Tower defense is one of the most over-saturated genres in mobile and browser gaming. How many times are we expected to repeat the formula, how many more stationary towers must we construct and upgrade while enemies march along a pre-ordained path in single file towards our base? The answer is a resounding infinite- we will undoubtedly be doing this for the rest of our lives on our 5-dimensional iPad 9’s.
But it doesn’t have to be boring and monotonous, tower defense games still have tons of potential and there are plenty of diamonds in the rough. Kingdom Rush is a highly polished and fine-tuned masterpiece of the genre that shows us how it’s done- this is how you make a tower defense game.
On the surface it seems like standard fare: a campaign of levels with increasing difficulty, four basic tower types, enemies that steadily march from one side of the path to the other, progressive upgrades for both individual towers and overall stats, and the addictive strategic gameplay we’re all familiar with.
So what makes it different from the rest? The game presents its complexities in such a low key way that it seems dead simple, but once you start playing you realize just how much depth there is due to the element of scarcity. It reminded me a bit of playing a Super Mario game- the staples of the genre are consistent and unchanged, but the simplicity is exactly what makes the more challenging and advanced parts possible. With just four basic tower types and pre-determined locations where you can place them, you need to rely on a raw sense of foresight and strategy instead of being bogged down with too many choices.
Don’t be fooled by Kingdom Rush’s charming visuals and casual presentation, it doesn’t pull any punches in the difficulty department. Even with the difficulty down, the later levels require a lot of planning and a weak spot in your setup could mean disaster. The enemies are varied with all sorts of different abilities and resistances- you’ll need to make the most of your upgrades to target certain enemy strategies.