Ironhide Game Studio is continuing to branch out into new genres with their new rogue-lite tactical RPG Legends of Kingdom Rush. The new game brings back fan favourite characters the Kingdom Rush franchise for a humorous adventure to save the kingdom from an evil bent on destruction.
Legends of Kingdom Rush is a little light on story like many rogue-lite titles. The plot is pushed forward by short comic-style cutscenes at the beginning of a run and smaller in-game chats ahead of combat. The writing is lighthearted and is heavily salted with some intentionally bad jokes. The bulk of the content is the narrative events that can happen during a run. Everything is well written, fun, and never takes itself too seriously.
Character progression is somewhere between a rogue-like and a rogue-lite. While characters do not get significantly more powerful as they’re used, they do unlock level two and three abilities to be used in battle. There is a cap on how powerful a character can get though, as each character is limited to one ability per tier. Once the first level three ability is unlocked, players are simply benefiting from flexibility. The flexibility is helpful though as players only select three out of four party members: one hero and two adventurers. The fourth and final adventurer will be randomly selected early in the run. Characters always start from level one at the beginning of each run and level up anew each time.
The character ability design is enjoyable. Each character has a clear theme, and many have interesting combo opportunities with other characters. Several characters also have creative and unique mechanics. Bruxa is probably my favourite as she stores the souls of fallen enemies in battle and spend the souls to beef up her abilities.
Legends of Kingdom Rush features turn based strategic combat, similar to games like XCOM. It’s extremely simple, forgoing a lot of common mechanics like side attacks in favour of a stripped-down experience that is easier to learn. The developer is likely trying to make an easy to learn, hard to master type game, but it is ruined by the poor game balance. Player ranged units can be easily one shot by the more powerful enemy ranged units. Matters are made worse by the fact units who die in battle are revived with one less point of maximum health that can only be cured with an item. The game’s low movement speed slows down the game’s pacing significantly, especially for melee characters. Players are incentivized to simply stand their ground and let enemies come towards them while the player pokes at the enemy with their ranged units while the melee wait in reserve. A big part in solving the balancing issue will be to increase the amount of health the player has and scaling everything accordingly. This will give the developers a chance to do punishing amounts of damage but have more opportunity to prevent untimely one-shot kills. Another may be increasing the movement speed of melee units to three to allow them to close the gap more effectively.
The map design is a mixed bag. The boss fights are made well. The mechanics are creative, and the multi-stage battles are great fun. On the other hand, there are quite a few duds as well. An example is the Yeti mini-boss fight in the mountains. Players are usually relying on a bit of luck so the three yetis will clump close enough to the two explosive barrels that they’ll be able to do enough damage to kill one yeti so another can be crowd controlled safely.
It is clear the game was designed with tablet touch screens in mind as everything is controlled with a single mouse button click. There are some keyboard shortcuts to initiate a bound ability, but it still requires a mouse click to confirm the shortcut. It’s not much faster than using the mouse to do the exact same thing. To make matters worse, the confirm action button on the UI is not very responsive, as I ran into multiple occasions were trying to click the button resulted in the mouse clicking through the button and onto the tile underneath. The game is also in desperate need of a fast forward button so players can zip through often long enemy turns.
The UI is inconsistent. The close screen buttons are found in a variety of different locations depending on the menu. System menus use the traditional X at the top right corner. The hero menus have them in different locations on the bottom right of the screen, and most infuriatingly places a tutorial menu where the close window button traditionally sits.
Legends of Kingdom Rush uses the same art style as their previous titles. It’s cute, lighthearted, and colourful.
The audio experience is good. The sound effects are solid. The music is an enjoyable accompaniment. The voice acting is decent, but the quantity is extremely limited. An extra two or three lines per friendly unit would help.
Legends of Kingdom Rush is an unbalanced disappointment. The turtle-style tactics become dull quickly and are only interrupted by the odd final boss fight. While the character, audio, and visual design is enjoyable, the mediocre user experience hamstrings the game. Unless the developers are able to pull off a major rebalancing of the game, it’s hard to recommend Legends of Kingdom Rush to anyone other than die hard fans of the franchise.
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