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Whenever I mention Kingdom Rush – say, via social media – someone usually responds with some sort of reverence for the tower defense game. People just seem love this. Need more proof than a few remarks from my online circle of friends? As I mentioned earlier, almost 25,000 gamers gave it an average five-star rating on iTunes. Hey, I can understand. My personal addiction has led me to complete every stage and challenge in Kingdom Rush – three times.
Now tracking is available for iPhone and iPad (no word on PC / Flash or Android options yet). And while Kingdom Rush: Frontiers still has the same strategy-based gameplay where you knock down defensive buildings to stop waves of enemies, the new additions will always surprise you level after level.
No doubt about it – it’s a excellent following. But to explain why, I’m going to reverse our normal format of reviews and start with the negative.
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What you won’t like
That same initial feeling
Waitâ¦ is Frontiers a sequel? Or a glorified expansion? The developers of Ironhide Game Studio are not helping their cause by offering the same basic tricks as the original Kingdom Rush. Base buildings haven’t changed: Barracks (for infantry blocking the enemy), Archers Towers (ranged attackers), Mages Towers (ranged magic), and Dwarf Bombards (Exploding Lobe Cannons) – check out our overview for more details.
A first glance shows a lot of the same old stuff, and that will likely lead to some initial whispers of disappointment from fans of the original.
Expensive premium heroes
Like in the first Kingdom Rush, Frontiers features heroes – powerful individual characters that you can position around the stages to help build your forces. Three free ones come with the game. Unfortunately, the developers have saved the best for your wallet. Sha’Tra, an alien who can summon UFOs, costs $ 4.99 – as much as the more expensive guys in the last game. Ashbite the dragon is huge and looks awesome to fly around the battlefield, raining fire on your enemies. But you’ll have to shell out $ 6.99 to see it in action.
Of course, these are all optional purchases. But to see the coolest units Frontiers has to offer, you’ll need to pay.
What you will like
Big new towers
Of course, the stars of any tower defense game are those swift pop-up structures that you set up around the map to fend off invaders. Borders start old news. But once you upgrade them beyond a certain point, you’ll find the new options that will force you to make some interesting choices.
Do you go for the crossbow fort, which can increase the range of all towers around it? Or the tribal ax throwers, who can plant magical totems that greatly weaken enemies and stop their spellcasting?
Do you follow the route of the Archmage’s Tower, which can charge explosive lightning bolts or spin deadly vortices? Or the Necromancer’s Tower, which can revive fallen enemy units and transform them into allied undead?
Each of the new towers is particularly powerful. They provide such different strategies that I would often pause the game to think about what improvements I would commit to on the limited space offered by each level.
And they all work pretty well together too. I can’t deny the little thrill I feel when my assassins unveil just in time to stop a squad of Lizardmen near the epicenter of my fiery earthquake maker while my necromancer drops a plague that destroys health in the area.
Little surprises to discover
In the latest Kingdom Rush, you could discover little secrets every step of the way: a fish to catch, a mushroom from the popular game Plants vs. Zombies or a small cameo from the game Ice Age movie theater. For Frontiers, the devs had to decide they need to show some more nerd cred because it’s packed with sci-fi movie references, which I really don’t want to spoil you here because they’re such a joy. to discover.
Many of them are also interactive. Solve the puzzle of a certain fedora clad adventurer, and he can help you crush some alien threats before they hatch.
You might see a miniboss making its way through the jungle again, creating a new, now undefended path for enemies to descend. You could bribe a few drunken pirates to shoot their ship’s cannons at a location of your choosing. You could prevent an evil tribal warrior from throwing a virgin into the volcano in order to prevent her from receiving a god’s blessing, which greatly strengthens her.
It didn’t take long for me to be as excited to see what was behind each new stage as I was to play it. Even returning visits to previously beaten levels (to complete additional challenges) would show subtle changes. The game knows you’ve been there before, and the art reflects that with loving detail.
I have every reason to be tired of this streak (beating the first game three times can do that to you). And for the first few levels, I was afraid I had reached that point where I didn’t experience much new. But as new maps opened and new tower building options became available, I fell in love.
I will say, as a final negative (or maybe positive, if you’re the masochist type): I think the more difficult stages here may actually be more difficult than the more difficult stages in the original if you can believe it. As of this writing, I still haven’t defeated one of the last bosses, which is a rotten dirty cheat.
But I’ll keep going back for more punishment because Kingdom Rush: Frontiers is just that good. It’s not only worthy of carrying the title of “Kingdom Rush Sequel”, it’s one of the best tower defense games you’ll find anywhere, regardless of platform.
Kingdom Rush: Frontiers will be released on June 6, 2013 for iOS. The developer has provided GamesBeat with a preview version for this review.
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