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Riftbound Indie Video Game Review

Riftbound Indie Video Game Review

I was a pretty big fan of Plants Vs Zombies when it first came out. Part of this was because I have been a fan of the tower defense genre for quite a long time. Plants Vs Zombies excelled because it was a straightforward and simple game, and yet it was an interesting twist on the genre. While I was a big fan of Plants Vs Zombies, I really haven’t played many similar games since. I am not quite sure why either. When I first saw Riftbound I was intrigued as it seemed to have everything that I enjoyed about Plants Vs Zombies with an interesting twist. Riftbound is a fun tower defense game that kind of feels like what you would get if you combined Plants Vs Zombies and Pokemon.

Riftbound takes place in a world that has been peaceful for a long time. This changes when an evil force emerges with the ability to control the undead. With this power they intend to take over the world. The guardian tree is responsible for protecting the world and needs your help to stop the undead legion. As you journey towards the source of the evildoer’s power, you will recruit various elementals to help you. Can you fight back the undead and save your world?

As soon as you start up Riftbound you can tell that the designers were inspired by the classic video game Plants Vs Zombies. Anyone at all familiar with that game will already have a good idea of what to expect from Riftbound.

The game takes place on a board that consists of a number of lanes. Enemies will spawn at one end and move towards the other. Your objective is to prevent them from making their way to the end of the lane. If an enemy reaches the end of a lane you might have to restart the level from the beginning. Otherwise the lane will close which forces you to defeat more enemies in the other lanes.

To protect the lanes you can use a number of spells or summon elementals. You will periodically acquire energy and can also place elementals on the board that generate energy. This energy can be used to place units on spaces on the board or to use spells. Each unit placement and spell has a cooldown period.

In order to stop an enemy you need to deplete its health. Many of the spells deal damage to a section of the board (that you get to choose), or provide other beneficial effects. Most of the elementals deal different types of damage and have other effects. For example some units may have high health, while others attacks stun/slow down enemies. When enemies reach one of your units, they will start attacking it. If one of your units run out of health, they will be removed from the board. To succeed you need to figure out the best set of units and spells to use in order to defeat the enemies before they can get past your defenses.

At this point Riftbound probably sounds exactly like Plants Vs Zombies. The one area where the game starts to differentiate itself is in a mechanic that kind of reminds me of Pokemon. To begin the game you don’t have much choice over what units and spells you take into battle. As you advance in the game though, you get more and more choices. Eventually you will acquire more advanced forms of the elementals which deal additional damage and other effects. Each base elemental has a couple different evolution paths which you can choose from. You will have to first place the base elemental, but can then use energy to evolve it to a new form. As the game limits the amount of elementals and spells that you can equip, you need to choose which to bring into a battle. This helps you develop your strategy for the level.

I would say that Riftbound was pretty similar what I initially expected it to be. The game shares a lot in common with Plants Vs Zombies. The basic gameplay is pretty much exactly the same with a few minor tweaks and a few additional twists. Because of this if you have ever played Plants Vs Zombies or another similar game, you should already have a good idea of what to expect from the game. If you never cared for it, I see no reason why Riftbound would change your opinion. Those who enjoy the genre though, should read on as I think you will really enjoy Riftbound.

I honestly don’t remember the last time I have played one of these type of tower defense games. I have always enjoyed the genre, but for some reason stayed away from it for quite a long time. While Plants Vs Zombies hasn’t had a real sequel for quite a while, there have been a number of indie games that have filled in the gap. I really haven’t checked out any of these indie games so I can’t really compare Riftbound to them. I can say that Riftbound reminded me of what I enjoyed so much about Plants Vs Zombies when I first played it.

For the most part the game is on the straightforward/simple side and that is not a bad thing. The game doesn’t overload you with mechanics to make itself feel deeper than it is. It does a good job keeping the more casual feel which I think works well for this type of game. The game does a good job with the difficulty ramp up as more mechanics are introduced throughout the game. The game never becomes so difficult where you don’t know what to do.

This isn’t to be confused with the game having no strategy. I wouldn’t say that the game is terribly difficult (more on this later). I think the game does a good job of being challenging, but not so restrictive that there is only one winning strategy that you can implement. You need to put thought into how you design your defense. If you just randomly place units, you likely will fail. For example you need enough units that generate energy or you won’t be able to place new units/spells fast enough to hold back the enemies. You also need to place more defensive units towards the front of the lanes to absorb enemy damage. Otherwise what units you decide to use are up to you. Some combinations work better together than others, but the game is flexible enough where you can play it how you want.

I think the main reason that Riftbound succeeds is just the fact that the gameplay is satisfying. While you don’t need to put a ton of strategy into your defense, it still feels satisfying when you hold back the enemy forces. When you have most of your defenses built, it is fun to sit back and watch them obliterate the incoming enemies. There are points in some of the levels where you have a ton of enemies to defeat. Seeing them slowly get whittled down is enjoyable. The game does a good job making you feel good about what you did. If you do a good job building up your defenses, you can create a force that seems unstoppable.

That said, I will say that I don’t know if I would consider Riftbound to be a considerably difficult game. I will preface this by saying that I mostly played the game on normal difficulty. The hard difficulty could be considerably more difficult. On the normal difficulty I was able to beat almost all of the levels on my first attempt. The boss fights were responsible for most of the times where I actually had some struggles. Some of the bosses can actually be quite difficult. On the normal difficulty you mostly need to make a pretty big mistake in order to fail a mission. If you do a good job building your defenses, you will eventually reach a point where it is basically impossible to lose. I am curious to see how difficult hard mode is as that could maybe bring more challenge to the game.

How much of an issue this is for you, depends on how challenging you need the game to be. If you need the game to be really difficult where there is no room for errors, you may be disappointed. Otherwise I don’t see it being a huge problem. You can usually utilize the same strategy in every level, where a little more variety would have helped. You need to build fast and utilize your energy well early on. If you don’t you may get trapped in a position that you can’t work your way out of. Ultimately the game gives you enough challenge where you can’t relax. It isn’t so hard though that it gets away from that more casual/relaxing atmosphere that works best for these type of games.

With the gameplay out of the way, I wanted to quickly talk about the atmosphere and story. The game’s world is a pretty typical fantasy setting. The story isn’t bad, but it isn’t particularly original either. You likely have already played a video game with a very similar setting/story. As for the visuals I thought they were pretty good. There are only so many different types of units in the game, but they look nice. The ragdoll physics have literally no impact on the gameplay, but they are nice as well.

Before playing Riftbound I was kind of curious how long it would be. I was actually a little surprised that it was longer than I expected. The game has a total of 57 missions. I would say that most of the missions take around 7-10 minutes with some taking a little longer. I ultimately was able to beat the game on normal difficulty in around 13-14 hours. This included all of the optional missions though, so you could finish the game quicker if you only focus on the main missions. I was impressed by the game’s length. If the premise intrigues you at all, I see no reason why you shouldn’t get your money’s worth out of Riftbound.

In many ways Riftbound is what I expected it to be. The Plants Vs Zombies inspiration is evident from the very beginning. In fact the gameplay is similar in a lot of ways. You basically try to build up a defense to defend lanes against an invading force. The game somewhat differentiates itself with a mechanic where you evolve your units in different ways. The gameplay may not be the most original, but it is quite fun. It finds a good balance between being a casual game and having enough strategy to keep you entertained. It is really satisfying when you can create a defense that holds back a lot of units. The game is surprisingly longer than I expected as well.

Ultimately your feelings towards the game will likely be similar to games such as Plants Vs Zombies. If you have never really cared for the genre, I don’t see Riftbound changing your mind. Fans of these type of games though should really enjoy Riftbound, and should check it out.


Release Date: May 12th, 2022 | Systems: PC

Developer: Barrel Smash Studios | Publisher: Barrel Smash Studios | ESRB Rating: Not Rated

Genres: Indie, Strategy, Tower Defense

Official Website:


  • Good balance between being casual/relaxing and requiring strategy to be successful.
  • Fun gameplay that is rewarding when you can hold back large numbers of enemies.


  • Doesn’t differ significantly from games such as Plants Vs Zombies.
  • Can be on the easier side unless you play on the hardest difficulty.

Rating: 4/5

Recommendation: For fans of tower defense games such as Plants Vs Zombies.

Where to Purchase: Steam

We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Barrel Smash Studios for the review copy of Riftbound used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.