Legends of Kingdom Rush is a deceptively tough game. The cartoony, mobile-looking aesthetic belies a tough and challenging turn-based tactics game that will bring you hours of entertainment. Unbeknownst to me when I started, the game is an instalment in Ironhide Studio’s tower defence series, hence the mobile-friendly design and graphics.
Things start simply enough and the tutorial offers the first hint of the game’s roguelike structure. You are an imprisoned knight who must escape his confinement and make his escape to safer areas. As you make your way out of the city, you take in a view of what can only be described as the game board herding you along a predetermined path to safety. Along the way are brief stops to recruit two characters into your party and have you engage in a battle. The map makes it clear where the safe areas are and where the danger and battles lie, so there is no random-encounter nastiness to surprise you here.
Once you are out of the tutorial area, the world opens up a little more but you are still herded to the next level or set of encounters. This is where Legends of Kingdom Rush shines or loses its lustre, depending on your view on roguelike games. The game board is expanded and you are faced with an overworld map showing you the various stops along your path. These vary from friendly areas where you can shop or rest, to areas with battles, and it’s all interspersed with choice and dice-roll encounters that can reward or harm the party. I do not know if it was just my bad luck, but the odds of my party taking damage or gaining some sort of status ill-effect in these areas were much higher than any good outcome.
Choosing your team before you start each level is key, even if the characters are never more than archetypes that fit together like a puzzle piece. I ventured forth mainly with the starting trio – a slow but durable tank, an agile and accurate ranger, and a powerful but vulnerable mage. Figuring out how to have them work together as a team takes some trial and error but, once you have the hang of it, you should be fine for most of the level.
I say “most”, as Legends of Kingdom Rush relies on the roguelike philosophy of progressing through failure. Like Superman’s nemesis, Doomsday, what kills you only makes you stronger as you gain strength, skills, and knowledge through the horrible experience of defeat. The game is structured around you repeating each level multiple times, gaining inches with each run. Some may call this a cheap mechanic to extend the gameplay time, while others will see it as a way to hone their skills. I see both arguments and the difference between the two lies in the execution. I never felt cheated by the constant failure. Instead, I saw it as a challenge to change my approach and the way I think about each encounter. In some cases, switching up companions was the answer.
The biggest criticism I have of tthis design is that the maps feel like they’re made for backtracking and exploring, but the developers decided not to allow you that opportunity. At a fork in the road, you may see a pathway leading you to a treasure and another to a potential new companion. Naturally, you are forced to make a permanent choice and there is no opportunity to go after the treasure and then backtrack to the companion. This is probably deliberate to prevent players from gaining too much of an advantage but could’ve been solved by spawning an encounter on the other path and forcing you to tackle a tough battle that could lead to failure. This decision is doubly frustrating as, when you inevitably fail the run, the board resets and that treasure or companion may no longer be available.
The battle mechanics are your standard hex-based battle with initiative rolls determining the order of action. Arenas generally have the player facing off against multiple enemies and are designed to force you to consider splitting your forces to prevent weaker members from being surrounded. Enemies tend to overwhelm with numbers, rather than strength or tactics, but are challenging enough. Arena environments can, unfortunately, look samey and are coupled with reskinned and repeated enemies (possibly a consequence of this game being designed for mobile devices with the Apple Arcade subscription in addition to PC). Some stages have environmental hazards that are easy to spot and avoid, but they can aid you when you need them most. Enemy AI seems a little limited as they will stupidly manoeuvre into a “piranha plant” attack zone and just stand there for a couple of turns getting chomped.
Overall, Legend of Kingdom Rush felt like a fun distraction – a game most suited for mobile devices when you need a lunchtime break to switch off your brain. On PC, it isn’t going to hold its own against the more robust turn-based strategy games seemingly announced daily (thanks to Firaxis and XCOM 2 no doubt). If you are lucky enough to own a Steam Deck, then the PC port of this game is a great addition to the library, otherwise, if you’re an Apple iPhone user, pick it up via Apple Arcade. At $15-equivalent on both Steam and Apple Arcade, Legend of Kingdom Rush is worth the price of admission but just don’t expect this to be your next 100+ hour strategy game fixation.
A review code for Legend of Kingdom Rush was provided to gameblur by the publisher.
Legends of Kingdom Rush (PC) ReviewLegends of Kingdom Rush (PC) Review
Ease of Play8/10 Very Good
- Cute art style
- Difficult battles that keep you coming back
- Made for quick sessions
- Not much depth
- No ability to backtrack