There are two types of games which I can sink hours into on my phone, PC or consoles, Auto Clickers and Tower Defence games. I’ve previously reviewed a few of the latter, such as PixelJunk Monsters 2 and Defender’s Quest, so when I was offered a new one to play on my Switch, I couldn’t say no! This week I’ve found myself addicted to Kingdom Rush Origins, the third game in the Kingdom Rush trilogy.
Developed and published by Ironhide Game Studio, Kingdom Rush Origins is a prequel to the previous two games, offering some new features and gameplay options. However, you don’t have to worry about jumping in at the third title in the series, as it all takes place before the others.
I can’t imagine how many hours I’ve poured into this game since it was given to us, I’ve almost finished the main story and killed thousands of enemies who dared to invade my 2m personal space! As such, I feel it’s time to tell you why fans of the Tower Defence genre should pick up this game today…
Surprisingly, there is a story within Kingdom Rush Origins which is presented to the player through both comic book-like storyboards and a brief mini-story which you can read before each mission. It’s a simple tale of a nameless General who finds himself caught up in a mission to eliminate the incoming hordes of creatures whilst also helping those in need along the way.
As this is a prequel, the events which happen towards the final act of the game actually set up the events within the first game and introduces you to the antagonist. However, following the story is more of a bonus extra as the main reason you’ll be addicted to the game lies within the satisfying and very fun Tower Defence gameplay.
Although the game may look quite simple upon initial impressions (this was originally a mobile game from 2014), the game gets very difficult and challenging as you progress. The game is also long, due to a mechanic which is missing that all Tower Defence games should have. Basically, for £11 you’re getting a challenging game with multiple difficulties, lots of content, and it’ll literally take you hours to complete – not bad in my opinion!
If you’ve never played a Tower Defence game before, gather around as I try to explain it… To put it bluntly, you must defend your base with towers.
Okay, maybe that’s too basic? You begin the game with some gold which you can use to erect various towers around the map. Each tower has different attacks and abilities such as bowmen, a catapult, or magical wizards. Once you’re ready, or time runs out, the first wave of enemies will approach you, trying to make their way to your base (or in this case, down the passage leading to your base).
It’s up to you to continue placing these buildings and subsequently upgrading them in order to slaughter every foe who tries to pass you. The game requires strategic thinking and tactical actions as certain enemies aren’t affected by some towers and others may require you to upgrade first, so you can slow them down or potentially one-shot them.
In addition to placing these defences and hoping for the best, Kingdom Rush Origins gives you control over a hero character. You can freely move this little guy around with the L trigger, unleashing their own special unique attacks as the enemies approach. To top it off, you can also activate various AoE attacks and initiate a unique hero attack – only this one you can choose when to do it and where it’ll impact on the map.
There are four towers you can build, an Archer, Barracks, a Mystic, and a Stone Circle catapult. Although this doesn’t seem like a lot, each of these can be upgraded two additional times, increasing their attack, defence and number of units who reside with them. For example, the Archer tower gains a new archer with each upgrade, allowing it to attack faster with more arrows-per-second.
Once you’ve reached the third level (and you’ve progressed to a certain point in the game), each of the buildings offers one of two unique branching pathways. So, there’s technically five versions of each tower – three standard updates then two unique options. The cool thing about this is that once you’ve picked one of these two, you now have two new abilities which can further be upgraded with in-game cash.
Some of these new abilities are very useful, such as increasing your chance to kill an enemy with a single arrow or turning your projectiles into balls of flame, and others are fun as well as deadly, such as sending out a bunch of trained bears to block the road and attack your enemies.
As you use your hero more and more, you’ll gain experience which you can use to increase their various attacks and the unique ability you can activate. However, you don’t only have one hero – there’s a choice of 16! These gradually unlock as you reach certain levels, each one offering their own attack and defence stats as well as specific rates of fire and unique abilities.
Another progression mechanic lies within completing each stage. The game runs on a ‘three-star’ system, granting you up to three stars as a reward based on how much health your base has by the time you kill the last person in the final wave. Thankfully, these stars aren’t progression blockers – stopping you from moving onto new levels – they’re more like progression unlocks.
The stars are used in Kingdom Rush Origins to unlock new ‘upgrades’ in a skill tree. You can increase the stats and unlock new abilities for each of the towers which you can place as well as upgrade your default abilities such as your lightning attack. This means that you’re constantly becoming much stronger and resilient against the enemy as you progress.
Two things missing?!
There are two things missing which I would have loved to see within the game…
1. No time travelling. Basically, let’s say you got a single star in the third mission due to the bad guys whooping your ass. Instead of trying again, you move on, knowing you’re going to unlock new towers, upgrades and abilities. However, if you now return to the earlier level after gaining these, the game strips them from you and only lets you replay the mission as if you have clicked it for the first time.
This isn’t a big issue but if you’re playing on harder difficulties then it would have been nice to bring back some upgrades and abilities to make the level a little easier.
2. No fast forward option! This was a big issue for me as the game can get very, very slow. It’s not a bad thing, I liked that we had enough time to plan, adjust and react to the onslaught, but the game should have a fast-forward button we can hold to speed it up. Without this option, each level felt like it went on for ages, probably around 20 minutes or so.
I believe this is the first Tower Defence game I’ve played in a very long time which doesn’t have any form of speed adjustment.
Each of the levels has three ways to complete them:
• You can take them on normally and earn up to three stars, progressively becoming much more difficult as you get further into the game (new paths being made mid-level and much harder enemies).
• You can also replay the same level in Heroic mode, the enemies are stronger and you have set rules such as only being able to build level one towers.
• Finally, there’s an Iron mode – this has the same criteria as the Heroic version but a new set of additional criteria which restricts what tower types you can and can’t build.
For the completionists out there, there are also 82 in-game achievements to unlock. Some of them are simple, such as winning a stage with three stars or defeating a certain number of an enemy class, but others are more difficult like finding characters hidden in the maps and taking out enemies with a certain ability.
Speaking of hidden characters, the world within Kingdom Rush Origins is very lively with each level containing a surprising amount of recognisable people. For example, in one level you’ll see Obelix (from Asterix) lifting up a menhir, and in another you’ll see Little Red Riding Hood being chased by the Big Bad Wolf in the forest.
I only played Kingdom Rush Origins in portable mode, I didn’t have access to my dock as I left it in another building. However, Portable was the best of both worlds due to being a perfect combination of the mobile and PC release which launched previously.
There are three control methods:
• You can use the thumb-stick and move from tower to tower (as they can only be placed in set spots).
• You can push in the Left thumb-stick and this enables the virtual mouse, moving it around with the thumb-stick as you would on PC.
• You can, if playing in portable mode, simply touch the screen as you would your mobile and play it that way.
One mode I thought it would have included, but it didn’t, would be to use the motion controls as a virtual mouse when in table-top/desktop mode. It’s not an issue but I thought it would have been an option.
Visually the game looks great, the game is very colourful and well-drawn with lots of personality and charm. The music also perfectly sets the atmosphere and plays into the addictive nature of the game.
Official Trailer (PC, same game):
Kingdom Rush Origins is easily one of the best Tower Defence games I’ve played in quite some time. Although I would have loved a speed option and the ability to use unlocked towers in earlier levels, I still had a great time playing the game and found it very challenging and satisfying. There’s a number of difficulties, gameplay modes, and a whole host of upgrades and heroes to unlock, if you like the genre then you’ll easily sink many hours into the game.
Kingdom Rush Origins£11.00
- - Challenging but satisfying once you complete a level
- - Lots of upgrades and new heroes to unlock and experiment with
- - Despite only having four towers, there's enough variety to keep the game fresh
- - Three modes which will take you a long time to master
- - Visually and musically a very pretty and entertaining game
- - No option to speed up the waves of enemies and they walk quite slow
- - No motion controls (not really a negative but more an observation)
- - You can't take future unlocked towers into previous levels with you