This may have been the best clash-like ever made, and then the worst. It was innovative, made every battle exciting, and was managed by a team that that understood how to push events and contests. But the second team didn’t understand clash-likes and quickly ruined the gameplay. First, what made the game great:
They started by clearing away all of the reasons not to attack. All troops are free, not even a training time. Shield nonsense was replaced by you being attacked every six hours. Spending an attack token shows just one opponent. The combined effect was that when you opened the game, all you had to do was push the attack button and think about how to beat the base it showed you.
The new winning-streak mechanic make it exciting. Your opponents start easy, gradually become more difficult, then nearly impossible, then you lose and it starts over. That gives a nice variety of mostly challenging battles. Even the worst player gets a few wins. But even trying to beat the super-tough bases is surprisingly fun. You know you’re supposed to lose, but you could win and sometimes you do.
You can solely focus on winning fights because the game takes care of you. Longer streaks increase your rank, bumping up the difficulty to where you lose more. A problem in there games, but not here. The loot at high ranks is that much better. The penniless enemies problem is somewhat fixed. Your second important resource, rings, comes from wins (again, much more at higher ranks). Beating a low-gold base is worth it for the rings.
They did a fabulous job with your “hero”. Instead of a Barbarian King, you get a flying dragon. It’s pretty much the same except that every 30 seconds you can “sweep” it to a new spot, tailing frost or fire over a swath of buildings. That’s just fun: useful, but not overly powerful and looks beautiful. The game uses real 3D models and particle effects. It feels like a dragon.
The spells are incredibly varied and original. They come locked in preset groups of 3 but there are lots of them. One wizard can give troops a 50% damage boost in a radius, give them heal-by-doing-damage, and freeze one enemy building. With work you can get a combination of the 1st two. Meanwhile another can summon skeletons that explode on death, make 1 target take double damage, and … this needs to be seen to make sense … cover a dozen buildings with a slowing, damaging poison which can crawl to new buildings. That’s not even close to the oddest.
On defense they have the usual, but added one very customizable defense. You can choose to have each spell tower shoot an area blast, or freeze, or slow-acting anti-healing poison. Or it can fire a fast single-target blast. Or it can heal your buildings, or merely create a small destructive aura around itself. Or it can fire a slow but lethal confusion spell, causing the attacking troops to turn on themselves.
Five wall posts making a curved wall
The game also fixed how walls work. Instead of blocks which need to touch, you get posts which grow connecting walls over several spaces, including diagonals. They’re much easier to place and looks great. But the real innovation is making walls weaker. Walls in a normal clash-like are so strong that they dominate your strategy. Weaker ones here let you play around with them (the 1-sided V setup is very clever, and works fine. Some people love it).
Even with the changes, it’s very recognizably a clash-like. A town hall unlocks new buildings. You upgrade defense and offense with your 5 builders. Even your sweep timer is decreased by upgrading the dragon nest building.
That terrific design went downhill fast. Over a few patches the new team flailed with over-buffs and nerfs until the only viable army was damage-resistant soldiers and too-strong healers, backed by archers. Over-buffed spell towers were the only problem, which forced everyone to use the anti-spell-tower wizard. It was a weird slow-motion crash.
They couldn’t figure out a way to fix the problem with winning streaks: what do you do with players near the top? They have no impossible opponents. Streaks might never end. So at high rank, streaks are out and something else is in. At first, top rank players could go into a special challenge mode. You were attacked much more until you were knocked back down, gaining extra-bonus loot for how long you lasted. That was removed and replaced with just picking an easy opponent. The game turned into a sleep-fest.
Then a bug nerfed air defenses. Dragon could sweep without fear, single-handedly winning (the actual trick is complex, but it became common knowledge as players watched their replays). Players loved it. The bug was left unfixed. In fact, a later spell had an exploitable bug which fully healed your troops (it wasn’t a heading spell). Players flocked to it. It went unfixed. Meanwhile they figured out how to import the brutal monetization common in regular mobile games. More and more events required big spending or skipping school for 2 days, for new items unobtainable any other way.
Rival Kingdoms is still pretty good up through mid-game. Some of the underpowered wizards were even fixed. But the best thing I can say about it now is that you can’t copyright general game ideas. At least one other game stole its improved “post” walls. More clash-likes now have events and areas open only on certain days. I’m hoping a new one steals the way Rival Kingdoms did winning streaks, because I’m sick of passing on bases that look really fun to fight, except I don’t want to wreck my army.