Few mobile game franchises excite me as much as Kingdom Rush. Childish fantasy characters hide a sophisticated and finely balanced tower defense experience that withstands multiple difficulty levels and supports a variety of play strategies. Ironhide’s new prequel continues this tradition of excellence, with a challenging campaign. cleverly designed levels of levels and a multitude of new types of towers and enemies. However, unlike the second entry, Origins does little to advance the broader tactical experience. In this case, more of the same excellent structure is fine, but returning players will likely feel like they are walking on familiar ground.
Kingdom Rush doesn’t live and die by its storytelling, but Origins manages to find a new wrinkle in its fantasy world by going back to the days before. In a fantasy world, this usually means a story about the elves; players take control of a struggling elf nation threatened by evil old cousins. The elven backdrop offers the opportunity to create a lot of nature-themed towers and environments, and also ensures that Origins is the best looking game in the series.
Finding the perfect balance between the four main types of towers remains the goal, and I like some of the new rides provided by top tier facilities. Golden longbow archers and their ridiculous long-range shots keep the tower away from choke points where you hope to push your enemies back. Another favorite are the huge trees of weird wood that strike enemies with branches and nuts the size of a siege weapon. While these and other new structures offer both visual novelty and slight variations in playstyle, the fundamental strategies of previous games remain unchanged. Experienced players will not find quite the same sense of discovery as they once did.
As in Frontiers, the staging is dynamic and clever. Enemy paths sometimes change midway through a level, forcing a dramatic reinvention of your defenses. Easter eggs are hidden around the edge of the path, making it easy to tap the screen satisfactorily to uncover secrets. The best of these extras feed into the gameplay, like a Simon-style memory game with a Smurf-like creature that brings a little extra cash flow. I also enjoy the unique unit types that appear in a few stages, providing a new type of tower and a new unit to master; I wish more levels included that kind of extra allies and the flexibility to place them wherever I want rather than having to use them in a static location.
The hero progression system remains largely unchanged, with a new selection of characters to level up and empower the most vulnerable areas of a map. Sadly, Ironhide has once again locked down the most powerful and intriguing of these heroes as the most expensive to buy with real money. Too bad the game does not offer a path in the game to unlock these individuals or integrate their acquisition into side missions.
The most impressive feat in Kingdom Rush’s arsenal remains the intricate balancing act that makes each level so tricky. The pace of enemy arrivals and how that timing interacts with your own upgrades is impeccable, and unlike many tower defense games, constant attention and the use of special powers are required to achieve perfect races. Clever design work stands next to delightful creatures and world designs filled with fantastic creatures and magical places.
Even though Origins doesn’t significantly advance the series’ gameplay, I once again had a great time fending off the monstrous hordes. I hope to see Ironhide stretch his talented creative muscles a bit more within the limits of his tower defense expertise, but for now, Origins pursues a successful structure without any stumbles.