From the original Kingdom rush picked up my summer a few years ago, I know better than to plan on playing something else right after the release of a new entry in the series. Clear my agenda: I have gnolls and spiders to thwart.
This captivating series has become the benchmark for tower defense on touchscreen devices, so much so that it is also the prime target of knockoffs: the new Duck Commander: Duck Defense is a lame cover inexplicably based on a reality TV series Duck Dynasty. But ignore the clones, because Kingdom Rush origins ($ 3) was just launched to offer a suitable solution – and for newcomers, it’s a good place to start.
It’s because Origins– as the title suggests – is considered a prequel, and there’s more of a traditional fantasy at work, but the story really isn’t a strong draw here. In the tens of hours that I have spent with Kingdom rush and its sharp sequel Kingdom Rush Borders, I didn’t learn the name of a single character, nor could I tell you anything specific about the conflict described. As far as I’m concerned, this is all an attractive window wrap for the richest tower defense option on mobile.
Origins doesn’t break the series mold, but it didn’t have to: the formula established in 2012 still holds up today. Kingdom rush focuses on simplicity when it comes to selecting towers, offering only four types: long-range archers, barracks for close-range soldiers, heavy stone throwers, and spellcasting wizards. Pair that with limited building plots and that sounds like a recipe for repetition, right?
This is not the case, fortunately, and this is due to the extensive upgrade system. You can upgrade each tower multiple times, as well as choose between branching capacity paths, meaning two of the same tower type can perform very differently on screen. This approach gives your strategies a lot of depth, and you’ll need to use your limited parts wisely to take out the myriad of overpowered monsters and wizards that flood the lanes en route to your base.
Each tower can become an incredible powerhouse (with enough parts), and the split leveling paths let you choose between two versions of its later form, each with different abilities. Even these abilities can be upgraded multiple times.
Kingdom Rush origins expands its 15 levels on a hand-drawn map screen, which is also your hub for upgrades between rounds. You can continuously improve your towers and special abilities, as well as choose and upgrade a hero.
Each level is nicely drawn and requires different strategies, and if you look closely here you can find some pop culture tributes: Link of THE Legend of Zelda and Pip Boy from Publication date appear as bushes, and this deer really looks like Bambi.
Brief comic cutscenes appear from time to time, and Origins is considered a prequel before the other two games. However, the story doesn’t have much impact, so you won’t be lost if you start with any Kingdom rush Game.
Why is it worth your money
Like its predecessors, Kingdom Rush: Origins is an incredibly refined and extremely addicting strategy experience that’s a steal for three dollars. I love how the seemingly limited base game design really forces you to think smarter about every little decision, and every time you fail – and you will, dramatically – it emboldens you to go back and to rethink your approach. Credit the great hand-drawn aesthetic, with onomatopoeia action words to denote major attacks, to keep things cheerful even when defeated.
Origins is a good deal for the price, not only because it’s so much fun and engaging, but also because there is a lot to enjoy. The included 15 stages will allow you to play and replay until you hone them all, then you can play intense challenge stages and upgrade to Veteran difficulty to seriously test your skills and resolve. It will take a long time to get all of this under control, I promise you.
If you are already in Kingdom rush, then you probably grabbed that last entry as soon as you saw the title. Otherwise, start now, because Kingdom Rush origins is one of the best tower defense experiences on any platform, not to mention one of the best Android games of the year.