Tower defense games fit perfectly on iOS as you tap to place and upgrade towers exactly where you want them. For the most part, the genre is known for being slow moving and methodical with a focus on strategy. Kingdom Rush came along, and proved that a tower defense game can provide plenty of action without sacrificing layers of strategy. Now, there’s a brand new rush on the kingdom with Kingdom Rush Frontiers that takes the battle to the wild. The same main style returns with fixed path layouts, specific spots to place towers, and tons of action that is surprsingly fast paced for the genre.
You could say that Frontiers is more of an extension of the original than a true sequel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The developers, Ironhide Games, know to not mess with success, and the result is a brand new rendition that includes everything that made the original so good, and with a whole lot more. Every new aspect revolves around the frontiers mentality as you battle in the desert, on the beach, and through jungles while facing 40 new types of enemies tied to each of the new lands. There are wraiths, shamans, genies, dragons, and more to face, but luckily there are brand new towers to upgrade to take on these new foes. There are four main towers that return with the archer, militia, mage, and artillery, but there are five upgrade levels to each tower. As you upgrade, you get to use axe throwers, templar soldiers, and even an earthquake machine.
All of the new additions simply enhance the great action packed defense style where you need to have constant focus on the screen. Normally, tower defense games can cause you to nod off, or use a fast forward button, but not Kingdom Rush. Each wave of enemies comes with numerous challenging foes to take down that seem to always be perfectly balanced to deliver an epic fight based on your current tower potential. You can be easily overwhelmed in some waves, especially when the heavy attacks come in, and it makes every single tower placement and upgrade so important. There are select places to put towers, and your decision of which of the four towers in certain places will dictate success and failure. The game also highlights upgrading a few towers over building numerous towers because the upgrades are so powerful, and you’re also building up your very precise placements.
The defense style is taken up a notch thanks to a hero at your disposal that you can move around the map to aid your tower defenses. You can also call in reinforcements and a meteor shower with timer based action buttons. The quick actions are essential if your towers are being overwhelmed or enemies slip through the cracks. The level design rounds it altogether, and it’s one of the key components to the entire experience. There are brilliant map layouts that can also change mid-game as enemies can carve a new entrance, and throw off your entire defense. All of it combines to keep your eyes glued to the screen, as constant attention is required to gain the upper hand, and the attack doesn’t wait for your to decide on your best plan of action.
There’s just so much going on, and it’s extraordinary how difficult the game becomes within the first five levels, and you’re left having to replay a couple with a different tower placement strategy. It’s quite rewarding to successfully complete a level to advance the storyline, and then you can aim for three stars, and even try out two additional challenging modes. After a battle, there’s a deluxe upgrade system allowing you to use stars to upgrade your different towers as well as your hero. The familiar cartoon art style returns with tiny characters on screen that you can’t really zoom into, nor witness detailed death animations. It’s still great to see in motion with so many details to the new enemies and towers. Though, there’s a great supply of action, some levels can drag on a bit, while others can be a bit overwhelming at the midpoint. It would be nice to see a mid-way checkpoint, or a rewind button to replay a particular wave you messed up on. The ultimate takeaway, is that once you get started you can just get entranced by the constant supply of action that requires precious resource management, in-depth strategy, and quick calls to action. It’s such an immersive experience
Kingdom Rush Frontiers ($2.99, iPhone / $4.99, iPad) is such an immersive experience that is so easy to pick up, but so hard to put down as every move matters. There’s just so much to enjoy with great care put into the brilliantly designed map layouts, difficulty curve, gameplay balance, tower upgrade paths and placements, and constitution of each enemy wave. Kingdom Rush Frontiers is a must buy that you just can’t get enough of, and iOS is a better platform with it available.