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Kingdom Rush (Switch) artwork

Kingdom Rush (Switch) review

"Kingdom Rush doesn't feel as refreshing as it once did, but it's still a solid experience for tower defense fans."

Kingdom Rush hasn't aged as well as I expected, but it still offers a compelling experience and now you can buy it on Nintendo Switch. Originally released for iOS devices in 2011, the aging tower defense game initially impressed with a variety of vibrant stages, an addictive upgrade system and occasionally a quirky sense of humor. Those qualities made it hard to step away from at the time, and that remains the case. The pull just isn't quite as strong now.

Part of the blame lies with the fact that Kingdom Rush Frontiers, this game's sequel, received a similarly competent Switch port a few months prior. I wrote a favorable review for that one at the time, and I meant every word. That newer title didn't make any huge improvements, just stuck to the classic formula, and yet everything about it felt the tiniest bit better. For that reason, I would suggest starting with Frontiers instead if you want to try your hand at the franchise.

In Kingdom Rush, your goal is to block and defeat hordes of enemies that are rushing civilization, led by an evil wizard who commands everything from his high tower in a remote mountain range. You advance through twelve stages to reach that final battle, and each one of them plays out roughly the same: you build a few manned towers along available paths and hope they're strong enough to defend against early enemy waves as you vanquish monsters and collect gold to construct new buildings and improve those already in place. If too many beasts sneak past your defenses, you lose and must start fresh.

Kingdom Rush (Switch) image

Controls are very simple, in part because your options are constrained. You can only place towers at designated points, which you select by tapping the screen in handheld mode or by cycling through possibilities with the analog stick if you're playing using a controller. Either option works just fine for me. Once you select an available node, you tap it or press a button to bring up available options that may include tower construction or renovation. You can also get rid of a tower you don't like, if you placed one in error or it has outlived its usefulness.

Early in the campaign, there are only a few basic modifications available. As you progress, however, you are able to make some pretty sweet adjustments. For instance, your dwarves can go from tossing a few weak explosive charges to blasting homing missiles and laying down huge loads of dynamite. Alternatively, you might have them build a high tower that unleashes electrical charges and waves of magnetic energy that spread from one target to another. Each tower is tended to independently of the next, and you can deploy any mixture you like provided there aren't specific restrictions in place.

As you clear stages, you'll earn one, two or three stars to reward your performance, which you can spend on permanent upgrades to your favorite towers. For instance, you might decrease the cost to build, or improve cooldown. You can also enhance your special abilities, which in battle allow you to summon a handful of mercenaries for a limited period of time or toss a flaming meteor shower at your adversaries. The cost to make these upgrades is such that by the time you arrive at the final showdown, you're unlikely to be fully equipped and so must make painful decisions about where to focus your precious resources. Fortunately, you can reset your allotment whenever you like and try again.

Kingdom Rush (Switch) image

One other thing to keep in mind in combat is the presence of a "hero," which you select from an eventual pool of 12. You can position the hero anywhere on the map you like, though he or she most often works as a final line of defense. If enemies get within the hero's range, combat ensues and your hero may gain levels. That's good, of course, because a stronger hero is likely to prove more useful in the final waves when the nastiest of nasties arrive. Sadly, such upgrades are temporary and values reset each time you clear a stage. This means the heroes feel a bit like a waste compared to similar characters in other tower defense titles I've played, which you could customize over time.

Once you beat a level, you can revisit the region with different objectives to receive additional points toward upgrades. It's possible to change between three difficulty settings, but doing so doesn't seem to award any additional points. Otherwise, you might play with certain towers locked away, or with limits in place to prevent upgrades. Even the simplest maps can become quite difficult with new twists in place, which adds some lasting appeal to the handful of basic stages. Then when you defeat the game boss, you'll have the chance to try your hand at even more difficult maps spread throughout the kingdom.

Kingdom Rush is a basic but generally very effective tower defense game you should find time to play if you love the genre and haven't gotten around to it quite yet. Beginners should probably start elsewhere, since the difficulty ramps up pretty quickly even at the lower settings, but those who love a challenge are unlikely to complain. There are a few strategies that reliably serve the player best, as is true of most of the best tower defense games, but a steady stream of new enemy units keeps things interesting from beginning to end. Add in the pleasing aesthetic and intuitive interface and you have a winner, even if the wrinkles are starting to show a bit.


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Staff review by Jason Venter (September 02, 2020)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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