- Developer: Ironhide Game Studio
- Publisher: Ironhide Game Studio
- Price: £11.00 / $14.99
- Release Date: 2/27/20
- Review code provided by Ironhide Game Studio
Introducing: Kingdom Rush Frontiers Switch Review
When Kingdom Rush first came on the scene as a mobile game, I was beyond hooked. Its sequel, Kingdom Rush Frontiers, saw that same winning formula in a more epic package. I was thrilled to find out that this successful sequel made its way to the switch – but also a little skeptical. After all, this is a mobile game being ported to a console; that’s always a struggle because of the varied controller formats and necessity for plenty of long-form content. The good news is that Kingdom Rush Frontiers fits the bill by its nature.
I will also start by saying that if you played Kingdom Rush Frontiers on your phone or tablet, you’ve played it on your Switch; the game was not transformed at all for console. Veterans – you’ll hear a lot of the basics here, so just skip to the verdict. Everyone else – grab your ale and have a seat.
Alric and his valiant troops are on a campaign to defeat the evil lord Malagar, who is spreading his wicked magic across the kingdom. It’s a pretty simple story told through level introductions and the occasional comic scene, serving its purpose in giving this game plenty of charm and thematic flair.
In each battle, you will stand your ground against hordes of enemies commanding towers and a single powerful Hero like Alric – whom you can choose based on their unique abilities.
There are four types of towers at your disposal: Archers shoot arrows rapid-fire; Mages are slower to shoot, but their magic blasts will melt armored enemies; Dwarven Bombards deal a large radius of damage to ground-based enemies; and finally, soldiers from the Militia Barracks will slow enemies down. They cost different amounts of gold, which you’ll gain by making kills – a typical feature of the genre.
As enemies come down the path, you want to stop them before they cross the blue emblems. Picking strategic locations for your towers and your hero early on is half the battle in keeping big groups at bay. Through helpful (but skippable) tutorials, the game suggests placing damage-dealing towers near your Barracks, so they can pick off enemies that are caught up fighting soldiers.
Wild dogs, soldiers, necromancers – name a type of baddie, and you’ll find it here. Each has a different weakness and resistance, which you don’t need to memorize thanks to an in-game encyclopedia.
Calling the shots
Although every tower defense game suffers from slow moments of waiting for hordes to arrive and die at the hands of your towers, this game is surprisingly fast-paced. You can cut down the wait time for enemy waves by summoning them early (and collecting a little gold bonus) with the “X” button. As you gain gold, you can not only build towers – but upgrade them.
Eventually in your initial playthrough, you’ll unlock specialized towers. Archers, for example, can become heavy-hitting Crossbow Forts, or multi-purposed Axethrower towers; meanwhile, soldiers can eventually specialize as sneaky Assassins, or holy Knights Templar. You end up spending gold on these upgrades as fast as you’re earning it, leaving few dull moments. Not to mention, you are constantly moving your hero around the field to address tough enemies or breakaway groups. Just remember, you’ll need to either budget your time or your battery – because later stages easily take the better part of an hour, and as usual for a tower defense title, there are no checkpoints.
Sometimes, a group of enemies gets too far down the line, and the Rain of Fire comes in handy – with meteors falling from the sky and dealing extra damage; it’s summoned with the “left” button on the D-pad, and positioned with the joystick. Spare Militia members can also be summoned by pressing “up” and placing them. (These two abilities have a cooldown, of course.) Choosing a tower, upgrade, or Militia rally point is as easy as selecting the tower with your joystick, and making selections with “A” from there. It takes some getting used to, but the controls feel smooth and simple after some practice.
All those button controls? You can just ditch them and use your Switch’s touch screen instead. Obviously this is the smoothest and fastest way to play, since Kingdom Rush was originally designed to be a mobile game.
Climbing the ranks
If a stage is proving too difficult – or perhaps it’s a cakewalk – you can toggle between three challenge levels before beginning. When twenty enemies make it past your defenses, you’ve lost. Depending on how well you do in each stage, you’ll earn up to three stars. It’s a dream for completionists, who will be rewarded with even more difficult modes to take on if they get perfect stars across the board.
Those stars can be spent on boosting the statistics of your towers, abilities, and heroes. For example, Mage towers can be upgraded to briefly slow enemies down, cost less, and deal more damage. A fully-upgraded Rain of Fire deals a devastating chunk of damage, and takes less time to charge. Upgrading heroes gives them new combat abilities; my favorite was Mirage since her ranged attacks proved useful.
The art of war
The journey will take you through deserts, jungles, evil sanctums, and everywhere in between. There are downright adorable 2D-animated details in each environment – not just grazing animals, but interactive elements like the Tusken Raiders who make a cameo early on, taking out enemies for you. The interactive environment also keeps you on your toes: you’ll have to watch out for sand monsters, cannons, and even new paths being forged on the map.
The miniscule characters are detailed and boldly designed, each one looking unique from other enemies. Text doesn’t suffer from being too tiny – a common issue, I find, in these types of games, especially when they invite you to play in handheld mode.
Again, considering the roots of this game, another shockingly high-quality detail is the soundtrack. Orchestral music will rouse your fighting spirit, and the clashes and cries of battle will ring out periodically. Heroes each have little voice lines, giving some color to their personalities. Speaking of personality – I have to give a shout-out to the pun-slinging, pop-culture-reference-making Lord Malagar, who you’ll finally face off with at the end of the campaign.
Despite its humble origins, Kingdom Rush Frontiers is a knockout title which proves to be addicting, long-lasting, and high-quality. Not to mention, it’s accessible both to beginners and pros, with three challenge levels. Despite some levels dragging out for a while, there is never a dull moment, and finishing each stage leaves the player feeling accomplished and ready for more. Whether you’re looking for a casual commute game, or a new go-to tower defense title to suck up several hours, Kingdom Rush Frontiers is a must-play.
- Engaging & balanced
- Smooth Joy-Con and touch controls
- Excellent visual and sound design
- No checkpoints in long levels
Even as a mobile game port, Kingdom Rush Frontiers represents the gold standard of tower defense, boasting a strong and balanced battle system, replayability, and pleasing presentation.