Now that I’m in a Hearthstone downswing, I’ve been looking for a game to play on my phone. Downwell held my interest for a bit, but Clash Royale, the newest game from the developers of Clash of Clans has me hooked. I haven’t even spent any money on it (yet)!
- TL;DR: A hybrid of real-time strategy and card battling set in the Clash of Clans universe
- Platform: Android (reviewed), iOS
- Hours Played: ~8 maybe? I’m not sure.
- What I Played: Won 120 games with a high trophy count of 1135, joined a clan
Clash Royale is a combination of real-time strategy and card battling. You go into battle with one of your three decks of eight cards, four in your hand at a time. Where Hearthstone gives you one more mana per turn up to a max of 10, Clash Royale has a max of 10 elixir which regenerates at one per two seconds. Cards cost elixir to play and can be units, spells, or buildings.
The map is similar to a MOBA with a strong central tower in the back middle of each side with a lane leading out 90 degrees on each side and upwards. Each lane has a smaller tower guarding it halfway between midfield and the main tower. Destroying an enemy tower is worth one crown and lets you spawn your troops farther up on that side of the map. The winner is the player with the most crowns after three minutes. In the event of a tie, a one minute sudden-death double-elixir overtime starts with the next crown winning the match. If a main tower is destroyed at any point, it’s automatic game over.
As I said earlier, cards can be either units, spells, or buildings. Many units will be familiar to Clash of Clans players like giants, barbarians, and witches. There are a fair amount of new ones, though, like the long-range musketeer and the baby drake. Spells include known entities like freeze and rage along with removal spells ranging from the large radius, low damage arrows to the pinpoint, destructive rocket. Buildings can be defensive as bomb towers or cannons or offensive as spawning huts for skeletons, goblins, or barbarians. Building a deck of eight cards is tough as I’m always wishing I could put just one more card in. Do you try to stay balanced? Go all-out offensive? Rush with armies of small troops or stick with big guns? Spawning huts and removal spells only? It’s up to you.
Unit placement and favorable trades are where the real-time strategy portion of Clash Royale come into play. Most games start off as a waiting game while both players reach 10 elixir. I tend to let my opponent go first and react to that. If they place a spawner on one side, which are expensive, I’ll try to rush the other side as I know they can’t defend too quickly. If I see a prince barreling down the lane, I’ll throw anything I can in front of it so my tower doesn’t take the brunt of his lance. You don’t always want to spawn your troops as close to the enemy towers as you can. It can be beneficial to spawn something in the back of your base and let it walk up as you regenerate elixir and spawn something else to build a charge.
Winning a game gives you a chest, if you have one of your four slots open. Chests take increasing amounts of time to open depending on their rarity and quality. Naturally, chests can be opened automatically for gems which can be bought with real money. Unfortunately, only one chest can be opening at a time. There’s still a good balance of loot flowing in with the common silver chests taking three hours to open, a free chest every four hours, and once-per-day crown chests. I’m sure we’ll see microtransactions for boosting the unlock speed of chests in the future, but for now you can either wait or finish a timer immediately.
Trophies are the ranking system in Clash Royale, just like in Clash of Clans. All of my ~200 games have been for 25-35 trophies, though. I’m a bit surprised that the range isn’t bigger, maybe 10 trophies per crown or something like that. New arenas unlock as your trophy count climbs, allowing you access to new cards. This is a good incentive to keep players from tanking rating since you want to stay in the higher arenas to get better cards from the chests won from those arenas.
Cards are upgraded by gathering repeats of that card and paying an upgrade cost. The upgrades are pretty substantial but do get pricey after a while. After a few days of playing I couldn’t keep upgrading everything I had, instead saving for upgrades to cards I’m currently using. There are currently 48 cards, though Supercell says they will be adding more cards in the future.
The shop is where you can buy gold, gems, or even new cards. Each day there is a new common, rare, and epic card up for sale. Sundays have two of each rarity. If you’re looking for a certain card or are close to an upgrade, the shop is a guaranteed way to get what you want.
It wouldn’t be a Supercell game without clans, right? Clans are essentially just groups of friends right now, as clan wars don’t exist. I hope they do at some point, but the real-time nature of battles will be very different than the asynchronous wars in Clash of Clans. You can talk, share replays, and donate cards to clanmates (for a small gold/experience bonus). You can also scrimmage against clanmates and see their decks, so clan chat is a good place to hone strategy and get tips.
Clash Royale is hits all the checkmarks for mobile gaming in 2016. Free to play with cheap microtransactions, quick action, cute graphics, well-paced drip of upgrades — it has it all. Sure, there are players that drop wads of cash and shoot up the rankings quickly. But, let me be proof that it’s far from a requirement. Clash Royale is addictive as all hell — to be honest, I stopped writing this twice so I could play a quick game. At the low price of free, it’s definitely worth your download.