[Review] Kingdom Rush – Nintendo Switch

  • Developer: Ironhide Game Studio
  • Publisher: Ironhide Game Studio
  • Release date: 30/7/2020
  • Price: £8.00 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Ironhide Game Studio

Introducing: Kingdom Rush Nintendo Switch Review

Tower defense games are one of those genres that I always had something of a passing interest in, but I didn’t really have a deep dive into. Instead, I was more than content to stay in one corner of gaming and just have a decade-long love affair with the Bloons Tower Defense series of games. However, getting the chance to branch out is never a bad thing, and I think that taking my first step deeper into the pond will have begun with Kingdom Rush.

Archers Ready!

Kingdom Rush’s story is something that can be really easy to overlook since it’s just told in short little paragraphs before each stage. That’s not a bad thing, though, because the tower defense genre is one that lives and dies on gameplay rather than the story. In all reality, it’s just simple little cliff-notes in order to give you the basic idea of why you are defending the specific places that you are. There’s a great variety in terms of locations, from forest, to city, to snowy mountaintops, and even the lair of an evil wizard. There is a real sense that you are progressing into more and more dangerous places, even if you don’t actually pay attention to the context of the story itself.

This is helped by all the stages being laid out on a really cute little map with dotted lines charting your path. I actually took a look at the free-to-play mobile version of this game, and was excited to see that the map is much more detailed in the Switch version, which was a nice touch that made the world of the game just a touch more vibrant. 

That’s right. This is another port of a mobile game coming to the Switch, though in this case it seems to be specifically a port of the PC version that was itself an enhanced version of the mobile game. However, I am definitely going to have to say that if you like the mobile version, the Switch edition is well worth the cost. All the monetization has been stripped out so you get everything that a mobile player would have to grind or pay real money for. From what I can tell, the gameplay itself is relatively unchanged, so if you are curious, it is well worth using the mobile version as a free demo!

Attention!

Kingdom Rush sees you playing a selection of four towers along a path in order to prevent oncoming enemies from getting to the end of it. Each game like this has its own quirks, and in this case it is that there are a select number of predetermined locations where the game will allow you to place the towers. This has the added challenge of meaning that you will only be allowed a certain number of towers overall. The simplicity of having only four options to choose from does help this a lot, though, as the towers do upgrade, and instead of losing one of your precious spots to a very specified – but weak – tower, you can instead specify the tower after it is already powerful enough to be deserving of the spot. 

The second quirk that Kingdom Rush adds is that it is a less passive experience than some other tower defense games. You have the ability to drop in a few peasant soldiers to help out with the oncoming enemies. They aren’t very powerful and likely won’t be able to take out many enemies on their own, but they can hold most up for a precious moment to allow an archer or mage to get in that last shot that they need. There is also the ability to drop flaming lava rocks from above, giving excellent crowd control or dealing heavy damage. Both of these are on a cooldown timer so you’re kept active and engaged instead of simply watching passively as your towers to all of the work.

The addition of a set of skill trees for each tower where you can spend the stars that you earn for high performance in the levels themselves give both an incentive to do well, and a reward for doing so. I was thrilled to see that the skill trees could be reset at any time so that you could re-spec them on a level by level basis. It’s a true blessing, and I would often find myself playing not only with the placement of my towers, but with which ones I had buffed up before even beginning. 

Stand Firm Men!

There are very few downsides in the gameplay department here, honestly.  However, the biggest one is that the difficulty curve is very steep. This is not a great first tower defense game in some ways. While it is absolutely amazing that you are able to change your difficulty on a level by level basis to keep from getting stopped up, that won’t change some of the overall things that can make the game harder to newcomers. Kingdom Rush starts throwing branched pathways at you very early on, and after that point they are very frequent throughout the game. Even in levels where there is a single path, there might be shortcuts for the enemies. It doesn’t really ease a new player in, and I worry that might turn away someone new to the genre.

My only other issue is not so much an actual flaw as something that I wished the game had. Beyond placing and upgrading your towers, you don’t have that much control over them. They will always target the enemy that is furthest down the path within their range. This can lead to frustrating moments when a more powerful enemy is creating shields for the weaker ones, and my archers insist on attacking the shielded enemies because they are more down the path. The ability to target a specific enemy or even to tell a tower that they should attack the stronger enemies instead of the one in front would have cut down on these sorts of frustrations.

Incoming!

Kingdom Rush is visually adorable. Everything is done in a cute and cartoonish style that never fails to delight me when I fire up the game. While the enemies can sometimes be pretty small on the screen, they are always visually distinct enough to be told apart easily. They move with this cute, bouncy flair, and while the animations are limited, their small scale on the screen means it’s always clear what they are doing and to whom. 

This was a game where I did end up turning off the sound after a while in favor of a podcast or audiobook, but that’s through no fault of the sound and music of the game. It’s just something that got a little repetitive after a while. It wasn’t a problem when I just played the stage once, but more that I had to play a lot of them multiple times due to how hard the game could get and the sheer replayability of a lot of the levels.

Victory!

I think Kingdom Rush was a good step for me to get deeper into this genre, but at the same time, I don’t think that I could recommend it to someone who is entirely unaware of this type of game without the caveat that it might be a bit on the hard side for them. However, those who are already fans of the tower defense genre will find that this game will fit right in on their Switch library!

Pros

  • Adorable visuals
  • A simple amount of towers that evolve complexly
  • Encourages active game play rather than passive

Cons

  • Steep difficulty curve that may turn away unseasoned players

Verdict
Challenging for newcomers and veterans alike, Kingdom Rush crashes past the defenses of the eShop to fit comfortably into the library of tower defense players.

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