The genre of Tower Defence games can be a challenging one. Not so much in difficulty, but more in keeping it fresh and playable. After all, there’s only so much you can do with building a tower to try and stop an onslaught of invading armies, isn’t there? I’d argue that it is a limited style, as many iterations have come and gone, each of them presenting some new way of presentation or bringing a twist to change things up, yet ultimately, they mostly fall by the wayside as they can never escape the feeling of ‘been there and done that’. However, there has been one particular game that has been on my radar for a few years now and has seen much success on mobile platforms and amongst Steam players; often being regarded as the best of its genre. Well, now it’s time to test that statement, as Kingdom Rush Frontiers builds a release onto the Nintendo Switch.
Developed and published by Ironhide S.A. Game Studios, Kingdom Rush Frontiers doesn’t, at first glance, appear to be anything special or bring anything particular new to the genre. But it’s here, when you take a closer look, that the magic of this title truly lies, as it brings everything back to basics, yet contains so much variation within its mechanics, that it produces an instantly addictive premise and, more importantly, a video game that is a true joy to play. Although a debut on the Switch, this particularly title is a sequel to the original mobile title, Kingdom Rush. However, the formula of success within this first title has been refined and improved with this Switch version, producing what is, at present, the very best of the Kingdom Rush formula of Tower Defence.
The game runs along a campaign, following a story that sees you play the role of an unnamed general within the King’s army. With the rise of a new evil beginning to take hold across the land, you are tasked with leading an army across desert, through jungle and within caverns to repel the evil Lord Malagar and bring prosperity back to the kingdom and its people. A world map displays your path and level progress through a series of biomes, with the story being presented in a comic book style that precedes each new challenge. For the most part, this story is largely redundant and doesn’t really add anything to the gameplay, although it can provide a backdrop to the reasoning of why you are advancing ever forward across the land. Each of the levels are played on a static screen; one that contains a variety of pathways that hold entry and exit points.
Your task within each of the levels, is to prevent the oncoming armies of evil from reaching the level’s exit. Armed with a set number of lives, you must strategically place a series of towers along each path in order to stop any advance; should any invading creature make it to the end, then that’s one life lost. Reduce your life score to zero and it’s game over. However, to prevent such a defeat, you can call upon a whole host of defences, from four variations of towers, reinforcement units, heroes, meteor strikes and hire mercenaries to help the cause. On the surface, it sounds like a very basic premise, but within each of these units, lies a series of further abilities and upgrades; keeping what is essentially a basic level of gameplay, fun, interesting and thoroughly engrossing.
You have four varieties of towers available to you: Ranged, Melee, Magical and Artillery. As always, each has its own specific strength and weakness and enemy units also have vulnerability and resistance to these variations. Airborne enemies are weak to ranged and magical, but can’t be touched by melee, while ground units are slowed down by melee towers and vulnerable to artillery and magic, yet may contain shielding to keep ranged at bay. A lot of the fun of this title comes from chopping and changing the layout of the battlefield to best suit the oncoming wave of enemy units. Each of the towers can also be upgraded to produce greater ranges, more firepower and stronger troops; all of which can be achieved through defeating enemies and filling your coffers with gold coins.
However, towers cannot be built or placed in any given area. Each level contains a pre-requisite number of foundations upon which towers can be built. This, ultimately, produces a limit to the amount of defences that can be built; ensuring a valid challenge to each of the levels. In order to bolster your limited supply of towers though, you can also call upon further abilities that can often be the difference between life and death. An important element of the gameplay is to build the strength of each tower and troop unit to keep the enemy at bay. Working towards this though, can be a challenging prospect. To help you achieve this though, you can deploy a hero with mighty strength and attack abilities from summoning a kraken to ordering a herd of animals to charge at the enemy. Other abilities call upon a meteor storm that falls from the sky onto unsuspecting foes and a reinforcement call that places troops onto the level at ten-second intervals.
Each of these extra abilities and heroes also come with their own upgrade systems that can be levelled up through XP and level completions that reward stars. Progression also brings variation to the towers too, with missile barrages, huge mechs and terrain altering abilities to keep the advancing armies at bay. It’s within these depths of gameplay that makes this game such a joy to play. There’s always something constantly going on, from observing the huge numbers of invading enemies to spotting weak points in your defence, upgrading towers and placing reinforcements, ordering your hero and raining meteor showers on last-ditch attempts to stop an enemy from exiting the level. This is all further bolstered by a levelling system that constantly introduces new powers, abilities, towers and heroes.
The whole presentation of the game is expertly done here. Although each level is played on a static screen, its cartoon style matches perfectly with the playability of the game. Look closely and you’ll spot all sorts of easter eggs within the scenery, such as the Star Wars Bantha’s that roam the deserts! It’s also an instantly easy pick-up-and-play title too, with conventional and touch-screen controls that produce a quick and simplistic style of play to ensure that you’re always in constant control of everything you do. Completed levels also contain extra tasks and challenges, such as restrictions of tower types, heroes and levelling systems; giving the game a massive form of longevity, challenge and long-term appeal.
Overall, Kingdom Rush Frontiers is probably the best example of tower defence gaming I have ever played. I was well aware of its popularity before this release, but having now played it, can confirm it is well worthy of its success. If you’re a fan of the tower defence genre, you simply have to play this game. If you’re not a fan, then you still simply have to play this. Honestly, it will convert you. It has a variation in everything that it does, from level deigns, tower capabilities, hero abilities and objectives; all of which multiply to keep you on your toes at all times and always presents something fresh as you progress deeper into its journey. Its magic formula lies in its ability to constantly keep you engaged; something that ultimately leads to an addictiveness that you simply can’t leave alone. Amongst its peers, this is simply a game that towers above its rivals.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Kingdom Rush Frontiers Review
Gameplay - 10/10
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Value - 10/10
Kingdom Rush Frontiers is simply a game that towers above its rivals.