I’m in no way a regular mobile device game player. I’ve dabbled in games here and there, but outside of “Puzzle Quest 2”, I never stick with one for longer than a month or so. I’ve also never been a big fan of the “free to play” (also known as “freemium”) model of games, as they usually feel exploitative in the way they nickel and dime gamers by blocking content behind a paywall. So you might say that I should be the last one to review a mobile game with this structure, but I was pleasantly surprised by the recent release of “Clash Royale” from developer Supercell. The game is simple to learn but offers a level of depth in strategy the deeper you get into it. It’s also extremely addicting without ever stopping you from playing at any time you wish.
The game borrow’s assets from the developer’s previous game, “Clash of Clans”. If you’re not familiar with that one, you might have seen its commercials on TV; sadly, those advertisements had the opposite effect on me than they intended, as I’ve admittedly never played it. But whether or not you’re a fan of “Clash of Clans”, this new title is worth a look.
“Clash Royale” is part tower defense, part CCG (collectible card game), part real-time strategy game. It’s exclusively head-to-head multiplayer, with each player given three castles on their respective screens that they need to keep in tact while simultaneously attempting to destroy their opponent’s. Each player’s “main” tower is centered toward the bottom of his or her screen with two smaller towers on either side, slightly ahead of the larger one. Each match lasts three minutes or until one of three things happens: 1) a player destroys all three of the opponent’s towers, 2) a player has more towers destroyed than another, or 3) a player destroys the “main” tower on the opponent’s side. If after the three minutes each player has an equal number of towers remaining, the match turns into sudden death, and the next tower destroyed crowns that player victorious.
The way a player attacks and defends by deploying different units at selected places on the board is by selecting one of four cards that are randomly selected from a deck of unit cards that the player assembles before each match. Each unit has different strengths and weaknesses that are learned by trial and error during matches. For instance, some units have high attack power but move very slowly, while other smaller units might move very quickly and have low attack power. Some cards also offer single-shot range attacks which can be used on enemy units or towers. The use of these units are limited by a mana bar that increases over time equally between both players, and the strategy comes in by choosing units that cost different levels of mana to deploy.
This may sound complicated, but after two rounds I felt like I had the basics down very easily. Where the game gets really interesting is in how much deeper the strategy gets. The first aspect comes in what happens when one of the “side” towers is destroyed. This changes things quite a bit, as the player who destroyed one of these towers now has the ability to deploy units much closer to the enemy than before. This gives a player a distinct advantage until the other player is also able to destroy a tower.
The other strategy comes in the deck building, which also gives the game its variety as well as the drive to keep moving forward. When you first start the game, you have very low-level characters, but as you progress you have many outlets in which you can earn more cards. Some reward you with new unit types, while others work towards increasing the stats of your existing units. But what’s ingenious about this forward progress is that the game never feels totally imbalanced where one player doesn’t stand a chance against another. The game is structured in such a way that progresses you into different arenas based on the amount of time you’ve spent with the game and how many wins you have acquired. Each arena has specific cards/units available to them that help keep the balancing in tact between players in that arena.
Another interesting aspect of the game is how community-driven it is. You have the option to join a “clan” of other players with whom you can donate and request cards in exchange for extra gold needed to upgrade your units. You can even engage in friendly battles between your clan members or watch other battles that have taken place between other members.
“Clash Royale” is becoming one of my favorite pick-up-and play mobile games. It can be as simple or deep as you prefer your playing style to be, and I never felt forced to put any money towards extra resources. As of the date of this review, I haven’t put a single dollar into the game, and those that have don’t have an advantage over me in the arena. Where other games require me to put 10-15 minutes into a game in order to make progress, this one can literally be wrapped up in a few short minutes and still offer a sense of accomplishment and progress. If you’re looking for an enjoyable experience to have during a quick coffee break or during your morning commute, I can’t recommend this enough. It’s definitely worth the price so long as you have the willpower to keep from succumbing to the free-to-play model.
“Clash Royal” is a free-to-download app available on both iOS and Android platforms.