Splinterlands Tower Defense vs. Kingdom Rush and Junkworld
Splinterlands Tower Defense
In this post I wanted to share some of my speculation on the upcoming "game-within-a-game" being developed within the Splinterlands ecosystem. I'm talking about the Splinterlands Tower Defense game, the first edition of which is called "Nightmare." This Tower Defense game is not only within the Splinterlands ecosystem but also supposed to be taking place within the Splinterlands universe as a game played by inhabitants of the Splinterlands.
For the purposes of this article I am going to compare what I know about the upcoming Splinterlands Tower Defense game and a couple mobile tower defense games from Ironhide games that I have been playing recently. To get a full understanding I recommend playing these games yourself, but I will do my best to explain to those who may not have had a chance to try these out.
Kingdom Rush Tower Defense
The Splinterlands TD game hasn't been released yet and is still in development but we have been given some clues as to how it might look and what the gameplay will likely consist of. Naturally people have been comparing it to other existing Tower Defense games. The most common comparison I've seen spoken about in the community is Kingdom Rush by Ironhide games. It's not hard to see why. First off let's take a look at the concept art released by Splinterlands for their Tower Defense gameplay:
Now compare that with a board in Kingdom Rush called The Citadel, which has an almost identical layout. I have placed towers in similar positions and tried to get a screenshot that highlights the greatest amount of similarities as possible:
Others have said that the Splinterlands concept art reminds them of the following board from a different level on Kingdom Rush, and I can see their point in terms of style and mood:
From this comparison alone I can make some educated guesses about the Splinterlands TD gameplay:
- There will be a similar setup for each level with paths the enemies will traverse and defined spots alongside those paths where towers can be built. In the Splinterlands concept art these spots are marked by magic summoning circles and in Kingdom Rush they are shown as circles with a flag in the center.
- There will be a "Hero" which is a warrior that can be placed on the path to also engage the enemies.
- Each tower will have additional abilities/upgrades that can be activated during a battle. In the Splinterlands TD game this will likely only occur between waves, whereas in Kingdom Rush it can be done on the fly during an active wave of enemies.
- There will be spells that can also be brought into play with various effects. Again, in the Splinterlands TD game these will likely be activated between waves whereas Kingdom Rush spells can be used at any time during gameplay.
One big difference between these two games is that Kingdom Rush has a lot of active clicking and doing things during an active wave. Splinterlands TD will have all the tower building and spellcasting occurring between waves and then watching the wave play out to see if you survive it before getting another chance to build, cast spells and place your hero before the next wave. Kingdom Rush doesn't have a clear defining point between waves. In fact, sometimes in Kingdom Rush you are still dealing with enemies from one wave when the next one starts!
Another major difference is that Splinterlands TD will have cards representing each Tower, Spell and Hero. Combining duplicates of a card will level it up. Kingdom Rush does not have this same concept. There are only four Tower types and all four are available right from the start. As you progress through the levels in the campaign mode you gain access to higher max upgrades. These upgrades occur in two ways. First off, as you clear each board you gain between one and three stars depending on how well you performed. These stars can be allocated to the tower and spell types to provide global upgrades to them. Additionally within each match each individual tower you build can be upgraded using the gold budget for that match and these upgrades are only active during that match.
While it is clear that a lot of inspiration has been taken from Kingdom Rush for the Splinterlands Tower Defense game there will also be some significant differences in gameplay between the two. I began to wonder if there were other games by Ironhide that might contain gameplay elements similar to those described in the available literature about the upcoming Splinterlands TD game. From what I can tell there are some interesting metagame elements in "Kingdom Rush: Vengeance" which might be relevant. I haven't had a chance to play Vengeance yet but if I do I will make another post to review how I think it might compare to the upcoming Splinterlands TD game.
Something I did find, however, was another even more relevant Ironhide game called Junkworld. Apparently it is only available in certain countries at the moment, but luckily I am in Canada and it is available here. Let's take a look...
Junkworld Tower Defense
Junkworld is a post-apocalyptic themed Tower Defense game by Ironhide. After playing Kingdom Rush it wasn't very difficult to figure out how to play Junkworld. One thing I noticed immediately was that you can place Towers in any flat, empty space that isn't directly on the path. In this case, the Splinterlands TD game is probably going to be more like Kingdom Rush with the designated locations for towers.
A minor difference is that in Junkworld you have Tactics which take the place of Heroes, Reinforcements and Spells. A related, but more interesting difference is that there are 10 total Towers and 9 total Tactics that you can unlock. You have to pick 4 Towers and 4 Tactics to bring into each match. This gives a greater range of options for how to approach each challenge compared to only 4 different towers in Kingdom Rush. In a presentation at Splinterfest it was disclosed that the Splinterlands TD game will initially have 25 different Towers available to own in the Nightmare edition!
In Junkworld the Towers and Tactics are cards, which are categorized as Common, Rare or Epic rarities. When you begin the game you start with one card each of the initial 4 Towers and 4 Tactics. There are multiple ways to get more cards, including as rewards for successfully completing boards or other challenges or through buying or earning loot crates and opening them. The more rare the card, the less likely they are to drop from rewards or crates. Towers and Tactics are upgraded by collecting enough duplicates of one card and then combining them.
This card system is very close to how the Splinterlands TD game is supposed to work. We will have Tower, Hero and Spell cards which will most likely have four rarities: Common, Rare, Epic and Legendary. Upgrading a card will require combining multiple copies of that card. We can get Nightmare edition cards from packs. The rewards from playing will include SplinterShards (SPS) tokens which could be used to buy more packs, for example. Other rewards from playing are unknown but it could potentially include Reward edition cards.
Another similarity between Junkworld and Splinterlands TD is that there will be two phases of gameplay: Building and Defending. When a match begins you start in Building mode where you can place your Towers according to your budget for the match. Once you are ready you trigger the first wave of enemies. This is the Defending mode where the enemies arrive and you have to survive the wave. The Splinterlands TD is supposed to be an autobattler so during the Defending mode the player will simply watch it play out, whereas in Junkworld there are things to click on and do during this phase. You cannot build new Towers during the Defending phase in either game. If you survive a wave of enemies you reenter Building mode and you get a chance to place additional Towers. Again, you will trigger Defend mode once you are ready. This continues until all waves have been survived or you are defeated.
There Missions in Junkworld which change things around to provide an additional challenge. For example the enemies might come from the opposite side of the board, or it will simply be harder in general with more enemies and whatnot. One of these Missions involve only having access to Towers and no Tactics. In these Missions you will place your towers during the Building phase and then when you are ready the Defending phase just plays out without your intervention. There is one exception: The Towers will charge up a special move which you can trigger during the Defending phase. Aside from this exception, this automatically played out Defending phase is how the Splinterlands TD is supposed to operate. As described above, there is a Building phase after each Defending phase that you survive until you've either survived all the waves or failed.
The final major point of similarity I wanted to note was Energy. In Junkworld you start out with 50 Energy and it costs an average of 4 Energy to play a match, or 2 Energy to retry a failed match. Energy is replenished over time. Splinterlands TD is going to have a form of Energy as well, but instead of being at the account level you will have separate Energy for each card. Using the card will deplete its Energy, which reduces the amount of Reward you will earn from winning matches while using that card. Each card's energy will replenish over time.
Based on what I've managed to absorb from the available information on the upcoming Splinterlands TD game combined with my field research in playing Kingdom Rush and Junkworld with the express purpose of exploring the possible connections, these are the biggest takeaways. How I think the Splinterlands TD will operate in comparison to the two Ironhide games:
Board Layouts for each challenge/match will likely have a similar setup to Kingdom Rush with paths and defined spaces along those paths where Towers can be built.
Gameplay flow will be more like Junkworld with distinct Building and Defending phases. Start with building your Towers, then when you're ready you trigger the first wave of enemies and your Towers will automatically defend your base. If you survive the wave, you get another chance to build Towers and other actions before triggering the next wave, and so on until you either survive all the waves or you are defeated.
Towers are Cards and you can level them up by collecting enough duplicates of the same card and combining them. The same is true for Hero and Spell cards. You will have up to 25 Towers and an unknown number of Spells to pick from to bring into a match, along with one Hero. Cards will come in four levels of rarity: Common, Rare, Epic and Legendary. This entire system is very much like the way Towers and Tactics are handled in Junkworld.
Individual cards have Energy which is depleted through use, and replenishes over time. The lower your energy, the lower the potential rewards you can earn from using those cards. Compare this to the Energy system in Junkworld, which is on the account level. In that game you have a max of 50 Energy and you use up energy when you play matches and it recharges over time.
Kingdom Rush and Junkworld do seem to be excellent comparisons for the upcoming Splinterlands TD. I highly recommend playing both if you're trying to get ready for Splinterlands TD, but I would definitely suggest prioritizing Junkworld if you can get it in your region. It has the most elements in common with the proposals and concepts we've been told about so far from the Splinterlands team.
Please let me know if you'd like more in-depth analysis of how Junkworld handles the various different gameplay and meta-gameplay elements in future articles. I could perhaps dive into how the cards level up, or the different ways to get cards in the game, etc... Let me know! Also, if you think I'm missing something or you have a different prediction, plese share it in the comments and we can discuss it!
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