Take a gander at the top grossing games on iOS and one game that’s been there for an incredibly long time is Supercell’s Clash of Clans (Free). Combining freemium elements with base building and combat, Supercell managed to create a compelling system to encourage players to come back (and spend some money). Now, the freemium powerhouse has returned with the worldwide launch of Boom Beach (Free), the spiritual successor to Clash. Offering a similar experience in a different setting with just enough tweaks to make it unique, Boom Beach isn’t going to offer a radically different experience, but that might not be a bad thing in terms of approachability.
If you’ve played Clash of Clans, then Boom Beach is going to look pretty familiar to you. Players start out with a simple island base with the goal being to explore the surrounding areas and free the surrounding island natives from villainous servitude. You’ll free them by building and upgrading ships, namely a gunship and landing boats, that you’ll use to deploy landing parties and take out opposing headquarters. Freeing islands rewards both immediate and long term resources. In addition, islands are constantly being taken back, affording players an opportunity to retake and earn additional supplies. Eventually, the retaken islands become player islands which, provide even more resources along with medals, which are the primary measure of success.
Sounds simple, but you’d expect from Supercell there’s a bit of strategy involved. Landing boats can be outfitted with a wide variety of different units, each having pros and cons in terms of health, strength and weapons. Gunship weapons, as well as each of the landing units, can be upgraded as well as the ships themselves. Meanwhile, base buildings include the standard defensive mechanisms, as well as resource gatherers, structures that allow the aforementioned upgrades, and so on. Of course, all the building and upgrading is buttressed by a freemium timer system that applies to all facets of the game.
As someone that was a bit intimidated by Clash of Clans, I was surprised by how inviting the introductory phases of Boom Beach were. Currency is simplified at the onset with secondary currencies slowly introduced as you upgrade your headquarters. Premium currency, which plays the standard role of speeding up timers, doled out on a regular basis (although still a bit slow for my tastes). Even the game’s combat system is paced really well with a player’s zone of influence (and potential opponents) being small at the onset but gradually expands at whatever pace the player desires.
Of course, as friendly and interesting Boom Beach is, it’s important to note that it’s still a freemium game at its heart. The building, recruiting, upgrading and resource systems are all premised on timers, with the only alternative to patience being to use premium currency to speed up the timers. Also, once you get into mid-game and additional currencies start appearing, Beach has a nasty habit of pushing you to instantly upgrade fundamental buildings for said new currency. Considering the fact that combat only occurs when you explore new regions (which take coins and radar upgrades) or when conquered islands are retaken (which take time), long session players will quickly find that Boom Beach plays best in smaller, more frequent sessions. I won’t get into a theoretically debate about freemium, but all I’ll say is this style of play fits perfectly for my lifestyle, which is why it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
Now, I’m a fan of the streamlined gameplay but it does come with some costs. As far as building bases is concerned, there’s some loss in customization. In fact, taking a glance at the top players it also seems like there’s some loss in terms of viable endgame strategies as everyone seems to have the same exact base layout. There’s also very little in social integration currently available, which I thought was a pretty big part of Clash. I’m sure such additions will get updated into Boom Beach eventually, but right now it’s a bit bare.
Regardless, pacing, balance and approachability are important facets to a successful freemium game, and I think Boom Beach succeeds well in both in its other non-base defense aspects. Assuming you aren’t too obsessed with the end-game or social aspects (and you don’t have an irrational hatred for freemium games) Boom Beach continues the showing seen in Clash of Clans. Whether it has enough staying power as its spiritual predecessor will depend greatly on the inevitable tweaks to the core gameplay. Meanwhile, it’s worth a shot.