kingdom-rush-frontiers-hd_598581619_ipad_10It’s been nearly a year and a half since Kingdom Rush first graced our iPads and now developer Ironhide Games has decided to launch its sequel, Kingdom Rush Frontiers.

For the uninitiated, the original Kingdom Rush remains one of the finest tower defense games available on the iOS platform with eight core upgradeable tower types, each of which have a boatload of additional abilities which can be unlocked while on the battlefield, and stats that can be improved beforehand. The game is cute, frantic, nerve-wracking and challenging.

So what has Ironhide thrown at us this time?

The saying “if it ain’t broke, why fix it” exists for a reason. I know, I know, I often give the Angry Birds franchise crap about this, but in the case of Kingdom Rush Frontiers, it feels much different. Ironhide has taken every thing that we loved about the first game and made it bigger, better and more polished and it doesn’t just feel like a rehash of the exact same game.

kingdom-rush-frontiers-hd_598581619_ipad_08Kingdom Rush Frontiers is your traditional path-based tower defense game filled with loads of cute pop-culture references to films like Star Wars, Beetlejuice and Little Shop of Horrors. However, there are quite a few twists to keep you on your toes. One of the coolest aspects of this series is that the maps are not set in stone and just when you think you’re fortified well enough…you’re not. You could be half-way through a 15 wave battle when all of a sudden the enemy will start clearing a path through a previously blocked-off grassy area and you had better hope that the towers you previously built up around there are enough to hold back the fresh onslaught of enemy combatants. Or all of a sudden for the final wave those giant 20-foot tall doors that just looked like part of the scenery in the back of the map will open and out comes some monstrous beast for you to take down.

This game is so thick with content it’s unreal! First off each and every level can be played using three different difficulty levels. Having trouble getting past a level? Drop down the difficulty for that single level to continue making progress. Plus once you’ve completed a level in the “classic” game mode, you can try it again in either the Iron or Heroic game modes as well, for a completely new challenge that may restrict what types of troops you can use, etc..

Then there’s the 40+ different enemy types to dispose of and the sheer combination of tower types/special abilities is mind-boggling. From Archmage towers with devastating whirlwinds to Necromancer towers that can raise dead enemies to fight for you. The Dwarven Mining tower (DWAARP) tower which smashes the ground and anyone on it, to the bloodthirsty Tribal Axethrowers, the more you upgrade your towers the cooler and more powerful your armies become. And I haven’t even mentioned the special one-time use weapons (purchasable via gems in the in-game store) or the “legendary heroes”, whose abilities are upgradeable using points earned during normal game play yet.

kingdom-rush-frontiers-hd_598581619_ipad_11The “legendary heroes” are probably the only point of contention with this game. They each have differing abilities and you are given access to three of the (initial) nine heroes for free. The rest are available via in-app-purchase for as much as $6.99 (for a single hero!) I found this to be a bit annoying (and expensive) seeing as the game already costs $4.99 for the iPad release and $2.99 for the iPhone release. Plus the fact that it’s not a universal app (boo) means that you’ll have to buy the game and IAP twice if you want to play on both an iPad and iPhone AND both the IAP and your progress is NOT synced between devices.

In truth, during the heat of battle I often completely forgot about my hero and just left him alone to defend the exit point of the map, so the other heroes seem like they are probably unnecessary unless perhaps playing on the hardest difficulty. These somewhat greedy IAPs and the lack of universal app support (even on the iPad release) are really the only chinks in Kingdom Rush Frontiers’s otherwise very polished suit of armor.

In Conclusion:

Kingdom Rush Frontiers may look and play a lot like the original, but it is awfully hard to improve on something that was already so great. Whether you played the original or not, this worthy sequel is certain to be a crowd-pleaser. Inviting enough for casual gamers and deep enough for even the most hard-core and strategical of Tower Defense aficionados this should be on every iOS gamer’s must-have list.

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