581396_largerWhen it comes to playing sequels to games that a nearly flawless the first round, my preference is for a follow-up that looks to iteratively improve upon on its predecessors pitfalls without messing too much with its successful formula. In this regard, Ironhide Game Studio's Kingdom Rush: Frontiers [$2.99 / $4.99 (HD)]is the perfect type of sequel for me. Preserving the smooth, well-balanced Tower Defense gameplay of the original, Frontiers adds just enough new content in towers, enemies heroes, and locales to make it another incredible experience.

To put it succinctly, if you've played Kingdom Rush, you've played Frontiers. This sequel employs the same type of Tower Defense gameplay, art style, and presentation. Heck, even the four basic tower types return unaltered. The Three-star ranking and upgrade system also return, as well as a wealth of heroes. Unfortunately, just as before players only get a limited amount of heroes through gameplay unlocking, with the majority requiring IAP. While you don't need these heroes to beat or experience the campaign in its fullest, the cooler ones are locked away, leaving some disappointment. Otherwise, a full-fledged campaign returns, with Heroic and Iron Challenges adding supplemental difficulty for those that desire it.

mzl.tletixwy.320x480-75

Where Frontiers does make some changes is in the deeper elements of its gameplay. For starters, the advanced upgrades for each basic tower have been revamped and are now much more interesting. Mage Towers can now be upgrade to Necromancer towers, which will raise the dead of the baddies to fight for you. Another interesting upgrade lies with the Axethrowers (Archer advanced class), which lets you curse enemies to take more damage or dispel aura from the enemies.

The latter is another subtle change for Frontiers. Enemies have a lot more nuanced secondary effects beyond simply attacking your defenders. Whether its shaman that bestow a variety of defense-oriented auras around their servants, queen bees that explode into little bees when defeated, or alien facehuggers that turn your defenders into a horrific (and strong) alien beasts if not defeated in time, there's a lot more to think about beyond simple tower placement. Even the environments require more attention, as enemies will carve new paths halfway through a level, man-eating plants will take out your knights if you don't pay attention, and other settings can reward (or punish) players that heed their surroundings.

Another big component of Frontiers are one-off items that can be bought with gems, a currency that's liberally earned by completing levels and dispatching enemies. Items range from dynamite and freeze potions that affect a small area of the battlefield, a coin package that instantly gives you more money to spend to an extravagantly expensive bomb that destroys ever enemy on screen. There's a decent mix of items that become more and more important the further you get into the campaign.

mzl.jmxesbnt.320x480-75This is where I imagine some of the debate may occur. Yes, as you get further into the campaign, smart use of these one-time items becomes highly suggested to pass levels and become almost a prerequisite in order to three-star some of the harder missions. This means that players will find themselves having to actually use the gems earned and purchase items in normal course of gameplay. Considering that said gems can be purchased via IAP, I imagine some may argue that Frontiers' gameplay is subtly pushing towards IAP.

Personally, I don't really think that's the case. As I mentioned earlier, gems are easily earned by playing (and replaying) matches, with enough earned after a match to pick up a few items. Considering that most players will be doing this anyways to grind experience for their respective heroes, I don't believe currency (and thus IAP) to be a significant issue). This makes item usage just another strategic element that I appreciate rather than something as blatant as a pay wall.

It sounds small, but the elements listed above make Frontiers one of the most well-rounded TD titles out there. We already Ironhide had the core TD gameplay down pat. With the addition of better interactive environments, more strategic use of one-time items, advanced towers that truly differentiate between themselves and offer a wealth of strategy and enemies that actually require forethought, TD players will have to evolve to take on even more strategy from this difficult title. True, I'm not the biggest fan of the IAP heroes, and a few other nagging issues (such as the inability of the game to save runs if the game runs out of memory while suspended) do exist. However, in the great scheme of things there's little to complain about in this excellent sequel to a great game.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • 911abhi

    You've tackled most of the points.. but since the game is a sequel more tower types or advanced tower types should have been added.. right now the game feels like KR with more levels and not like a sequel..

    • soh

      Updates are going to add alot more stuff.

      • andrew9oh7

        Exactly!just like they did with the first game

    • Saberkin

      It's all I wanted :D. They continued the map. They made new and improved towers, heroes, enemies, and levels. (Now they just need more levels.)

  • speedyph

    IMA HAVE TO GET THIS METACRITIC AN U GUYZ R RANT AN RAVING ABOUT IT GOOD REVIEW :0)

    • twick

      What?

    • 28monkeys

      What are you talking about?

    • Alessandro Nunes

      Is that English?

  • toxiccheese

    Great review. I love this game but I really wish it wasn't just more of the same. This game feels like DLC and not a proper sequel. Luckily the game is still just as fantastic as ever.

  • ejfarraro

    "We already Ironhide had the core... " (I think you forgot a word :))

    Just finished this awhile. While I agree that it feels more like an expansion than something totally new, it's still worth it. Core gameplay is good, the new towers/setting/enemies are interesting, and it's overall a solid title.

    I think the IAP heroes are a good example of IAP done right, but they ARE a bit expensive. I think it's okay to have a couple really expensive ones as a 'status' symbol for players that love spending money (there are some League of Legends skins that are pretty ridiculous!) but I wish the bulk of them were a bit cheaper. There just isn't enough to differentiate the heroes for me to justify even $2.99.

    I actually liked the one-time use power-ups. The only one I used is the hearts one to boost my rating on certain levels. I can see how it might "ruin" things for players that like to master certain levels, but I found them to be great. I do enjoy replaying levels I failed to try a different strategy, but sometimes after playing 15 minutes on a level, only to have a single enemy break the line, it's nice to just use a hearts power-up and call it "good enough". You get ridiculous amounts of crystals just from playing, so there's literally no reason to need to buy IAP crystals.

    Overall, solid title, and I highly recommend it (especially if you somehow skipped the first)

  • worldcitizen1919

    I tend to disagree about the IAP. The more we tolerate this the more devs are beginning to feel good about charging both premium prices on top of IAP.Freemium with IAP is fair enough as you're getting a free trial. But premium with IAP is GREED and should never be supported by fair reviewers. It's reviewers taking a soft stand on this greed that is the reason why now we are getting heaps of premium games WITH IAP on top.

    Thanks to reviewers condoning this practice soon we will be getting $20 WITH IAP and it will continue endlessly. Reviewers agreeing to double dipping are doing all gamers a great disservice.

    • araczynski

      I tend to agree, which is why I'll be picking the iPad version when it hits 0.99.

    • ejfarraro

      If you understand the nature of the app store, you'll understand why IAP is necessary in premium apps. What you call greed, I call survival.

      The iOS market (and just games in general) moves VERY fast. I don't have articles offhand to back this up, but if you look at the revenue curve for most products, it spikes early and quickly disappears into oblivion. People constantly want something NEW. Next week, we'll be talking about the next big iOS release, and hardly any one will talk about KR anymore.

      What IAP does in the case of devs is to give them additional levers they can use to monetize their content. I'm sure the reason they've priced the heroes as they have is to offer sales, which gets people talking about the game again. They can add new heroes over time (which does cost money and development time), or new levels, etc...

      My point is, most developers have ~2 week window to really capitalize on the buzz and recoup their development cost. I'm not sure if you're aware of a developer's salary, but in the several months it would take to develop a game like KR, you're talking about $50k+ easily in development costs alone. We should be very discerning when condemning games for IAP. For every game that does it right, there are probably 5 that do it wrong. I think KR is an example of a game that does it right. They offer a couple of mostly cosmetic upgrades (because lets face it, all the heroes are pretty equivalent) and that's it.

      If you don't like it, I'm not saying you should pay for it. I'm just trying to help people understand that IAP is NOT necessarily evil. It's a matter of survival for these small devs.

      • C. Stubb

        I've never seem anyone look at a pay-to-win shenanigan and say "I can't believe how much that improves the quality of the game."

      • C. Stubb

        While IAPs may be necessary for the dev's "survival", the fact the remains that they just don't make for good gaming.

      • ejfarraro

        The good news is that none of the heroes in KR are pay-to-win (in fact I think they're all pretty equal, and are mainly aesthetic). The crystals come freely just from playing, so there's no reason to buy those either.

    • C. Stubb

      Be getting "$20 apps with IAPs -soon-"!? Check out some of the Square Enix titles; your warning seems to have come a bit late.

      • cuw

        Squeenix titles are coming from consoles where they cost $60, yes good old cartridges with big games cost that. These are games with massive development costs and are very likely not the easiest things to port. I am not condoning IAP at that price level but I do think iOS gamers need to consider that games aren't as cheap as the App Store makes them out to be. The only reason Rovio can sell Angry Birds for $0.99 is because of volume, Squeenix games are niche and need to recoup development costs.

        Right now the very best iOS games still pale in comparison to even decent GBA games, besides ones that are console ports, and its partly because the money in making a really good game isn't there. A 3DS game sells for 20x the price of a quality iOS title. There should exist a market where $20 games aren't a big deal to anyone if they are actually good games. Imagine The World Ends With You being a game that launched on iOS and not being ported, isn't that worth substantially more than just about any other RPG on the market? If games are going to have good graphics, good stories, good music, all presented in a cohesive package it won't come cheap.

    • Mj1ggy

      The reason developers release premium games with IAP has virtually nothing to do with the "soft stance of reviewers" and everything to do with a model that makes them money. It's up to consumers to use their dollars in a way that continues to shape the iOS gaming market, and right now they are sending the message that IAP will be willingly purchased. Fortunately, good developers continue to release quality games with optional IAP, though of course many have gone the other way and attempted to gouge customers. This review takes a fair stance on unnecessary IAP and neither condones nor criticizes it, whereas TA has been critical in the past of games with IAP paywalls (not universally).

  • tso5818

    Happy Father's Day Eli. :)

  • Luthur

    Don't forget about all the Easter egg nods to films like "Dune" "Aliens" "Preditors" and "Indiana Jones" - I'm still working on getting all achievements. Great fun! Highly recommend, but all you need is core game, no need to get IAPs.

  • sonnnym

    I'm immensely enjoying the gameplay of the sequel, really love the new towers and the amount of enemies allowed on screen at one time. The purchase of the 1st title left my belly full of satisfaction upon completion but I feel slightly stretched with the 2nd. €4.50 for what I feel is more of an overhaul than a sequel, fine, but IAP's priced more than the actual game doesn't agree with me. The good thing is that the game doesn't require me to buy them. Looking forward to the new update content :).

  • Papa Deuce

    Personally, I think the first one was more fun.... But this one does have more variety, and looks better.

  • Kevin Hetherington

    I completed the whole game using the first hero and no crystal weapons on normal 3 starring everything so the dlc is just for people who want a different playstyle. I never felt the need to pay for anything extra and I had never played the original. Highly recommended.

  • x x

    The game is good, but also extremely easy. I ve completed the game on all veteran with 3 stars without buying an iap(except for wizard which i bought during the last half of the game) in 3 or 4 days, and there is not much to do after this except for replaying old levels.

    • tex32

      If you've completed the game on Veteran, try completing the game without use of any hero/meteor shower. It definitely adds replay value, because it forces you to be extremely strategic when it comes to tower placement and what you choose to upgrade.

Kingdom Rush Frontiers Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 4.5