Quest of Knights Onrush [Free] was originally thrown together by developer MoreGames and Chillingo to spearhead a marketing campaign for their then primary focus, Knights Onrush [$0.99], a castle defense game. It turns out that their promotional app, a side-scrolling arcade beat 'em-up, was even better received than the game it was promoting, and in April we revealed that it was being made into a full fledged game. That game, Knights Rush [App Store] is finally here.

Knights Rush takes the formula of the original game-- what was essentially a limited, endless mode-only beat 'em up-- and breathes the life of an entire campaign into it. Not shying away from that very definition, developer MoreGames envisioned an 'entire campaign' to mean 40 sizeable campaign levels over 8 unique worlds, and a battallion of 50 different enemy types and 8 giant bosses to clog the daylights out of. Not to mention two very different endless modes that improve greatly on its origins thanks to the huge library of art assets now available.

The campaign begins with a short in-game cinematic where your knight, after a little soul-searching, gets pulled into an alternate dimension. It's a no-fuss opener designed to get you into the action as soon as possible, as it's clear this is where the developer has spent most of their time. You start with a tutorial level, where you are soon introduced to two other knights to battle with. Before beginning each mission, you spawn in a portal room, where you can select from one of the three characters: a human Roman-esque knight, an other-world looking, dual scythe wielding knight, and a dwarven, hammer wielding knight. They each play very differently and have their own set of skills and perks to unlock.

The skill system itself needs some explanation, as it may not be apparent how it functions when first picking up the game. Each level, you begin by choosing a character, which is then spawned at level 1. Even if you come out of the first world at level 14, you'll still spawn in world 2 with your character reset. At first, this put me off, as I was having lots of fun with the progressive empowerement of my knight. In retrospect however, this seems to be a very clever implementation. Firstly, it allowed me to explore the breadth of each characters abilities over the campaign, mixing them in ways that I was not able to do in my first attempt. And secondly, it gave a nice sense of character scaling as I sliced through the 5 levels that make up each game world, leveling periodically without maxing out each and every skill.

Ultimately, each character has only 2 active spells that can be unlocked. Abilities are sorted into 'skills' and 'perks', and each level up you have access to 1 skill and a couple of perks. Perks supplement skills and your standard attacks, by adding benefits such as fire or ice to your attacks, or by increasing the rate at which you level or critical strike, or how much health is restored when you pick up health potions (or even how many additional skills or perks you earn each level). Skills on the other hand, include your two active abilities and several other passive abilities, such as attack strength or health bonuses. Each ability has 5 levels, and over the course of a world you'll generally be able to max out 3 or 4 of the reasonably lengthy list before having to reset.

As well as your active skills, the game includes a variety of consumable spells, from a crazy fox strapped with dynamite to your standard room-clearing freezes, proximity mines, or giant balls of energy. Though combat suffers a little from a tendency towards a truckload of frantic attack button mashing, the 3 skills nearly always at your disposal are crucial to surviving anything after about world 3. At this stage, the odds you face will progressively become more and more overwhelming and any previous thoughts of encroaching monotony are quickly swept away in the chaos. Unfortunately this doesn't extend to the huge, great looking boss enemies, who after the horde of enemies you have to wade through to get to, largely seem like pushovers. I would have liked to see a little more strategic varience to these encounters.

In any case it is clear that alot of time has been spent on the enemies in Knights Rush. Having 50 different enemy types is no small feat-- but having them all looking unique and with their own individual abilities and attacks is simply astounding. You'll encounter a host of different enemy knights, swamp monsters, giant crabs, giant spiders, the undead, wizards, vikings, golden scorpions, jumping iron-maidens...and more. These are then backed up by the legion of mechanical devices that are littered across each of the worlds. Worlds are replete with spiked traps, falling blades, rotating saws, raining arrows, giant boulders that fall from the sky, cannons, ballistae-- you name it, it's there. And in an interesting twist, these enemies can only be defeated by standard attacks (if at all).

Knights Rush has to be one of the most gorgeously detailed and painstakingly created game worlds we have seen on the iOS device. Each character and enemy is inked in a stylized fashion closely resembling that of Castle Crashers on XBL. The backdrops are equally lovingly rendered, richly detailed and set-off in layers to give a pseudo-3D effect that I absolutely love. Playing through the Super Endless Mode-- where worlds and enemies are randomly generated as you progress-- is a visual treat.


Finally, the standard Endless Mode rounds out the Knights Rush content, where levels you unlock in the campaign can be played endlessly. High scores for both endless modes are recorded in Chillingo's Crystal social platform, which offers additional replay value above and beyond the Campaign's 3 or so hours of game time (which can effectively be doubled or tripled if you decide to attempt Hard or Insane difficulties).

While some may initially be deterred by the few active skills available or the kitten-soft boss fights; you can't dispute that the sheer weight of content here resembles something more like what we'd expect from an expensive console downloadable title. That there are three very different knights to fight with further compounds the game's fun factor as you delve into their individual skill sets. All up, Knights Rush is a highly recommended addition to any action fan's game library, and should be a no-brainer pickup for beat 'em up fans. (Note, we did encounter a small bug where reloading the campaign following an endless mode sessions resulted in the wrong skill tree for our chosen knight, something we expect the developers will address soon but certainly not game breaking.)

If you're still on the fence, head over to our forums to read other readers' opinions and be sure to check out the (slightly outdated) gameplay trailer above as the game looks infinitely better in action.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Talbot

    Does it have retina display support? if not, deal breaker for me.

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewindburn Peter Lettieri

      I don't believe it does, Talbot.

      I only had a chance to test this on a 3GS device pre-launch. I'll post back here with an update once we've had some iPhone 4 time with it though, to see how it fares on the higher resolutions.

      • Talbot

        Ok, thanks.

      • Lain

        It's not retina display, but the artwork detail is amazing and the animations are smooth.

    • Jared Nelson

      Ok, Peter had me check it out, and I don't think it does either. But man is it hard to tell. I immediately thought it did at first, but upon closer inspection I don't think it does. But I'm still not sure! Nothing stands out as especially jagged or fuzzy how some games can look on iPhone 4. This is just one of the most gorgeous games I've ever seen, retina display or not.

      My advice Talbot is that if that is the only thing holding you back from buying the game, don't let it. It seems to be a non-issue and you'd be missing out on an awesome game. Sorry I can't be more definitive, but I think that just proves how great the game looks.

      • Talbot

        Thanks a lot, thats enough info for me. I was worried that it would stand out all jagged as u say. I'm off to the appstore, cya..

  • MrMuesli

    Wow! This game oozes unique cartoonesque goodness. The visuals practically pop out off the screen. Love it! Sort of wish the difficulty levels were locked until you beat the previous difficulty, but I understand why they didn't do that.

  • Angur

    This is a monumental achievement. Moregames now join those few devs along with Touchfoo and to truly challenge Gameloft when it comes to making appealing full fledged games. Imagine an iDracula game with this much levels and variety in it. Hope this game sells well!

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      Um....with an egg whisk?

  • Mintey

    Getting this.
    But,it's funny how the trailer says that the game has 7 worlds,and one of the screenies on app store says it has 8 worlds´:P

    • http://www.twitter.com/thewindburn Peter Lettieri

      Yep, I mentioned at the bottom that the trailer is outdated, we're waiting on the developers to get a more up to date one. The graphics also look much better in the release version, so it's a shame an updated trailer isn't ready.

  • Lord Gek

    Am I missing something obvious when applying Skill and Perk Points? As far as I can tell I need to highlight the desired Skill, hit OK to get kicked back to the main game, and then click on the upgrade button again to spend my next point. This CAN'T BE right! ;-P

    • MrMuesli

      I thought that too. seems a bit of a weird set-up.

  • sammysin

    Pretty sure it's a Squirrel strapped with dynamite, not a fox. ;D

  • VoodooVyper

    Better hope this game is perfect "out of the box", otherwise it'll never get fixed. Developer MoreGames is notorious for falsely leading customers to believe that patches, updates, and dlc (free) will be coming to previous titles (eg Orions).

    • MidianGTX

      I'm assuming you didn't notice the bug fixes for both Knights Onrush and A Quest Of Knights Onrush then. Oh, and one for Orions.

  • Bok Choy

    WOW, I just got this and played it for about 10 minutes. It's tons of fun and ten times better than Knight's Onrush. Obviously they are two different types of games but you can tell much more work went into this game. The graphics and characters and landscapes are absolutely stunning and it's just awesome to play. DEFINITELY worth $3.

  • Alex.B

    I like this game a lot nice job fellows.

  • Antoine

    When i launch the game the loading bar appear and when it finish Bang my ipod reboot I try several times but ... noting work :(

  • Remon

    Is this going to be released on the iPad?

  • silentcorp

    Dang, gonna have to grab this tonight when i'm near wifi!

  • george

    No Retina no buy, im out!

  • Alex.B

    How many games support Retina display? Is there a way to test a game you make on a Retina display device without having a mobile phone contract with AT&T they may not have an Iphone 4. The game is great and the graphics on my 3Gs look pretty good. I don't know how Retina Display will help the game play.

  • Blayke

    :( This almost crushed my dreams. I've been developing a game really similar to this. Hopefully mine will still do good against this competition!

    • thedrawguy

      Blayke,

      Don't give up! Look at the "Huge" success of Castle Crashers on the Xbox 360.
      Two years after it was released, it is still one of the top downloads. There is truely a market for this kind of game.

  • iPhone User

    How does it play in comparison to games like OMG Pirates?

  • silentcorp

    Bought it, played it for a few hours. Great artwork, fantastic design too! The game is easily one of the better looking sprite-based games I have on my idevice.

    Gameplay is a little sketchy, it's all too-often when you miss an enemey because you are just slightly off the same plane they are on. Games like Castle Crashers had much more forgiving hit detection making it easier to know when you will actually strike an enemy or not.

    Fix the save game state's for campaign and tighten up the hit detection and this game is gold! I'd also love for a mode where the leveling up is progressive throughout the levels, having everything reset to nothing after each level is fine but I'd love another mode that allows me to build my character to god-like status.