Wednesday 29 March 2023

Legends of Kingdom Rush Review (Steam)


Written by Thomas G.J. Sharpe

I recall a period of time I spent unemployed and found myself on Newgrounds playing Ironhide’s flagship series Kingdom Rush. I know some stand by Bloons TD, but the best tower defence for me was Kingdom Rush. I whiled away the expanses of a few days between job applications and the inevitable wall of silence that prospective employers feel entitled to supply. The light-hearted world building, comic cutscenes, and accessible learning curve scratched all the itches. It was good casual gaming done with style. Ironhide have started to branch out into new territory after testing a non-fantasy setting with Iron Marines, a “casual RTS” as they put it. With a follow-up to this and some sort of post-apocalyptic, Mad Max-type title coming out, the towers seem to be receding into the background.

Legends of Kingdom Rush is set in the world of KR but is a strategy roguelite that takes an X-Com angle on it’s gameplay. While fun and seated firmly in all the trappings of what we can expect now from Ironhide in the way of tone, aesthetic, fun, and accessibility, LoKR falls slightly shorter than the good times of the tower defence titles. A hard standard to maintain, if I’ll be honest, and the Steam reviews do reflect that this hasn’t quite hit the same mark.

With a light, story that lines each run, you accrue a motley band of familiar heroes to fight the current evil of the day, encountering different events along the adventure. Sort of like the things you’d meet on the road in the euphoric silliness of Death Road to Canada. Do I want to rest at the campfire or search the area? Go fishing or tell a story. That sort of thing. As expected, there isn’t the depth of the encounters of Darkest Dungeon, but the characters till develop and level up as you go. It is an enjoyable process to customise these heroes, and it isn’t overwhelming. None of LoKR is, and this is a strength, broadly speaking.

The combat, between encounters, makes up much of the game. Little hex-arenas that pit your squad against some wee beasties and some not-so-wee beasties. The learning curve is ok, the difficulty is just ahead of you. Using your various spells from mages, cleaving strikes from knights, and volleys of arrows, you must consider positioning, thinking (a bit) ahead, and item usage to survive the day.

The first knock against this is the sheer amount of time the runs take. I almost would have preferred a full little RPG-lite, rather than a roguelite system. The characters are enjoyable and well-written enough to carry something like that, I would offer. Further, once you start to realise that certain playstyles expose a lack of balance, the scope to want to try other combinations feels a bit uninviting. A couple of goes through, I’d settled into what I learned to be a bit of a cheesy strategy, and this always feels underwhelming. I just didn’t really have much desire to go back to it, however much I enjoyed it.

The developer, however, is up-front with players about being a primarily a non-desktop, casual and accessible game. I read some opinions of the GUI being quite clunky on desktops, and I must say that this was on my mind, but certainly wasn’t game breaking for me. I’ve always quite enjoyed Ironhide’s big clunky buttons, but perhaps there are some inelegancies to the clicking you have to do.

All in all, I enjoyed LoKR, but I think not for as long as the game was designed to be enjoyed for. I’m going to mark this one down, for myself, as an interesting foray into another bit of KR-world fun, but one that I won’t return to over KR tower defence titles. This may land better with more patient players, however, and especially those who are looking for a touch more of the gorgeous comicky world filled with detail and joy.

Overall 6/10

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