raises a question. The follow up Kingdom Rush Frontiers was already available in February this year with tweaks and improvements and now the original released five months later?
Things really started ringing alarm bells after load up as well..
As expected the superheroes are unlockable with game progression with no further payment required,but what happened to the gem shop?
The omission is certainly strange on a system with plenty of capability to run the game and the extras,so why not include it ?
So already we have limited options with no ability to buy and use extra items in battles,and more concernable,that little bit of tendency to allow boredom to set in with the extra options taken out. On top of that comes an apparent increased spike in difficulty (Yes I was struggling on the second map!)that from a set 3 difficulty levels. The only way to move forward and get stars was to drop the difficulty to “easy”,because of the vicious genre loop (you can’t get stars,can’t upgrade,can’t get past next map..)
So,from the mobile version to here,the fun and flow factor was immediately starting to diminish.
Things didn’t improve on the graphics front. From the standard mobile screen to the Switch screen,there’s large amounts of map but when it comes to the soldiers and battle animations,it’s all painfully SMALL!! Imagine watching ants fight ants and you’ll get my drift .
Then comes the big flaw that is standard and vitally essential in tower defence games..no Zoom In ! No option to get in amongst the action and see things clearer,and painfully held back to just act from the back row,and noticeably apparent in both switch title versions.
From the touchscreen of the mobile,there’s also elements on the switch controls that feel clumsy. Picking a temporary extra ability like fireball involved two touches on the mobile screen. On Switch it’s the relevant direction button then moving the cursor around the map to where you want to put it. Not great with everything moving about and you want to take speedy actions. Luckily,touchscreen is included here,but there’s no option to adjust the sensitivity,when at times it feels sluggish.
What was clear,is that Kingdom Rush was a little bit of a letdown and disappointment for me,on the Nintendo Switch. From a mobile version that was free flowing and fun to play,came a switch version with a small loss of features,difficulty spike and way too condensed in looks to possibly hold appeal.
Then,from already completing the 10 map campaign on the mobile version. Came a bit of a revelation on the Switch version.
More levels included and extra bosses meant that the Switch version had something extra to offer and an extra incentive to play on further.So from the early little disappointment felt at the beginning and with eyes adjusting to the smaller battlefields in play..the switch version suddenly appeals!
There’s plenty of tower defence games on Switch that are cheaper(even free)that boast plenty of big graphical tweaks and loads of options(like to zoom in and out),as you are given greater access to customise how you wish to play. Here it’s slightly convoluted,where the only real improvement is playing in docked mode.With most players preferring handheld and with plenty owning a switch lite,it’s a bit of a downer! Yet,if you can deal with the drop in graphics size,Kingdom Rush suddenly blossoms and shines at 9 maps into its campaign and starts to deliver a decent portable experience,once and if you have the patience to persevere ..
Stick with it !
Android / iOS.. 8 out of 10
Nintendo Switch …
Thanks to Ironhide Games for the code and feedback.