Supercell just soft-launched Clash Royale and you must play it right now. I speak from experience: on Monday, I wasn’t hooked to any current free-to-play games. On Friday afternoon, I’m checking the game every few hours to collect my free rewards, unlock my chests that are ready, along with communicating and giving cards to my clan (all glory to Para_Digm and his Beard Nation). This game has become a thing in my life. It’s that good, and you need to be playing it.
If you’re in one of the countries with the game, you’re all set already, and can even buy in-app purchases. But it’s really not that difficult to do if you’re elsewhere. Go to the iTunes App Store on your computer, scroll way down to the bottom and switch countries to, let’s say Canada. Go download Clash Royale, and when iTunes prompts you to sign in, choose to register a new account. If you use Gmail, you can do something like put +ca after your email name and before the @. For example: firstname.lastname@example.org. Finish registration, download the game. Then on your device, scroll down to the bottom of the App Store where your Apple ID is. Sign out of your current account and into your new account, where iTunes will switch the country automatically. Go download Clash Royale and you’re in. You can’t buy any IAP unless you score some iTunes credit for that country somehow, but otherwise you’re good.
Clash Royale is real-time strategy meets MOBA meets CCG. You go into battle with a deck of 8 cards, 4 of which are in your hand at any time. Each card has an elixir cost, and to play it, you must have that much elixir, which recharges over time. You can place your units anywhere on your side of the screen, but they will go toward the paths toward the enemy’s crown towers, which you must destroy to win. You don’t have any control of units once you place them, so you need to know their tendencies. And you need to learn how your enemy’s units’ tendencies work. It’s a quite clever combo, and the game all takes place in battles that are 4 minutes, tops. There are two crown towers and the king’s crown tower. Destroy the king tower and win instantly. The game will end after 3 minutes (with the last minute providing double elixir generation) if one player has destroyed more crown towers. But if the crown tower count is even, then there’s a one minute sudden-death overtime where the first player to destroy a tower wins. There’s a ladder system where you earn and lose points for your performance.
The chief reason to play Clash Royale right now is that it’s really, really fun. It does an exceptional job to combine the best parts of CCGs with the best parts of MOBAs. The cards you use to summon your units have a bunch of variety, and you can play to your own strategy as you go and unlock more of the cards. The battles get intense, as it’s quite possible for one smart play to change the tide of battle. Counter an opponent’s Giant and Mini P.E.K.K.A. with something like a skeleton army, then drop a prince that they can’t counter since they ran out of elixir, and it feels great. I prefer playing defensive; if I win 1-0, that’s quite fine by me, I’m not all that focused on trying to take out the king’s tower. You have to keep track of what your opponent’s deck and what you’d expect their elixir count to be. Playing smart in the first 2 minutes is important, but then the game gets crazy in the last minute plus overtime with double elixir.
Clash Royale is quite likely to become a huge phenomenon. The 3-4 minute game structure is perfect for mobile. I thought Call of Champions (Free) had this figured out, but this might be even better. It’s super-easy and approachable to get into a game at any moment. Clash Royale‘s tutorial teaches you how to play, but doesn’t keep you locked in for too long before letting you go out and play for real. And the session length is perfect: at one point, I accidentally started a game, and didn’t feel bad for playing it because I knew I didn’t have a huge commitment. And the game’s chest system makes it so that one win often goes a long way, as it’s something that will give you a reward…eventually.
Why should you get in now, though? Well, there’s already a good audience going for the game, with a bunch of players and clans set up from all over the globe already. This feels like it’s in the nascent stages of being the next phenomenon like Clash of Clans (Free). If it intrigues you, why wait? The game syncs up progress via cloud-based accounts; you lose nothing when you reinstall on your home account so you can buy IAP later on. The game feels like a finished product, short of whatever gameplay and monetization balance it will receive. The game could release worldwide at any moment.
Another big reason to play now? You can learn how to play with everyone else. Unlike a MOBA, you’re likely behind other enthusiasts who are familiar with the genre as a whole. Even a new game can be daunting. Clash Royale uses a lot of familiar elements, but it’s a whole new concoction. If you get in now, you can play while people are still learning and discovering the tricks to how everything works and how strategies should work out. It’s kind of like playing a fighting game online right at release – you’ve actually got a shot at doing well! The matchmaking already does a good job at putting you with players around your skill, but hey – get in while the getting’s good.
Another reason to get in is that this can convince you that free-to-play games can be fun without paying. I’ve put in cursory efforts to get Canadian iTunes credit, sure. I wouldn’t mind unlocking more chests to get more cards to try out other rare units and get more upgrades, sure. But the matchmaking regardless ensures you’re around people of similar skills. You can play this game and contribute to your clan without sinking in any money. Granted, like pretty much any CCG, the people who sink in loads of money are going to be the top tiers of players because they’ve obtained the most opportunities to get the best stuff. But hey, if you’re playing a game and care about it that much, why not pay for it? But when you’re playing a game that’s free-to-play without even having the ability to pay, you realize just how fun it can actually be. And learning to min-max the game is fun in and of itself. Plus, if you figure out what you are doing with your deck and join a cool clan, they can hook you up with what you need if you’re willing to donate back.
But at the end of it all, you need to play this because it’s a ton of fun. Everyone’s going to be talking about it when it goes global. Do you want to miss this opportunity to be a hipster about the game and say you were playing it before it was cool? No, you don’t.