Part Clash of Clans, part Hearthstone, Clash Royale burst on the scenes with more hype than the royal baby. The game pits players against each other, 1 on 1, in a series of 3 minute matches where you deploy troops from the Clash of Clans IP to destroy your enemy’s tower, while he attempts the same. Unlike “of Clans”, both players are online simultaneously and have to manage both offense and defense. Winning matches and just being around earns you packs of random cards / troops that improve your abilities in the match.
What did they get right? What did they get wrong? And is it strategy?
The matches themselves have a lot of tactical depth. Perhaps taking a cue from Mobas you have two lanes to handle. You have a variety of troops that are useful in different situations, and deploying a troop costs Elixir which is gradually filling up over time, at the same rate for each player.
One tactic that I’ve seen a lot is players use is waiting for their opponent to make the first move. This makes it easy to “counter” whatever he plays, essentially burning the Elixir he spent for it.
The game is quite well balanced. Most of the matches I’ve played have been fairly close. It’s difficult to totally obliterate an opponent, and having the central tower be a sure-win allows for some nice come-from-behind victories.
Because there are no turns, the matches go by very quickly and are exciting the whole time. They also avoid some of the problems of turn-based games, such as the first-move advantage and having to watch in horror as your opponent plays half a dozen cards before you get a chance to respond.
The meta game, collecting and upgrading your cards, seems rather underhanded. In Clash of Clans, and most Online Strategy Games, it’s quite clear that the level of a player’s troops and buildings (the culmination of his past victories or dedication to the game), have a huge influence on the outcome of a battle. “ Royale” doesn’t specifically hide this information, but they’re not upfront about it either. On paper a level 3 Giant is not so much stronger than a level 2 Giant. But if they were both deployed at the same time and left alone to hammer away on enemy towers, the level 3 Giant would end up doing an extra 500 damage. And that’s one Giant. If every troop on the board is one level higher, that’s a very difficult uphill battle.
And although you do get to see the levels of both your troops and the opponents, you haven’t got the time to process it in the heat of battle, even if you had managed to memorize all the stats.
Also, like “ of Clans”, the social aspect of the game is negligible. Your alliance is basically there to help swap the occasional card (but of course this is only useful if the few people in your alliance have a card you need and for whatever reason don’t want it). Your opponents are all random names you are unlikely to ever see again, let alone start a rivalry with.
This all changes of course when you are at the top. If you’ve made the necessary investment to get a deck that allows you to compete against the best, you will frequently be up against the same opponents, and your matches will be broadcast to every player in the world.
This is one place where “Royale” really shines. Again taking from the MOBA / eSports genre, all your matches are automatically recorded, and easy to share. There’s a core section of the menu devoted to showing off the top matches, which are always fun to watch. I imagine it really lets those top players feel like stars.
At the end of the day though you have to decide, are you a football star, or are you a warlord? Clash Royale is great for quick, fun matches with low consequences. If you’d rather wage an epic war with an enemy alliance over more than a coffee break, you should sink your teeth into a real OSG.