Apple Arcade follows up Fantasian with a tactical RPG from the Kingdom Rush team

The Kingdom Rush mobile game franchise has released hit after hit for nearly a decade, producing some of the best tower defense gameplay you can get on a smartphone. But the next game Legends of Kingdom Rush will pivot to a new genre, tactical RPG roguelike, as the latest game for Apple Arcade – another experimental game made possible because of the service.

Of course, Ironhide Game Studio, creators of the Kingdom Rush games, had already been working on the game for years before starting talks about bringing their next one to Apple Arcade. They had a strong concept of what the game could be, but the properties of Apple’s gaming service – no micro transactions, no worrying about setting the right price – was appealing enough to finalize Ironhide’s decision to go with something new instead of the tried-and-tested tower defense gameplay.

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Ironhide follows other developers in choosing Apple Arcade to release its more experimental games. From the synesthetic launch title Sayonara Wild Hearts to the follow-up to No Man’s Sky to an idle Game of Thrones game to the diorama-filled Fantasian, Apple Arcade has offered developers the opportunity to release intriguing games without having to shoehorn revenue-generating in-app purchases in. 

“All across the development process, there was this question of how to make the game challenging and replayable, and always playing around that concept,” Game Director Alvaro Azofera told TechRadar. “When Apple Arcade showed up, we saw it as one of the best platforms to have a truer experience [where] there are no in-app purchases, there are no other incentives, it’s just true gameplay.”

Legends of Kingdom Rush

(Image credit: Ironhide Studios)

From tower defense to tactics on iPhones

Legends of Kingdom Rush is a tactical RPG operating on a hex grid with rogue-like elements – leaving behind the tower defense gameplay but preserving the characters and vibe of previous Kingdom Rush games. There are rogue-like elements that make each ‘run’ in the game a bit random, but Ironhide is aiming at a more casual experience than the more hardcore PC ‘roguelike’ games out there to balance the challenge and the fun. 

“The whole game is looking for an experience rather than fitting in a genre. We want players to experience Kingdom Rush as if they were playing a session of Dungeons and Dragons, for example, and that would require two elements: tactical battle and a narrative aspect of what happens to an adventuring party while they are doing their campaign,” Lead Game Designer Enzo Gaiero told TechRadar. Finally, the game has “a randomly-assigned map to better exploit those two aspects of the game.”

That 'map' is a randomized series of encounters, like the branching paths of encounters in Slay The Spire, FTL, and other rogue-likes that keeps every new playthrough fresh.

Legends of Kingdom Rush

(Image credit: Ironhide Studios)

Fans of the franchise will recognize elements of older games in Legends of Kingdom Rush, like voiced catchphrases and abilities of returning characters. The art style needed to be adapted, as the stick figure-size character models in the tower defense games had to be increased 20 to 30 times and animated with much more complex animation in Legends. 

Kingdom Rush would’ve had to grow up sooner or later: the original was released as a browser-based Flash game in 2011, with appropriately simple art and characters. But a decade later, the power of modern smartphones with Snapdragon and A-series Bionic chipsets allows for so much more, Azofera said. 

Legends of Kingdom Rush

(Image credit: Ironhide Studios)

Now Ironhide makes mobile games with Unity game engine tools that allows the studio to make a game as complex as Legends of Kingdom Rush, which generates over 100 different combat scenarios on the fly with different layers of randomness, which means players aren’t encountering the same enemies every time they boot up the game. 

And, with Apple Arcade, Ironhide can give subscribers a new experience without gatekeeping any of its content behind in-app purchases. There’s no word on when, or if, Legends of Kingdom Rush will come to Android – for now, it’s an exclusive for Apple’s gaming service. 

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