I spent a large chunk of 2012 playing Kingdom Rush, the unfairly addictive tower defense game that tasks you with upgrading towers, maneuvering troops, and throwing down last-minute fireballs in an attempt to thwart invading monsters. I mastered it, maxing out every level on the hardest difficulty. (I am allowed to brag about this, because I am terrible at most video games. (Except StarCraft II. (And JRPGs.)))
So after spending some time with its sequel, Kingdom Rush Frontiers, I am happy to report that the next version of Kingdom Rush is worthy of the name.
Well, okay, it's not really a sequel. More of an expansion pack. The core gameplay—making smart decisions about where you place towers, when you upgrade towers, and when you cast spells—is all identical to the first game. The base towers are all the same, too: you've still got your archers, your mages, your cannons, and your soldiers. And you can still upgrade each of them four times.
It's the fourth upgrade that makes all the difference: in the first Kingdom Rush, you could morph each tower into a super-saiyan elite tower with its own set of powers and upgrades. In Kingdom Rush Frontiers, those elite towers are all totally different. So instead of turning into Paladins and Barbarians, for example, soldiers can work their way up to Assassins or Knights Templar. The differences are subtle, but they can affect your strategy quite a bit. Which is good. Strategy is good.
There are also a whole bunch of new heroes—avatars that take the battlefield and help the rest of your troops fight off monsters—and some of them cost real money to use, for better or worse. (I'm playing at the highest difficulty level, and so far I haven't felt like I need to spend real money to get past anything, so I'm not complaining. Yet.)
There are also a lot of other cool little details and surprises—like a monster suddenly chopping down trees and attacking you from a route that you didn't know you had to defend—that make Frontiers really fun, even if it is essentially a carbon copy of the first Kingdom Rush. And, look, does anyone really have a problem with a game just promises more Kingdom Rush? I most definitely do not.