Review: Kingdom Rush: Vengeance06 Dec 2018 4
Review: Kingdom Rush: Vengeance
Released 22 Dec 2018
Playing the bad guys is always a treat, what with all the contemptuous monologizing and the 'I'll show them what true power is!' Plus, evil creatures are always way more interesting to command than boring noble goodies. That's why Ironhide giving players the chance to captain the armies of the evil wizard Vez'nan is the best feature in this otherwise routinely excellent tower defense game. However, it may be more than just the player that turned to the Dark Side in this entry, since Ironhide has also walled-off a chunk of this premium game's content behind a paywall.
Vengeance is the fourth entry in the mega-popular Kingdom Rush tower defense series and is the entry that makes the most changes to the gameplay, though still keeping it solidly within TD tropes. (It's a little weird that you still play on the defense the entire game, given that your army is supposedly the invading force, but that's the genre, so we'll just have to roll with it.) The biggest gameplay update is in the way you choose and upgrade your towers.
Rather than leveling up your basic towers into more specialized variations in the middle of the level, you'll have to do a little more planning. Between levels you get to choose five towers to take with you that have very different purposes: your basic towers give you ranged magical/non-magical damage, grunts to slow down the oncoming horde, or long-distance artillery. You gradually gain more towers by completing levels, so customizing your 'hand' of five towers becomes the metagame. You may end up with a few favorites that you always lean on, or you can customize your loadout each level for maximum efficacy against the given target. This makes for great replay value as you try to score the highest rating on each level.
Levels themselves are fairly long for a mobile title, taking about thirty minutes to complete, so there's a lot of gameplay here even if you're not a completionist. Each map is highly individualized (within a few themes) with few reused assets, so they never get dull. They often have amusing themes or cute details that let you play goofball fantasy Where's Waldo in-between waves. The dwarf king will occasionally swim around in his gold like Scrooge McDuck, and there's a smirkable Terminator reference in the smelting furnace level (you know what I'm talking about).
Special events will also frequently occur that change the landscape and open up new avenues of attack for your enemies, like Viking ships landing. It's important not to get tunnel-vision on a few lanes or become complacent, because you never know when the tide will suddenly shift. This makes it tough to get a perfect score your first time through a level, but it also makes the game much more active than your average TD game.
Adding to the dynamism are the hero units that you can order about the battlefield. They all have a bevy of special abilities that you don’t have direct control of but do make them majorly useful for crowd control or taking down bosses. Each offers a slightly different playstyle. Your basic orc boss is a great tank, but you'll soon get a rogue character that is good for debuffs and crowd control, and a mage that will do more damage-per-second. Finally, you can cast spells and summon instant minions to take care of any unexpected difficulties. In between missions, an upgrade tree lets you buff your hero, towers, minions and spells, giving you fun new abilities to play with beyond purely higher stats. There's a lot going on inside and outside the levels, is basically what I'm saying.
You start with four towers and earn seven more by playing the game, and you quickly score two additional heroes beyond your starter. Eleven towers and three distinct heroes sounds pretty good ... but there are another five towers and six more heroes locked behind *shudder* relatively expensive paywalls.
Is it too much monetization for an already-premium game? Fans of the series are divided. I think it's important to remember that the base price, like just about any mobile game, is already absurdly low so the title can compete in the ridiculously cut-rate mobile market controlled by greedy gatekeepers. Yes, the IAP exist, but as long as you can ignore a persistent alert badge on one menu item, there's little to no reminder that the developers want more of your money. It's there, but it’s not obnoxious, and in this day and age maybe that's all we can ask for.
The content included in the game is absolutely worth the purchase price, and I didn't feel like I missed out on much by not spending more. The game is intensely engaging with a light-hearted tone that makes it a real pleasure to jump in to. Tweaks to the Kingdom Rush formula should please long-time fans and jaded TD players who have seen everything. If you're new to this kind of game, Vengeance is a great, entertaining jumping off point.