Reviews
Kingdom Rush: Origins

By Jorge Figueiredo - December 28th, 2014

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I have to hand it to Ironhide Studio; not many developers are as adept at publishing several titles in the genre of tower defense without things getting stale – but they have done so again with Kingdom Rush: Origins. Released last month for iOS and Android, Kingdom Rush: Origins is the prequel to the original Kingdom Rush. Ironhide has brought back their signature sense of style, great game-play, and role-playing game sensibility to the title, once again treating players to a very fun and addictive experience.

As a tower defense game, Kingdom Rush: Origins has a very simple premise: baddies are tromping across the land along fixed paths, and it’s up to you to prevent them from getting past you. Along the path are various spots on which you can construct one of four types of towers to stave off the threat: the Hunter Arbor (ranged), the Defender Barracks (melee), the Mystic Dais (magic ranged), and the Stone Circle (heavy ranged). Each tower type is different, and has a different effect on each unit type. Some enemies, for instance, are immune to magic, while others are not so good in a close-ranged battle. It’s up to you as the player to figure out the optimal placement for your different defense units. Each tower costs gold to place, so it’s important to keep an eye on your funds. Should you fall short, then you will have to hope that the gold you get from killing beasts will be sufficient for you to bolster your defenses. Thankfully, there is usually no shortage of monsters to slay, since there are many waves to deal with.

In addition to towers, players are given a hero at the beginning of the game. This hero is much stronger than any of the normal towers, and gains experience as they kill enemies. When a hero climbs a level, they are given points with which to upgrade their abilities, making them tougher. While the hero can die, it is never for too long thanks to an infinite re-spawn. The only disadvantage of dying is that experience points cannot be collected when you are “recovering”. There are also a number of different heroes to choose from. Accompanying the hero are three “spells” that can be relied on for repeated short-term support when the player is in a pinch. One can call reinforcements (summoning a few warriors to a location of the player’s choosing), a thunderbolt (that does massive damage), and a hail of arrows (which turns things to Swiss cheese). Each of these spells has a different cool-down period.

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Sometimes you really need to watch out for things in the background…

Aside from heroes and spells, there are artifacts that one can purchase (in the map area of the game) to assist in defeating the hordes of attackers. These are single-use utilities that are purchased using gems (which players accumulate during each level). Effects of the artifacts range from teleportation (sending an enemy back the way they marched – a short distance, anyway), to income doubling (for a short period of time). There is no limit on how many of these helpful tools you can take into battle – except, of course, for the limit on your wallet.

As you play through the game, new stages are revealed, along with new levels for each tower. The higher the tower level, the more powerful it becomes – and the more expensive it is to climb to the next level. Eventually, once significant progress has been made within the game, the player will be able to choose a specialization for their towers, which opens up supplemental powers that can be purchased. For instance, the final level for the Hunter Arbor is either the Arcane Archer tower or the Golden Longbows tower. Arcane Archers fire magically-infused arrows that have the chance to either put their victims to sleep, or cause a magical area explosion. Golden Longbows, on the other hand, are more like snipers, and have extreme range and arrows that can either slay the target instantly, or mark the target to receive double damage from every one of your units that hurts it (for a short time). Each tower type has specializations and unique powers, giving players a lot of different options to deal with their enemies.

Completing the main mission results in the player netting stars, which can be used to purchase upgrades to the different towers and to the various spells that are available (similar to the way the hero is upgraded). The better the performance in the level, the more stars one may get (there is a maximum number of 3 stars available for standard missions). Once the main mission has been completed for each level, players may re-engage each stage by attempting the Heroic Challenge or the Iron Challenge. Each of these supplemental challenges will change variables within the level to make it much tougher to complete. For instance, there may be a single wave that is very long and full of tough monsters, and the player will be limited to two different tower types with a level cap set very low. Each of these bonus stages rewards the player with a single star upon successful completion, granting a little more purchasing power for augments.

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It can get really busy sometimes.

Visually, the game is better than the previous two Kingdom Rush games. Character models seem to be more defined, and animations are smoother. Ironhide really does a fantastic job with the amount of visual flair within each level – aside from the uniqueness of each tower, there are usually incidental activities going on in the background of each level (including one level that has a faerie version of the Simon board game). Audio is also really well-crafted; though, as good as the sound effects and music are, the voice acting is a bit odd (it sounds out of place, and could stand to have some more post-production work done).

While Kingdom Rush: Origins may feel like more of the same to some, it is different enough to be entertaining and challenging to boot – and for less than 4 bucks, players are getting at least several hours of entertainment. While there are in-app purchases (you can buy more powerful heroes than the ones that are available for free), it is not necessary to fork over real money as it is possible to finish with the standard heroes (although I’m sure it would be much easier with the beefed-up ones). All in all, this is a great addition to the series, and I’m looking forward to what Ironhide is working on next! Kingdom Rush: Origins is available from iTunes and the Google Play store.

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+ 2 = five