Clash-likes

Just so you don’t think I’m crazy, I know most cell-phone games are terrible. A very few are somewhat interesting, and most are reskins or “I can do that, but worse.” Clash-likes stand out. The genre was born on mobile (well, FaceBook, close enough,) and there’s an actual game in there to play. Every new clash-like has a least a few things it does better or different. I’ve never seen just a reskin, since there are so many ways to make one.

There’s no good name for the genre. They officially fall under “strategy real-time MMO”, but that’s pretty broad. I tried Asymetrical Anonymous Base-Builders (AABB,) but that’s not going to stick. Clash-like is the best name, for now.

To Contents

Features

Clash-likes are one of those genres that has a lot of room for tweaks, changes or totally new stuff; but you still know one when you see one. Here’s my list of what usually makes one:

  • Solo “opposite tower defense” gameplay. You attack other players, but you’re not playing head-to-head. You only fight their AI-controlled tower defense — not their army. Likewise, when someone attacks you, your offensive army does nothing. They only fight your tower defense.
  • Persistent progress. Once you get something, you can never lose it. Being attacked steals some gold you were saving for the next upgrade, but otherwise your defenses spring fully back after each attack. You can stop playing for a week and not be set back. Your offensive army isn’t even harmed when your village is destroyed.
  • Very dumb, obvious AI. This is considered a feature. Defenses will target the nearest enemy, ignoring a deadly but soft wizard for a slightly closer knight. Your attackers can’t be controlled after placing them. They attack the nearest buildings. The idea is, you know exactly what everything will do, so can make a plan.
  • Short, time-limited, pauseless battles. You can spend a while planning your army, figuring out a strategy, trying to figure out what went wrong … . But the actual attack is 3 minutes at most. Depending on your army and strategy, you may lose by running out of time. After the attack, you’re done with that player.
  • A medium amount of tap-based decisions during an attack. Generally targetable spells and troop power-ups. Sometimes limited control over a leader troop. You’re not tapping as fast as you can, but you do have to concentrate and will forgot things until you make a plan and get practice.
  • The attacks are real games. There’s a skill in picking an army, where and when to place troops, and when to cast spells. A good player can do much better than a beginner.
  • Troop selection is a real choice. You never get a new troop which replaces an old one. In fact, when a new troop is unlocked, you’re supposed to wonder how in the heck you’re going to use it.
  • You can’t pick on a particular person, and they can’t pick on you. Fights are against randomly chosen opponents. The same goes for guilds. A guild war is a 1-time event, against a randomly chosen guild, where the attacks don’t even steal gold.
  • Likewise, other players can’t directly help you. There’s usually a small friendship mechanic. Altogether, it’s a mostly solo game. You don’t need a big guild to do well. This is in contrast to things like Game of War, where a big active guild can carry you, or put a bull’s-eye on you.
  • Gameplay is attacking to gather gold, paying for all the allowed upgrades, then waiting. That may take a while, or may be quick. But starting all allowed upgrades is the goal and the natural stopping time.
  • This is just aesthetics, but it’s a recognizable feature: everything is in an arrangeable village grid. It’s where you arrange your tower defense. But it’s also where your troop upgrade building, spell creation building … are placed. The non-defensive buildings work as damage sponges or distractions from your real defenses.
  • Also just aesthetics: each building and troop gets a little different look as it’s upgraded. When you see someone’s base, or an attack replay, you can mostly figure out everything’s level from the pictures.
  • Planning your defense is also a real game. There are lots of options, no optimal strategy, and a thoughtful defense can matter (but, since you aren’t playing during an attack, you can just copy a base design from the internet.)
  • You have to get better to progress. At various points, people will be stealing gold as fast as you can steal it from others. You’ll have to either get better at attacking, build a better defense, or a combination of both.  In other words, it’s a game – not a fancy Cow Clicker.
  • Very, very simple resource generation. Tap to collect, and nothing else. They could easily make it more complex – like a tiny farmville. But the game is about fighting. The resource generators are just a reason for all the attacking.
  • Freemium, but you can’t buy anything you couldn’t get just by playing a lot (this is sometimes knows as spend-for-time.) But, bizarrely, you can buy everything. For a few thousand dollars, you can buy what a free player could get in a year. No one will know the difference.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

History

I didn’t realize Clash of Clans is only from 2012. The first time I played it wasn’t that long after it came out. I also didn’t realize that I’ve seen and played most of the things that inspired it. Some things had to come together for a clash-like: tower defense, the arrangable map-village, and anonymous attacks. Here’s how I see that stuff:

 

To have a huge number of players, you need the internet. In the ‘70s you could dial-up to GEnie, CompuServe or AOL; in the ’80s anyone in college could get on-line, but that still wasn’t a lot of people. The internet wasn’t public until 1995, and Search (Google) wasn’t until 1998.

The first massive anonymous attacker I know of was free browser game ArchMage, in 2000. Your kingdom was just a few stats – mostly how much land you owned. The interesting thing was there was no world map, so you had no neighbors. You just had a list of people near your power level who you could attack. Most of them will rise or fall off the list by tomorrow. You were allowed to attack someone a few times, until they were knocked off the bottom, but players considered a double-attack as unsportsmanlike (you’d get pounded silly by every other player if you did it.) In practice, you attacked random people, one time each.

When you beat someone, you stole some of their land. That’s a great example of the backwards fake-realism clash-likes have today. Of course in real life, land is the realistic thing you steal — from your neighbors. But it makes 0 sense in a game with no map, attacking random people. ArchMage boldly went with it, and the players accepted it.

 

FaceBook didn’t add support for large games until 2008, when we got the MobWars, PirateWars and so on. Those games borrowed the anonymous attacking idea, and added endlessness. Normally, games have to have a winner. In ArchMage, the goal was to survive casting a very expensive, days-long “I win” spell with an “everyone is allowed to attack me” side-effect. You can’t have a game without a winner. Or so we thought. Facebook showed that you can. Just play to grow. If you make it to #1, or the top 100 … be proud and see how long you can stay there.

 

Two more things, tower Defense and an arrangeable village, came from the PC game WarCraft way back in 1995 (not World of – just WarCraft, the solo or 2-player RTS.) The upgradable buildings of clash-likes are copies of the ones in WarCraft. Even the upgradable Town Hall came from there (a building that does mostly nothing except unlock other things.)

Tower Defenses came from WarCraft in a funny way. Most of the single-player missions were about growing quickly, scouting and harassing the enemy to slow them down, building a few defenses only when you needed to. But some missions were just early waves of tough enemies. The only way to win was to build lots of defenses to hold them off. Those were just a fun break from the real missions, but we realized you could make a game with only that.

2009 had a brief craze for browser tower defenses. I remember students going nuts for types of towers, traps, unlocks, upgrades; and more and more interesting enemies (including flyers); interesting win conditions; and path-making.

 

BackYard Monsters put tower defenses and endless random attacking together in 2010, on FaceBook.

You may have heard Backyard Monsters was the inspiration for Clash of Clans and scoffed. I did. But you can look at pictures of bases and read strategies. Clash of Clans is clearly a dumbed-down copy.

In BackYard monsters, defenses were strong enough that you were expected to grind them down over several attacks (with the possibility of someone sniping a 1/2-destroyed base from you.) Attacks had a period at the end only for previously-placed troops to fight. The rules for getting a defensive shield were more complicated. Some special monsters could be won, kept for a while, then lost.

Clash of Clans found and lucked-into the formula that made money: quick sessions; simpler in general; freemium; skew younger; an App instead of browser-based. And, I’m not completely sure, but I think they were the first free game to show television commercials.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

Walls

Clash of Clan walls are pretty clumsy, but they’re a basic part of the game in two ways. Defense, of course, but also something to do for over-active players.

Basic walls are simple 1×1 blocks, placed next to each other. Putting a wall around a standard 3×3 building requires hand-placing 12 little blocks. You generally have about 200 little wall cubes. The advanced tools are still crude: select a row then move/spin. If you cause any overlap when you move that section, it won’t work. You spend a lot of time hand-moving single pieces.

Walls don’t completely fill the space, maybe about half. Placed side-by-side, the system draws a tiny connecting section. It’s a nice try, but walls still make ugly, thick graph-paper lines. It’s a shame – the artists work hard to avoid Soviet-era block-house buildings; then those thick right-angle walls mess it all up.

Like everything else, walls get upgraded and need different pictures – lots of them. You get reed bundles, then various wood, with studs, then it magically changes to rough stone, smooth stone … Clash inexplicably switches to crystals, then back to metal again. The Star Wars clash-like works hard making “high-tech” grey walls (made of fancy space plastic?) Any artist can draw a Viking-themed gold mine, but it takes a real pro to make a viking-themed level 6 wall segment, plus the little connector picture.

Then there’s a trick probably only I enjoy: put two walls with different upgrade levels next to each other. The connecting section is chosen from one of them, usually the lower-leftmost.

 

The original, Clash, teaches about walls wrong. You start with walls so weak troops can kick right through them. When you get wall-breakers, they seem pointless. Then slowly, walls get as tough as buildings then much tougher. In the real game a big chunk of your defense is the wall arrangement, but you have to unlearn the early lesson of them being just a speed-bump. They should start you (and the pre-made training bases) with fewer but tougher walls.

I love how almost every other clash-like copies that strange progression. I think it’s just easier to copy the numbers.

 

The only big wall improvement was SpaceApe’s Rival Kingdoms in 2015. They let you place walls several spaces apart, even a bit diagonally, and have the system draw a longer connecting section. That meant you didn’t need to place as many, and gave 16 possible angles (instead of just vertical and horizontal.) Visually, they look much better – like towers connected by curtain sections in a rough ring. Lords&Castles copies that, but adds a bug (every possible connection needs to be clear, or you can’t place them.)

The clash-like Battle Islands improved walls too much. Each building comes with built-in walls all the way around (you select the building, pay for the “add walls” button and they all pop up; then all upgrade together.) That’s no fun – the whole trick with walls is you have to decide where they go. Even so, they are beautiful. For buildings near each other, the game connects their walls into one area using curved sections to make them fit. But the game is little islands, planes and ships. Walls are mostly pointless.

A few clash-likes have weak walls, sometimes filling a 2×2 area. The strategy with these is completely different. They aren’t very useful to slow down attackers, but they can be used to funnel. Leave a hole to direct foot troops around your guns. A double-wall section will direct them to a hole even further away. Or a thick V-shaped wall-pile on one side prevents attacks from that direction – troops placed there will always walk around.

 

The second use of walls is as a time-sink – something to do if you really want to play for 3 hours a day. Walls always upgrade instantly and cost a ridiculous amount. A hard-core player can spend a silly amount of time attacking for gold, instantly paying for a wall upgrade … and with 200+ wall squares you can always play for an extra few hours. A casual player will just leave them a level or two behind the maximum and not feel too bad. As an extra bonus, walls require one of your builders to be free. So wall-grinders upgrade 4 buildings at a time, while casuals get to be upgrading 5.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

Looting and Realism

Genres start out being realistic, but since that’s not very good gameplay what people will accept as “realistic enough” gradually changes. Everyone who plays an MMO now knows you keep your stuff when you die. You die a lot and it shouldn’t be a huge penalty. But back when they were first made, passerby could loot everything from your dead body – anything else would have seemed stupidly unrealistic. Modern MMOs give that just a nod – you can loot a few coins from a dead player, but it doesn’t come out of their stash.

Clash-like looting is in a crazy place between realistic and playable. The most common rules are that you instantly steal stuff as you smash the building holding it. Hit a gold vault with a sword, or an arrow, or even a fireball, and a little bit of their gold pops directly into your treasury. Gold teleports instead of needing to be carried out because it’s simpler. Otherwise you’d need troop carrying capacity, pick-up animation, rules for carrying the gold home mid-attack… ick.

The Batman clash-like (Arkham Underworld) does gold vaults right: a massive vault door needs to be destroyed, then you quickly grab cash once inside. Trying to break that huge door can run attackers out of time, leaving them with nothing. You know – the way actual vault doors work. But the other way you get gold in that game is hilarious. Computer hackers collect gold. To steal it you smash the computers with baseball bats and gold coins fly out.

Once we’ve established the “realistic” rule where you get magic purple liquid by running up to the big glass container holding it, we put the brakes on. You can only steal like 30%. The other 70% isn’t seeping into the ground – the owner keeps it, just because. That’s a good gameplay rule – it lets you earn gold over a few days faster than people can steal it. In some games that “keep 70%” is variable, coming from an upgradable special overall-strongbox building. Guess what happens if you blow that up first? Nothing. The same percent is still protected. More fake realism. Maybe it’s like insurance – having it gets you the better rate.

 

Despite being unrealistic, insta-loot from smacking the right building leads to some fun choices. You can decide which type to protect more, or put it all in the center for an all-or-nothing base. On the attack you can come from a direction which has more of the resource you need. “Boom Beach”-style games bring it back to more realistic win or lose. You get all the gold for beating the HQ building, otherwise you get nothing. That’s sort of nice, but it feels weird having your gold vault be just one more damage soaker.

 

The one terrible “realistic” rule is the rule about only stealing what they have. The problem is, everyone is broke. They all played until they had just enough gold for a building upgrade, then spent it all, just like you. Having several resources helps – odds are they stole too much of one type while trying for the type they needed – but not much. Many Clash-likes, especially Clash of Clans, are an a eye-glazing death-march looking for a rich, weak base.

The rule feels obvious – if I get gold, you have to lose it. But the real reason isn’t realism. Part of the fun(!) of these games is taking something away from another actual human. A “ghost” base is a copy of a real player’s base. You think you’re attacking that player, but you’re not. The only difference is you’re not hurting someone else. Players do not like this.

These games want to just assign a reasonable amount of gold to bases, but they have to be sneaky. You can make bases worth a minimum amount (but usually so small it’s pointless.) You can give a bonus amount for a victory. Clash of Clans gives an extra daily bonus for winning at least 2 attacks (it’s not that much, but goes into a special “hard to steal from” area. Yeesh.) Clash even fake-returns 20% of your stolen loot (the “loot cart,” which sort of looks like the attacker dropped it as they went back home, but they didn’t.) All-in-all, these games work hard to give a “fair” amount of loot for each attack, while making it feel like the savage free-for-all players think they want.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

Builders & Upgrades

As we all know, freemium takes a perfectly good game, and throws in arbitrary timers, energy bars and other limits to stretch the game out. People hate them, or, at best, see them as a necessary evil. The brilliant thing about clash-likes is they throw in 2 harsh upgrade limits, and make you like it.

You attack people to get gold, and there’s a timer on how often you can attack (training times for a new army.) After you get the gold and buy the upgrade, there’s yet another timer for it to be built. And then there’s another limit – only 5 things can be upgrading at once.

What’s so brilliant is how they can put these huge brakes on the game and represent them as builders with cute little shacks. Suddenly, not only do people not mind these crushing restrictions; they actually like them.

If you’ve never seen the mini-game with builders, or just to remind you, here are some of the things people like about them:

  • You can be done for the day. Often you have 1 free builder, so your day is attacking to get enough gold then starting an upgrade. Build times take 3-7 days, so it’s likely that every day 1 of your 5 builders will be ready.
  • Gold mines take a long time to upgrade, but don’t cost much. A really agressive player won’t waste all that time upgrading them – they proudly get all of their gold from attacking. But casual players love being able to easily put a builder to use for a long time.
  • Wall upgrades are instant but need a free builder. A very active player feels good keeping one free – then they can play any time, as much as they want, and dump every bit of gold into wall upgrades. Regular players can enjoy it, too. When a builder is free, you can spend all your spare gold on walls before committing it to an upgrade (often a cheap one, or one that costs manna instead of gold.)
  • A regular player can try to have 1 upgrade finish each day, meaning they can start a new one each day. You don’t want a four day period where you can’t start any upgrades. But you also don’t want 2 or 3 to finish at once (you won’t be able to save enough gold to start that many new ones.) I think that’s why upgrade time and cash spent isn’t proportional – players can try to mix and match upgrade times and costs.
  • The troop enhancement building is usually on a seperate timer. Everyone knows keeping that working at all times is the most important thing. When you keep that running, at the expense of an idle worker, you feel like a business owner making a tough call.
  • When you start a new clash-like, you know getting more builders is the most important thing. You can share that knowledge in general chat like the wise elder that you are. Even if you’re mostly a free player, you’d be a fool not to buy the $1.99 starter bundle with an extra builder.
  • Defenses don’t work when upgrading, giving you a choice. You can upgrade one defense building at a time, swapping positions so vital spots always have coverage. Or you can upgrade a bunch at once and be helpless, just to get it over with. People love that meta stuff.

In general, go to the Forums for any clash-like and read all the threads about the best way to use builders. It’s a whole game in a game.

Limited builders for upgrades makes so much internal game-sense, that it’s fun to think about how wildly unrealistic the whole system is:

  • Buildings start tiny and get small upgrades, which is a terrible way to make a building. For real, you knock down the old one. Maybe you make an addition or two, but a mansion isn’t a shack with 9 additions – that’s Sarah Winchester’s Mystery House. It makes even less sense for cannons (if you start playing with the metal in a cannon, you get an exploding cannon.) It’s even sillier when the game allows you to build one more of something. You know how to build it to level 4, want to and have the gold. You’re still required to grow it a level at a time.
  • Why are they out-of-commission while upgrading? I’ve worked in plenty of real buildings while they’re being upgraded. Especially for the defensive buildings, the king should explain to the contractor how keeping it on-line is of paramount importance. It should be shut down for a few hours at most. If the DOT can keep 1 lane open and only shut roads down on Sunday night, so can my builders.
  • On the offensive side, we can build an entire rock golem, or army tank or war balloon in 10 minutes. On defense, a minor tweak takes 7 days. That seems disproportunately long. And they are suspiciously minor tweaks. For real, improvements to guns weren’t 10% better, they doubled or tripled the fire rate and accuracy. An archer tower can go from 2 archers on top to 3, and only do 10% more damage (does the 3rd one knock elbows with the first two?)
  • Why can’t 2 builders work on the same thing? In WarCraft, which this was copied from, you can do that. So 1 builder-per isn’t even realistic by game standards. And why do wall upgrades need a builder, but for 0 time? Isn’t needing something for 0 time the definition of not needing it?
  • Why don’t upgraded buildings get bigger? They do (at some point) in every other game. Especially the army camp – what sort of tardis technology is squeezing 5 more guys into the same space. Bunk beds?

There are good gameplay reasons for doing things this way, and that’s the point. Builders have nothing to do with realism – they’re just clever ways to justify those limits. The nicest thing about the builder limit is you can be done. Once you’ve stolen enough gold and put your last builder to work on improving your cucumber mine, you may as well stop playing for the day.

Tropical Wars:Pirate Battles has a really clever change. In WarCraft, each worker can gather gold or wood or make a building – put them where-ever you want. TW:PB goes back to this. You get 5 starting builders, topping out at 15, to allocate between gold, manna, upgrades or research, more than one allowed. Do one fast or a few slow, pull them off gold production to crank research .. (but they also have a system where builders go to sleep after 8 hours, unless you tap them or buy energy drinks.)

comment

Your email address will not be published.

[Game]Fortress Legends

This neat think about this game (which was discontinued in early 2017) is how attacking is nothing like a clash-like, but everything else is.

Attacking is a standard 3D dungeon hacker. You’re a fully controllable character, with several skills to use, a skill tree, equipment, 4 character classes. The rooms are mostly filled with monsters, but there are blob launchers, spinning flame-throwers, traveling floor-saws, pulsing stun fields, attractors, and hidden silence and slow traps. The entire dungeon is maybe 8 large rooms. You have to clear one before moving on (the doors seal.) To make it odder, you queue-up in a group of 4 (the usual Looking For Group queue. You wait a little while it fills up.)

The monsters are: bruisers with an occasional hammer stun, fast wolves with a charging attack, various ranged that can charm, buff monsters or heal them. Or one huge semi-boss monster. The placed devices are easy enough to avoid, but dodging monsters at the same time makes it a challenge. If you like 3rd-person RPGs, it’s a decent game.

Your Town Hall is a room with a powered-up computer controlled you as the boss, plus the usual monsters and stationary threats (clever, right? You have to beat the owner of the dungeon to win.) If you’re in a guild, your “clan castle” is a powered-up copy of a guild mate’s character (you can only pick players a few levels lower than you, which meant the lowest level guild members couldn’t use it. Arg.)

But then it gets familiar. Your defenses and resource generators are based on your Town Hall level. You have gold and elixer; tap to empty; store in upgradable vaults, which people smash to steal from you. The game loop is attacking for gold and starting upgrades using builders. You start with 2, and can slowly buy up to 5. Your sprung traps are useless until you pay to reset them. You get just a tiny shield if someone steals a lot but doesn’t “win” – leaving an exposed town hall is a decent plan. Most players have no money. You Next until you see a dungeon you want to attack (you get five tries, then are stuck attacking the last one.) Bushes and trees spawn at random, which you can remove for gems (they’re actually bits of dungeon junk like bottles, scrolls and old barrels.)

There’s a research building for monsters, using manna, which you try to always keep busy (the monsters are the ones defending your dungeon.) Everything in Fortress Legends that can be, is standard old-school clash-like.

The dungeon-making rules are clever. The rooms are huge and placing everything in one room would clearly be the best. So they use a point system. Each fixed defense and monster generator costs points, and each room is allowed 20. You have enough for maybe 5 dangerous rooms. You’d see a mix – all monster rooms, followed by trap gauntlets; or mixes of monsters and devices in each room; some people like to put their clanmate in the final room with themselves, but that gives attackers lots of room to run around. I put a mega-monster by that door, since most people run past and kite it, triggering “me” in the center. Rooms come in pre-made styles, with a variety of walls — a small wall when you first come in, or ones with triangular or square alcoves.

I assume one problem leading to the shut down was needing a big player base for the 4-person groups. They already had to allow a pretty high range of player levels in a group, to get waits down to a few minutes. Some special event queues were 10+ minute waits. I’m told some times of day were a problem.

Then, this is an amusing aesthetics thing. Your base is built from connected giant stone slabs, flat on top, but ragged on the bottom where they’ve been torn out of the ground and enchanted to float high in the air. You can see other floating bases far off in the distance. It look nice. But the gold collectors pump gold out of the floor. It’s like a RoadRunner cartoon.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

Monetizing

It’s possible to appreciate clash-likes just for the way they make money. The standard trick is to take a perfectly good game, then ruin it with a bunch of limits you can pay a little each time to skip. Clash-likes make these feel natural – like the limits are an integral part of the game. The other trick is known as inflicting pain – find or add something frustrating where players will make an impulse buy.

Clash-likes have pain as a natural part of the game. For a new player, you win missions, get gold, and grow. That’s a game. Then you find out gold can be stolen – yikes. People hate having stuff stolen. An experienced player is over that, and can usually minimize loses. Usually. But when they’re a little short of an upgrade, sitting on a huge pile of cash like some rube, they feel the pain then.

One general trick to sell anything is giving options. In a clash-like when you can’t quite pay for an upgrade, you can buy the extra gold. Or you can buy a shield so no one can steal from you for a while. Or you can pay to skip the attack timer and win the gold you need. One of these will seem smarter, or fairer, or a better deal compared to the others.

There are three different ways to buy gold. You’d think that one of them would be something simple like “spend 50 gems for 10K gold.” Nope:

  • There’s the standard “Not enough. Buy the rest?” button when you try to upgrade. The cool part is, in a game where people can steal the extra, buying only what you need feels smart.
  • You can buy a speed-up for your gold mines. This feels more like you’re playing the game, and planning ahead feels smart. It totally hides how you’re still just paying cash for game gold.
  • You can buy gold directly into your inventory. But not amounts. You can buy up to all you can hold, up to half or up to 10%. What?! Besides the fact nothing is ever sold that way ($5 for half of all the cucumbers you can carry,) why those three numbers? I assume 10% and half are only so you realize Full is the best deal. And I imagine that’s the smart way to mass-upgrade walls for cash (buy Full Storages, upgrade walls until you run out, repeat until gift card is empty.)

The thing I want to note about upgrade timers and limits (builders) is that you don’t need them. The game would work if every building at once could be upgrading. The game even works if all upgrades are instant. You can only get gold so quickly. Deep down, builders and upgrade times are just really well done monetization tricks – pay to get up to 5, pay to speed them up.

 

The other thing to limit is attacks. The basic thing we want to do is let people play all they want at first, then make them wait between attacks just a little, then more and more as they become interested enough in the game to spend money on speed ups. In a game where you pre-bake your army, especially one where you lose all attacking toops, training times are great for that.

Compared to attack tokens, training times don’t feel nearly as fake, and they’re a soft limit. You aren’t directly prevented from attacking – if you want to attack with 90% of your army, or just a few archers, you can.

Boring, not-quite-as-good troops train faster than the really fun ones. As a free player, you can stick to boring units and attack more often. You can even mix in a few fun slow-training units. You can even use an army with all pre-trained fun troops for the first attack of each session (if you remembered to pre-train them at the end of the last time you played.) There’s no in-your-face “you have to pay to do this.” You only have to pay if you want to make several attacks in a row using all good troops (in other words, play the game the regular way.)

And training times seem very natural. We had them 30 years ago: take over factories on the world map and produce either infantry every 30 seconds, or tanks every 180. RTS’s have training times as an important part of game-play. The thing is, clash-likes act like single-player games. You’re not racing against a specific person in real-time. There’s no reason for troops to need training times. Deep down, they’re just another clever way of adding a limit.

Training time speed-ups have a good and bad choice: you can pay to insta-finish – that’s the bad way. Or you can pay for an hour-long 4x speed-up (which is fast enough for almost no waiting.) That costs 25 cents (in gems,) which is maybe $5/month. That’s not a terrible subscription price, and a great way to hide that it is one.

 

Some clash-likes let you pick your troops on the fly, so can’t have training times. Other games limit you (and give a chance to spend) with attack tokens. Clash-likes can do better, by using the buildings.

Royal Revolt is a typical example. Attacks cost a set amount of food – more as you level up your Castle. Your farm buildings make it, and silos store it. Upgrade those to make it faster and store more. It feels like you’re in control (go to their forums and read “stop complaining and upgrade your farms.”) But they set all the numbers and own a spreadsheet. The end result is you get all the attacks you need at first, then fewer as you level up. Again, if it costs about $5/month to play as much as you want, that seems fair (but maybe it’s more like $40/month when you really get going – they’re not going to tell you that.)

 

Gambling chests are nothing new in the game world, and people figured how to add them quickly enough to clash-likes. Give the army a selectable leader slot. Have them be commons, rares and epics. Give away common leaders and put the rest in gambling chests. Make 1 decent leader be a starter-buy. These break a rule of clash-likes – you can easily tell free players from big-spenders, like a level 3 guy with all Legendary leaders. The worst of these are completely skill-less when your Legendary leader can also defend. That’s the East vs. West guess about spending: Western players think it’s unfair for free players to be second-class citizens, whereas, supposedly, Eastern players think you get what you pay for.

An aside, the first time I saw leaders written as class C, B, A and S, I felt like I walked into the wrong meeting. I didn’t realize that was a school grading system in India, which made it’s way to Korean(?) RPGs. And then into Clash-likes.

My biggest surprise about clash-like monetization is how they all let you buy everything. Not just double-gold or other speed-ups. They all let you drop a few thousand dollars and instantly have max-level everything. In the old days, a game couldn’t do that and be taken even a little seriously. But apparently they can now, so more power to them.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

[Game]Boom Beach

IBM is famous for missing out on PCs because they made mainframes and didn’t want to compete with themselves. Supercell went the opposite way. After Clash was a sucess for them, they experimented with an entirely different clash-like, which turned out to be almost as influential.

Some of the things Boom Beach did:

  • The only goal of an attack is to kill the town hall. You get all the rewards for doing that, and nothing if you don’t. In Clash often the best plan is quick raids for easy gold, with no chance of winning. That’s boring. In Boom Beach, every attack is real – study how to get to the HQ, against defenses made only to defend the HQ.
  • Instead of Nexting through targets, you have a list of other players. You can attack only them until you win or Give Up. Either way, new players appear after about a day. It’s kind of fun to try a few things until you finally beat someone. It’s also nice to spend more time planning an attack then looking for someone weak and rich. The actual layout is a map, with the other players on it. But it’s a lie since they vanish afterwards and can’t attack you.
  • Attack squads. Instead of training 40 archers and tapping 40 times to place them, you train 3 archer squads and place a squad at a time. You still have pretty good flexibility in what you select. I personally make a lot fewer mistakes placing them.
  • Visible traps (to you, but not your troops,) which auto-reset. When the other guy can see them the placement strategy is different, but it works fine. Place a bunch on the weak side of your base, or just place them around like a wall.
  • NPC bases are part of the game. In Clash you get a computer-controlled campaign, but that’s over quickly and then it’s all vs. players. Boom Beach has constant computer bases mixed in your map, in a variety of scalable themes: a base with a few mega-weapons, or lots of machine guns, huge minefields … . Most are pretty fun, and you’ll recognize tougher versions of them as you go.
  • Weekly mini-campaigns. There are “evil genius” computer bases with several stages and cute dialogue. There are guild missions against other types.
  • Upgrades takes multiple types of resources at once – wood, stone, iron. You almost always have to gem for one of them, but the game showers you with free gems to make up for it – like wildcard resources.
  • A spell-point energy system. You use energy to cast any of your spells, and repeating the same spell costs more and more energy. Destroying buildings gains energy, which spreads out spell-casting. You end up casting a variety of spells, but not always the same ones, depending on the base.
  • A beacon spell that makes all troops walk towards it for a short time. It gives a limited amount of troop control – like being able to pull them back after destroying the defenses you needed to. You can only attack a base from one side (the beach,) but leading your troops to the back with this spell is pretty fun.
  • Overall base enchantments: better offense, defense or production (lots of variety.) It takes a while to switch, so you have to pick a strategy. A nice change from Clash where every base is basically the same. You win the parts in fights, build them, upgrade them. It’s a whole system. But the fun part is you can customize.
  • No easy way to artificially lower your ranking. You’re always facing opponents the game thinks are medium-tough. Clash of Clans has pages and pages about losing on purpose to adjust your rating so you have good targets but no one tough will be attacking you. That’s all gone in Boom Beach. But there’s a down-side. It’s possible for a casual player to get stuck with only hard opponents.
  • More flexible base upgrade strategies. In Clash of Clans the only good plan is to upgrade everything evenly. You can upgrade however you want, but the loot rules heavily penalize non-even bases. In Boom Beach it’s fine to upgrade whatever you like most and ignore the rest.
  • Fighting another player for things called Resource Bases. When you beat a Resource Base, instead of vanishing, it stays and makes extra wood or gold. But one other player can see it and steal it from you, which also levels up the defenses. You can fight back-and-forth. It’s usually a week-long mini-rivalry with that player (PunisherXX let you have it for a day, but then you wake up and see they attacked 3 times and finally retook it.) When someone gives up the computer finds new opponents a day or two later.

    I’d guess a lot of spending in Boom Beach is to teach that rat-bag PunisherXX a lesson, who clearly used real money to rush troop upgrades before you did.

  • Only one builder, who works faster. After using this for a while, you start to realize how annoying 5 builders is, with the weird rolling mental list of who will be free when. In practice you attack and play just as much.

Many of these are mix&match – any clash-like can have one fast builder. But in copies you usually see them together. Many clash-likes are obviously Boom Beach with a few changes.

One thing SuperCell kept was the cartoony alternate world theme. Clash of Clans is silly fantasy where the units have lots of character. Boom Beach is silly cartoony WWII-era (well, the heavy infantry look like Vietnam-era mini gunners.) They even kept the archers as female (changing from earnest elves, to single-minded bazooka-firing WACs.)

comment

Your email address will not be published.

Complete List

Short descriptions of just the interesting features of the ones I’ve seen:

  • LegendBorne: You train troops as usual, but earn the maximum you can have by rescuing them in battles. At first you need to rescue basic troops, just to build a full army. Then you have to rescue 2nd tier troops to be able to train any. But once you’ve rescued enough, it’s just regular troop training again.

    Two sides (good and evil) with different troops and different preset leaders and story (which I don’t think has an ending.) You earn leader troops with this crazy point system after winning about 10 battles in a row. One loss, often a server problem, and you have to win 10 more in a row before you can earn more points. The game is a little shorter than normal – you can reach max level quickly, and there aren’t as many types of defensive buildings.

  • CompassPoint:West: Beautiful western-style art and sound. BoomBeach-style map (including computer bases and missions.) You don’t cook an army – every attack you get to pick the from your whole list. You get more army spawn points as you destroy buildings.

    Your army list is built from Gambling chests (packs of cards.) That gets you new troops and upgrades to old ones (which are much better, making paying players much stronger than free ones.)

  • TitanEmpires: Maybe one of the earliest games to add a wide selection of very different heroes (like an ogre who’s special ability is making one big jump.) Upgradable through gambling chests. Added impassable rivers – with very clever system so you can’t surround anything, or make a too-long river wall. A clan war map, where each base has a point value and sometimes a bonus. Clanmate’s donations reinforce your buildings. Made in Wisconsin.
  • SpaceMinerWars: Offense is non-clashlike – flying around a fully controlled Asteriods-style spaceship, while their base creates a bullet-hell. Base is made using standard rules (town hall, upgrades, storages .. .) Attacks use standard Fuel system – lots of attacks at first, then limited as you level up.
  • DawnOfSteel: Another non-clash offense: 3-4 fully controllable robots, each with a special (those are your spells, mostly.) Some monster-spawning defenses. Bases are standard clash-like. Players were randomly given different “entrance” patterns for their bases. They got so many complaints about being stuck with the bad entrances they let players choose.

    A tired system of free robot equipment and real money equipment, but a smallish spend (each level) is good enough to stay competitive.

  • StarWars:Commander: Two sides, with population problems (can you name a cool Rebel troop? Neither can anyone else. Everyone plays Empire.) The big innovation is you get generic defensive towers and can put any weapon in them. Weapons get bonuses against troop types (light infantry, light armor …) so you get to guess which army you fear most. Damage an the attack timer is tuned so you most attacks are against the clock.
  • SamuraiSeige: I think of the first clash imitators. Samurai-themed, minor tweaks, more events and specials (I suspect this game convinced Clash of Clans to start adding more of those.)
  • Lords and Castles: medieval-themed old-style clash-copy. Adds terrain elevation (which affects attacking.) Uses new-style wall-post walls. Gambling chests for heroes and hero upgrades. Uses a tech-tree for troop upgrades – you also get some of your walls from it, and it adds minor defensive buffs.

    Truly bizarre selection of historical politicians as heroes: Abraham Lincoln can duke it out with Catherine the Great or Gandhi. With no joke intended, US leader Trump’s ability is to strengthen walls. Clan wars over spots on a persistent world map.

  • SeigeFall: Boom Beach style map. Attacks have a fully controllable hero and squads of troops. As you destroy buildings, you get points to summon more troops. Spells are from a pre-done semi-random card-draw (you get lots of so-so spells, which you may as well use.) Walls come in just a few long sections (attacks come from one direction.) Weekly computer-controlled base quests.
  • RoyalRevolt: Defense is a real tower-defense (a customizable path lined with defensive towers.) Plus you select waves of defensive troops. Attacking is a fully controllable hero, with squads of troops summoned through a refilling energy bar (if you have enough time, you can wait for the bar to fill them the summoned troops to arrive.)

    Standard raid for gold for upgrades. Can buy items for cash during (yes, during) an attack. Energy system (food) to limit attacks.

  • OlympusRising: Greek-themed copy of RoyalRevolt (made by the same company.)
  • DungeonKeeper: Defense is placed defensive rooms, connected by carved-out hallways with traps. Standard Town Hall to limit buildings and upgrades. Attack from 4 fixed entrances. Some monsters can walk/shoot trough walls.

    This is a clash-like port of a much older game. It was hated as a cash-grab, but it’s no different than any other clash-like.

  • Batman:ArkhamUnderworld: Similar to DungeonKeeper, your buildings are rooms and hallways, with two fixed “garages” as entrances. Later options to bust through a window. Terrific AI to make defending goons dive behind your placed sandbags or sofas. Gold is in a vault room, with a very heavy door. Your HQ has your computer-controlled super villain (with room for some extra defenses, but not too many. You have to spread the good defenses among several rooms.) Attack is a fully-controllable super-villian plus dumb goons. Limited spells. BoomBeach style map. Suicide Squad movie tie-in.
  • RaidHQ: Attacks are non-clash-like. Each defensive room is a stationary bullet-hell, with extra attacks from nearby rooms. Attackers pick 4 heroes and use them one at a time. Heroes gotten and upgraded using gambling-chests (they are fairly generous – you can find free “S-class” heroes.) They have interesting room types – you fight a big robot, lots of waves of troops, a tough laser bunker… . As you grow, you have to split your defenses among several paths to your HQ.

    Defenses use standard upgrade and builder rules. No limit on attacking players, but the rewards from winning take a few hours to arrive, and you can only have 2 en-route at a time (the same as chest unlock system in Clash Royale, which came out before this, I think.)

  • BoomBeach: See the specific post. Win or Lose combat, local map of targets, one builder. Comical WWII-themed.
  • DropAssault: WarHammer 40K-themed Boom Beach-style game. Selectable offense and defense heroes (1 each, from a very long list. Standard frequent introduction of new ones, in gambling chests.) Some heroes are very powerful but eat up troop slots.

    Added a live player-vs-player area. Has a complete point system for defenses: you get 50 defense points per level, and defenses cost different amounts (you can freely swap them in/out of a storage area.)

  • RivalKingdoms: See the specific post. No troop training – troops selectable at the start of battle. Very limited troop types. No choice in who to attack. Dragon semi-leader. Pre-made sets of 3 spells, designed to work together.
  • Transformers:EarthWars: attack team is 5 non-controllable robots. Each robot carries a spell, cast Boom Beach style. Robots are won through gambling chests – takes cash to get enough of the good ones – but you can only level them up by playing. Defense is standard clash-like, except you can be atttacked from only 2 sides, so can try to hide in the far corner.
  • Dawn of Gods: Up to four very strong leaders on offense and defense, leveled through grinding or spending. Odd troops at higher levels (but the leaders on either side are mostly what wins the battle.) Lots of dailies and quests. Clan wars only on weekends.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

[Game]Dawn of Gods

Dawn of Gods isn’t anything new, but sure is interesting. The theme and art are better than most; like any second-generation clash-like, they’ve slathered on dailies, quests, currencies and monetization – pretty well done. But then the gameplay changes appear to have been made by someone who’s never played a clash-like.

 

There are daily quests, mostly for things you’d probably do anyway; then separate daily “events,” which are just more involved quests. There’s a daily login reward, 3 free daily chests (on a timer,) 3 different free grab-bag chests, 3 daily Leader chests, and an every-two-day good Leader chest.

There are 6 more daily chests that cost a tiny amount of gems (interleaved with 3 of the free ones – to open your second free chest, you have to click past “are you sure you want to skip one of your daily 5 gems-to-open chests?” Genius.) Then a daily no-risk tournament gives you a tiny chest for each attack, and different chests for your daily rank (by no risk, I mean you attack a player, get no loot, but lose no troops.) There’s another Quest system, through a building, where you send your leaders out and get rewards an hour later.

There’s a crafting system for Boom-Beach style totems (the Leader quests find the materials.) Most give pointless bonuses, but you can pay vast amounts of other tokens to reroll them. Each kind of totem has different rules for unlocking how many you can have.

Even though you attack players using a Next-ing system, there’s a separate map with only computer opponents. They added a bonus for eliminating all bases belonging to one person (a chart shows it.) The usual conquered base rewards, which normally just pile up and are collected whenever, have to be collected during 3 preset daily windows (listed in military time.)

Besides gold, elixer, dark elixer, gems and totem crafting, there are 6 more currencies. There’s a Friend system (who’s only purpose is to click to give them more attacks in the daily tournament.)

They even have time-reduction tokens, borrowed from Game of War style games. Not sure why, but they give you several at first, then only very rarely once you get to mid-game. Like they forgot about them.

Monetization-wise, there’s a subscription: $5 for a huge deal on gems, doled out every day for a month. And a starter buy: your first spend gives you a rare leader (who will personally win every attack for you, sort of ruining the first few levels.) Together, they do a nice job of “this game seems OK, right? spend $5 on it.”

The clan wars are the same as clash, except more complicated: there’s a pre-phase where extra donations give an overall defense bonus, there’s a counter-attack phase, and then a second day of attack/counter-attack. Of course, the clan with the most active players still wins (by attacking abandoned low-level bases on the other side.)

Selectable leaders come in 8 rarities, each much better than the previous, and you need 4 of them. They work on offense and defense. Whomever has the best leaders wins. You can get up to level 5’s with work, level 6’s with lots of work. The next two will run you hundreds of dollars.

 

The troops in this game … it looks like they had some neat ideas, roughed out some numbers, and then stopped working on them, since the leaders do all the work anyway.

In clash, the giants pay for their toughness by moving slowly and not hitting hard. Not in this game. An all-giant army works fine. Later they give an even better giant-like troop, then an even better one after that.

They give you an early flyer, but renamed “Stealth” (it’s a wraith.) It sneaks through walls and only archer and wizard towers can see it to attack. Defenses tell you whether they hit Stealth troops. But the wraith isn’t all that good, and it’s the only stealth troop. Oddly, the game has fliers, but they don’t really tell you which ones do, or what defenses can hit them. And the anti-air defense hit wizards (don’t fly,) healers (walks, but hops over walls,) and witches (don’t say – the picture looks like maybe they can.)

There aren’t spells. Some leaders have skills, but 1-use only and mostly not aimable. All-in-all, troop selection and attack tactics is kind of blah. You only lose troops if they die, and you don’t need to win to steal gold. Use your entire army, quit once you’ve stolen the easy gold, and repeat.

 

The game looks nice, and it’s worth seeing for the huge pile of systems they added. The leaders’ theme is amusing. They’re Gods (or anyone who ever interacted with a God) – grouped by Greek, Egypytian, Norse/German and Angels/misc (the Angels category is officially named “Other.”) A goddess is named “Grieved Isis,” which I assumed was a way to avoid confusion with real-world ISIS/ISIL. Nope, they also have a vanilla Isis goddess. They just doubled-up names on a few.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

[Game]Battle Islands

The really unique thing about Battle Islands is it has combined land, sea and air fighting. Your base is made of connected islands – you get to arrange them like rooms, as long as the beaches connect. The new part is that the ocean is also usable: some resource buildings (oil wells) and defenses can only be built there, you have attacking ships, and your target has defensive ships.

Barracks, airports and harbors each build part of your army, so you always have a land, sea and air attacking army. Defensive units are built the same way – your base will always have a patrolling airforce, navy and army (in a radius from the buildings that made them.)

The units are the usual mix of attack priorities, but more-so – fighter planes prefer other air targets, but can hit anything; submarines can only torpedo other ships (I assume they are very good at it;) battleships prefer to bombard defenses, sailing around the islands to reach them. It seems like you have a lot of interesting choices to make.

There are walls, but you don’t place them. You buy&upgrade walls for each building (next to the option to Upgrade.) Standing by itself, a “reinforced” building has sandbags around it. Put 2 reinforced buildings together and the bags combine into a pretty ring around both. It looks like it was fun to program. The visuals of wall upgrades are pretty: upgrade these enough and you see concertina wire on top. Sadly, upgrades past that suddenly become boring, anachronistic grey stoneworks. Maybe done by a new intern who wasn’t shown the concept art?

There’s only one resource, cleverly named Supply. Since you pay for all troops you send, live or die, this feels a little funny. Maybe I’m just used to the 2-resource meta-game, where you might gladly lose elixir to gain gold, or focus on getting one type which incidentally builds up the other. Spending Supply (on units) to get just more Supply feels funny to me. But having two types of resource generators might be a problem since they’re already on land and sea.

The rest is tried-and-true: the usual defensive gun towers, mortars, AA guns, slow anti-tank guns and mines. Three spells, which need to be prepared in advance clash-style: zap, heal and drop-anywhere-troops.

And this is just cute: each tap sends 5 ground troops ashore in a landing ship, which can be fired upon and can sink, killing them all. Luckily, you can level up the landing ships (you don’t have to build them – they appear for free when you drop troops.)

 

I can’t believe this is a down-side for me, but the art and theme are oppresively bland. Generic, Americanish WWII troops and buildings. Functional, flat islands. I should like the Quonset huts, corrigated steel and muddy tarps over the machine-guns. But there’s not a hint of backstory or personality. The escort looks like a P-38, the bombers look like Liberators, but with a “we’re from an alternate generic universe” feel. The effects for the sea are terrific, but in an “I’m a standard high-end water effect” way.

Maybe part of me just not caring is that I’ve never been attacked in several months of playing. There seem to be people on chat, and I have no shields and full collectors. The list of players I can attack are vastly higher level than me, and have almost nothing to steal.

This game might have a lot of potential for really involved attacks – much more than “send the giants to take out air defenses, then send in minions.” Maybe it opens up and gets busier with another town-hall level or two. If you can get past the no-theme theme, which I can’t, this seems like it could be a great game.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

[Game]Gates of War

This is Sci-Fi themed, from Plarium, with interesting parts, but just doesn’t seem to work as a clash-like.

Troops are fully controllable, using the RTS system – select all and tap to move there, or use two fingers to draw a box around some and put them into groups. I’m terrible at the later – not sure if it’s me or the system. The single-player missions aren’t base attacks. You walk your troops along a path, avoid ambushes, pick up more troops, achieve the objective at the end. I keep losing one because they always kill the hacker I’m supposed to protect.

You don’t unlock troop types or get upgrades from buildings. Instead you get tokens from single-player missions (repeat them on normal, hard and extreme) and chests (free each day, or buy the good ones.) I’ve got 1/3rd of the troops unlocked (many, many copies of those tokens) and don’t see a way to get the rest. There are 12 troop types, with 3 variants of each, described as common, uncommon and rare. But they’re just different, but not really better or rarer.

The troops seem fun: HtH, rifle and flamer marines; various jeeps; tanks; a healing flier; air-to-ground and air-to-air fliers; some big walker. Real 3D models, too. I’d write how many spaces they take, but the game doesn’t tell you. You have to build it and see how much the queue-size number goes up.

There are no walls. But you can make them with buildings. Unlike most, the buildings fill their space, so placing them side-by-side will block troops. They even block your own troops. You get to place 1/2 an army’s worth of defensive troops (not coming from a building – you just place them on the map) and they get stuck if you don’t make an inter-building gap for them. Non-combat buildings are also a lot tougher than defenses, especially storage buildings (energy and gold, same as always.) Once you beat the defenses, you spend a lot of time killing the rest of the base.

All base defenses have long ranges, as in they almost cover everything. Attacking a player is pretty much your entire army vs. all their guns at once. Since you control your troops, you can easily, depending on placement, lure their troops out and away. Unless they’re walled in. The few player-base fights I’ve seen are short and one-sided. I’ve unlocked just one spell – a medium-sized AoE that can kill 2 or 3 guns with two casts. You brew them in advance, but there’s also a cool-down. Huh.

There are some 1×1 buildings named “earth/air/water/terra element” that might be something. You unlock limited amounts as you upgrade and they claim to have various effects. But I haven’t seen them do anything. They’re listed under Decorations. Some of the loading screen hints mention things like skipping your homework. Maybe that same joker wrote the flavor text for these. They do look nice.

This is also the second clash-like, after WarHammer40K’s Drop Assault, that has a live vs. player area. Both your armies duke it out. In my case, stagger in the general direction of the enemy and auto-attack. You get unique chests from it (maybe the rest of the troop types?) It seems a little kitchen-sinky to me.

The Nexting system gives you 30 seconds total to decide. You can Next all you want, and it keeps counting down. When it hits 0, you’re committed to attacking the base you’re looking at now. But you can just quit, lose the victory points and try again. The player bases have a little path leading to them. After playing the single-person missions, you’d assume that’s the route, but, as usual, you can place your troops anywhere around the edge of the map.

Plarium also makes StormFall, which just looks a little like a Clash-like without being one. I’m guessing this is a similar idea — throw in some clash-like, some RTS-like and see what sticks.

comment

Your email address will not be published.

[Game]Rival Kingdoms

The novel idea of this game was you could open it, attack the first person you saw, do that several times with no waiting, and then just leave. Beyond that, they introduced several new ideas: better walls, semi-controllable leaders, defense power-up buildings, spell books and frequent events.

For quick attacking they adjusted a few things:

  • No troop training (time or cost.) At the start of the battle, after seeing the enemy, you select your troops. This was simplified by using the “squad” system – you selected a troop type for each one (at most you had 6 squads.)
  • Fights are win or lose. This wasn’t new, they needed it here to make things work.
  • Attack tokens. When you opened the app, you had 5 of them. It took about 2 hours for 5 more to build up.
  • You had to attack the first person you saw. They couldn’t force you, but the attack token was already spent, the troops were free, and (explained below) you didn’t want to break your streak. Some of the best moments in the game are trying to beat a base that looks way too tough, which you would have skipped if you could have.
  • Winning streaks with progressively harder bases. One loss resets your streak. This makes your 5 attacks into a story. Your first opponent or two is a warm-up – you can Fast forward. The next few might have good gold and require you to at least pay attention. The ones after that are nerve-racking. If you open the app and see you have a 9-streak so far, you take a deep breath, press the attack button, and hope for a non-impossible base.

 

Altogether, this makes it so you spend all of your time fighting the base in front of you. To compare, in most clash-likes you’re thinking about whether to press Next on this base: deciding if their very high gold is worth stealing even though you mostly want elixer, if your army is good for this base, how long until your next army is ready, whether you should just snipe the full collectors on one side. In most clash-likes, you spend more time pressing Next (or considering the 8 bases on your map,) than you do planning your attack.

Otherwise, it’s a standard clash-like. 5 builders with standard upgrade costs and times; a troop training building; StrongHold levels 1-15 which unlock everything; an original high-level death weapon defense.

There are also a number of mix-and-match features:

  • Walls are 2×2 posts which connect across a small gap, including diagonal. Wall-placement is much easier and they look nicer.
  • A defense-buff defense. A Conduit building does nothing on it’s own, but adjacent defenses get a buff (it’s 3×3. Anything touching on 2 spaces counts as adjacent, so it can buff 4 other defenses.) You eventually get two of them, giving the option to double-buff anything touching both.
  • Wider variety of customizable defenses. Spell towers can select an area freeze, instant area blast, slow+damage poison, damage plus anti-healing debuff, a slow-firing area confusion spell, a fast single-target blast, or a building heal spell.
  • Dynamic spawn zones – if you destroy a building, you can drop troops where it was. People who liked this really liked it. You could snipe a building just inside the walls, then drop the rest of your army there. Sometimes you could spell-blast buildings near the Stronghold and drop troops right next to it for a quick win.
  • Pre-set spell books. The concept is: you pick one wizard, who comes with a preset group of 3 spells, balanced against each other. Hegar has a cheap wall-destroying spell, a freeze, and an expensive so-so summon. Zilah has a very expensive spell that freezes nearly all defenses and 2 not-so-good filler spells. Jal has a cheap spell that disables only spell towers (the most dangerous defense) and an expensive spell that destroys them (and a weak healing spell.) Banemaw has two spells giving troops a large buff if used together (if you figure out the timing and troop mix to get manna fast enough.) Viscaria has a cheap, slow-acting area damage spell that can really soften up a base beforehand (but after that your troops are on their own. The other two spells are weak.) Yalenati has an expensive large area damage-over-time + slow spell, which spreads and refreshes if you destroy an affected building before it wears off (and 2 weak filler spells.) Talasin has a similar spell which blasts the area around one building, then jumps and repeats if the building is destroyed quickly enough. Multiple copies can destroy an entire base (and your frame-rate.) Birna is just a utility player, with a cheap single-target freeze, a good troop buff + heal, and an expensive area damage + slow spell.

    Grouping spells that way lets them customize each spell book for a unique attack-style, and balance them internally.

  • Semi-controllable leaders (dragons.) The dragon is a flying, ranged semi-tough troop. Everyone gets one, in addition to regular troops. You can often use it to plink a building unprotected by air defenses, which gives a little manna and removes distractions (better than using up one of your 6 squads.) But there’s more. It starts with one “sweep” charge and builds up another every 30 seconds. You can use that to reposition it to a new vulnerable building.

    You might be able to build up enough manna destroy a defense just using spells and your dragon. Or, you can use the sweep’s other ability during combat: a short-time freeze for anything underneath (if you’re very careful to avoid dedicated aerial defenses, which are lethal to dragons.) Later, you could try the tougher dragon: no freeze, but you can sweep it back to your troops and let it tank a defense.

    All-in-all the dragon worked out pretty well: not too powerful and not too much extra tapping. It takes some skill and practice to use well, and needs some strategic thinking before-hand. Plus, it feels like a dragon, and people love dragons.

  • Guild wars which don’t require coordination over who attacks who. Each guild had a line-up of 10 increasingly difficult player bases. Every player attacks them in a row until they lose twice. Those attacks don’t even cost tokens.
  • Non-overlapping troops. Troops in almost all clash-likes are allowed to bunch up. Some quickly become a single stack of 50 archers (which looks pretty bad.) Most add a little randomness to spread them out a little, but you still get 50 archers in a very small space. Rival Kingdoms has them occupy their own tiny ring. This looks a lot nicer. And it just shows it can be done.
  • 3D models and hi-resolution particle effects. Most clash-likes use the spritesheet model: a flip-book of 2D pictures, drawn from 4 different sides. I don’t know if Unity (the game engine Rival Kingdom uses) is that much better, or if cell-phones jumped in power. RK’s models and effects look desktop good. This probably contributes to people loving the dragons so much. They look a lot more fearsome.
  • Weak walls. Instead of being 3 times as tough as buildings, walls in this game are a little weaker. Combined with them also being 2-spaces thick, the usual strategy of making lots of compartments isn’t all that great. Walls mostly work to direct traffic. Some players figured out how to make a 1-sided base: put your Stronghold on one side of your buildings with a massive V behind it. Troops placed on that side will walk around to the front. The other common one was a double-thick football: put distraction buildings outside to trick troops into walking around your entire base, getting blasted as they do.
  • User-designed items. New spell-book wizards were introduced regularly, based on contests in various countries (reflected in the character’s name, portrait and backstory.)
  • Frequent events requiring significant effort. Most events gave either you or your guild a day or a weekend to gain a large number of points, by winning battles. The amount needed was possible for a free player, but only if you had the day off (or had a large number of attack tokens saved.) They gave lesser prizes along the way (often there were 2 equally good prizes. One easy to get, the other as the top prize.) In general you needed to buy extra attack tokens to get these, and the events were the only way to get some things.

    The guild event totals were based on a large-ish guild with everyone playing quite a bit. Lots of peer-pressure. People were kicked out of guilds to make room for someone who could get the numbers up. Players were talking months beforehand about the weekend guild event for Malice the Death Dragon.

The game’s flaws are interesting, as well:

  • Every army looks the same: There are only 7 troop types. The standard army is 2 squads each of archers, grunts and healers. The other 4 troop types are an undertuned flyer, an undertuned defense-targetter, an alternate archer with a debuff, and a weak resource-targetter which they keep reworking.
  • One defense, Spell Towers, dominates. They are so much better that the only viable attack strategies involve freezing or slowing them.
  • End-game gets rid of the “attack who it gives you” rule. You get to pick a weaker target for a sure win. The game becomes a grind of fast-forwarding through your 5 wins.
  • The story of this is about not wanting to disrupt player expectations. The healers started a little overpowered, so turned into a must-have troop. As a required troop, they needed another buff. Defenses were a bit strong, so they buffed the most common frontline troop, the grunt, by turning a small damage resistance into a 50% damage resistance. That made the other grunt useless and made Spell Towers (they bypassed that resistance,) into the only useful defense. The little-used spellbook which shut down spell towers became a must-use for attacks, which then got buffed to be easier to use. By then player expectations were 90%+ wins, which led to the end-game “always win” system.

    At every step they didn’t want to disappoint players by making the favorites weaker. The funny thing is that by the time Rival Kingdoms was out, everyone knew you routinely nerf and rebalance in these games. I suppose that’s a lot of work.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    Traps

    The basic clash-like trap is a hidden bomb occupying a single square (compared to 3×3 for a typical building.) You usually get a lot of them. There are several strategies for placing these bombs.

    You can design a nice, compact base and place bombs later. First fill those inevitable 1×1 holes that are inside every base. Troops coming from any side could walk over those. Sometimes just a little shuffling can make more interior spots for bombs. The rest have to go around the outside. You can place them evenly all around – most are wasted but every attack hits a few. Or pick one area to cluster them. The times they work will be fun to watch, and you can watch replays for ideas how to reposition them. A problem is that attackers will send 1 troop to trip bombs. To avoid that, push your outlying buildings a little apart and push the bombs between them.

    One bomb is fine for softening up front-line troops for your guns. But most attacks have archers in back which never get shot. Wounding them with one bomb is a waste – if it takes two bombs to kill archers, cluster your bombs in groups of 2. If the game has healers, cluster bombs in groups big enough to kill front-line grunts before they get healed.

    Going further, you can design your base with the idea of using traps. Bombs deep inside a base are more likely to be triggered, so purposely make space for more. The paths troops follow is predictable, so use that. A hole in your wall will lure troops (but you have a hole in your wall.) Make a short corridor full of bombs. The big, tough defense-seeking troops can be lured down different paths than the rest.

    Some games have visible traps (but not to your troops – they stupidly walk right over them.) You can place these all around so they have to hit a few. But you can also cluster them – put them in your weak areas. If attackers avoid them by attacking from your strong side, they did their job. Most visible trap games also have wide-area spells which also explode traps. That complicates things. Putting a lot of bombs around defense buildings can make the whole area a juicy target. A cluster of bombs should be just dense enough it makes someone think maybe the area is worth a wide-area spell, maybe.

     

    Little bombs are all you really need, but more types of traps might be fun. Freeze traps are my favorite. Freezing just any troops doesn’t do much – prevents them from doing a little damage. The trick is to place freeze traps just as they walk into a cross-fire, maybe letting a mortar hit them one extra time. Age of Gods has a clever variant – a distraction trap which forces troops nearby to target it. Place it behind a tough wall. For no reason, it’s a mummy popping out of a sarcophagus.

    Most other traps are for hurting giants (whatever units your game uses for big, slow tough guys.) 2×2 super-bombs are massive overkill on most troops – 4 normal bombs scattered would be better. That massive damage is to put a dent in those giants. Hopefully you can figure the routes and place it to hit them.

    The “spring” traps (1×1 insta-kill on at most 12 troop points) are also for giants. They’re a little like bombs against normal troops – bombs can affect more but won’t always kill them. The real use is being able to kill 1 or 2 of the big guys. Lords&Castles uses a spiked pit for this – pretty gristly as you imagine it filling with 12 bodies. Hero Sky uses a 2×2 camp fire (nearby troops are “killed” when they sit to enjoy the fire. Really.) Age of Gods uses a Confusion trap – not only do they lose the troops, but they become your defense troops (but this is so good it’s not allowed to affect really powerful troops.)

    High-tech themed games usually replace the super-bomb with a 1×1 anti-tank mine (in those games usually army tanks are the “tough” units.) They work even better since everyone knows anti-tank mines completely ignore infantry. Those types of games tend to cheat a lot that way – plenty of things work differently on tanks vs. infantry just because the rules say they do,

     

    Defenses which are reduced to rubble pop back up for the next defense. But traps need to be hand-reset. All games with visible traps have them auto-reset, and many newer clash-like do that to. But having to pay to re-arm your traps is the standard. It’s so ingrained that the game Hero Sky, with a straight face, offers to sell you a 7-day auto-trap-reset.

    The cutest thing about traps is upgrading. A few games have your Research building upgrade all traps of a certain type. But many have you upgrade each trap by itself. As usual, it’s out-of-commision while they happens. The attacker sees a bomb with construction site tape around it and, let’s face it, Jerry Lewis taking a hammer to a bomb.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    Shields

    In a Clash-like you need to be attacked on a regular basis, but not too much. Maybe once every 8 hours. And they should show it to you in a clever way. Thus the shield was invented. It’s a way to make scheduled attacks seem more realistic and exciting, a meta-rule you can play with, and a way to monetize. After being attacked you get an 8-hour shield, given by the gods of pity. “Shield remaining 2:38:05” is way cooler than “Next scheduled attack in 2:38:05”. With the former I can feel other players licking their chops, eager to raid me but held back by this fabulous city-sized shield.

    And now that we’ve established a shield is an actual thing, we can play with it: crazy rules for the duration, sell them in the Shop, make them vanish when you attack(!), tweak the vanishing rules, or add a new attack-through type. Fun to play with, a way to add tension and somewhere else to spend cash.

    The most brutal rule is having the shield vanish when you attack someone. Here’s how it works: you decide to attack during commercials, letting troops train in-between. Well, you’re screwed – each of your attacks triggers an extra attack on you. Version 2 of how it works: you open the App during lunch, hoping to make one attack. If the shield has 15 minutes left, you’ll just be moving it up a little, so no problem. But if you were attacked 15 minutes ago it’s not worth it. If fact, you should have enabled push notifications. Then you could have opened the App 15 minutes earlier, just before the shield wore off, and kept tapping it during work to hold off that attack until you were done with yours.

    And let me point out here: the whole shield-breaking rule is unrealistic. For real you can attack through shields. Star Trek phasers can fire when your shields are up (transporters are the thing that can’t work through a shield, even yours.) In World of Warcraft and Dungeons and Dragons you can attack while you have a shield spell on you. An invisibility spell is the thing that goes away if you attack.

    But now that we’ve established shields can break, we can play around. An attack can merely remove an hour or two (Clash removes even more for attacks past the first. Hero Sky is always 1 hour.) But that’s just a clever way to make it seem fair, while still encouraging you to plan your life around the game and to use gems to attack 3+ times in a row.

    You can give an hour-long 1-way shield for breaking a long normal shield. You can sell 4-hour versions of these. Get that? There are 2 kinds of shields, now. The game explains the difference and the rules for each and how you can use them to avoid being attacked as much as possible, in a game with the basic premise of building a fort for other people to attack. Got it?

    It gets even weirder. They had to add a rule you can never be attacked while you’re on-line. But sometimes connections go bad, so you get a 1-minute grace period (think about it: thousands of hard-core players going for an hour at a time on bad networks; and every dropped connection is a player furious at being unfairly attacked.) Of course players figured out to just never log off (the #1 player in CoC did that.) So they added another rule about how long you can play each day. Even so, in some clash-likes certain players seem to always be “player is on-line – try again later,” which they wouldn’t need if they didn’t have the attacks-destroy-your-shield rule.

    To point out how silly this is, Rival Kingdoms does it the fair way, and it’s fine. You get attacked every 6 hours, even if you’re on-line. If the timer says you’ll be attacked in 7 minutes you could wait it out, or ignore it and play as normal, or try to beat it (quickly attack twice and buy the biggest upgrade you can afford.) But it doesn’t really matter. Since you can’t change when you’re attacked, after a while you ignore it.

     

    Buying shields is often a mini-game, which is awesome. You can pay to attack people and not be attacked in return. We’re fine with that. But only for 20 days out of each month. Any more wouldn’t seem fair. Of course you don’t just buy a day at a time with a limit of 20. You can buy a 1-day shield, but only every other day; a 3-day once a week; or a week long shield, every month. It’s like a fun puzzle of cheating.

     

    The other horrific shield rule is having it be variable length, based on how much of your base was destroyed. The better your defense, the more you get attacked. In fact, a good defense often means you’re attacked over and over until you finally lose.

    To fix this game-breaking problem (better defenses cause you to lose more gold,) they add an even-worse meta-game: you have to design your base to give away victory points, but not gold. Make sure they have to destroy your HQ on the way to your gold vaults. The building that says “keep this safe, you lose if it’s destroyed,” you need to be sure it’s always destroyed. The attacker also gets a victory point if they destroy at least 50% of your base. So be sure to move 50% of the buildings outside of your walls to make them easier to destroy. Together those give you the maximum shield. You “lose,” which means nothing, since you kept the most gold you could.

    Finally, to make it even more ridiculous, you have to make weak players want to attack you. The game will show your base to player after player. One of them has an army that can steal every dime. Your job is to offer up about 1/2 of your gold to just anyone, forcing them to destroy 50% plus your HQ to get it, and stop them there.

    To be fair, a lot of the action in these games is in clan battles, where you attack the opposing clan’s bases purely for victory points. In other words, sometimes you play the normal way, trying to win your defenses. And then Boom Beach-style games avoid this altogether. Losing and losing your gold are the same – you have every incentive to keep your HQ safe. Empires&Allies solves it another way, sort of: you never get a free shield, but can create and activate one (you have a building that can make stuff, including shields.)

    With all the tricks, the terrible simple shield is still popular. You can find a new clash-like, lots of improvements and changes, and see the “You have 6 hours left on your shield. Attacking will break it, Proceed?” It’s like a conservation of suckiness law.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    Gating

    “Gating” is game designer slang for adding just-because restrictions. The original use was an actual gate in a role-playing game. You wanted to keep players out of the 10th-level area until they were ready, so you added a fence with a gate. They got the key when they got to 10th level. This was seen as cheaty – players should be free to try their luck, or to get killed after walking past the warning sign (who doesn’t type “read sign”?) Now a gate means any fake limiting rule, often to draw out the game.

    Clash-likes always have one just-because gate: the level of your HQ. You can’t upgrade your cannons to lvl 4 or build any more walls until you upgrade the HQ, just because. But the best gates are organic – they sort of feel natural. Gold and manna vaults are the best gates.

    Here’s how upgrading your cannon works in a clash-like: you see it takes 10,000 gold. You attack a bunch and notice your maximum gold is 6,000. The extra gold you got was being thrown away. Hmmm… that seems like a bug. But ah-ha! You’re suppose to increase that limit by upgrading your gold vault building (for 2,000 gold and an hour.) Now you can earn the rest (minus the 2K for the vault upgrade) for that cannon.

    At your next HQ level it happens again. Your new flame cannon will cost 20K gold, but your vault, after the first upgrade, can only hold 12K. Jeez – you’re going to have to upgrade that stupid vault on every level. Ditto the manna vault and dark manna vault (or a total or 4 types for a Boom Beach-style game.)

    But it gets better. At some point you’ll upgrade your vault, which you are now used to doing, and it’s still not enough. You’ll see the game has “given” you a second one. Or, to rephrase, the game has drastically reduced the increase from an upgrade, to force you into the lengthy process of upgrading yet another. Your new task, at each level, will be upgrading both of them. Amazingly, something else you need will cost just enough to require them both to be max upgraded.

    After a few levels, there will be 3 of each vault type. You will spend roughly a third of each HQ level paying and waiting to increase your storage capacity.

    I suppose needing a building makes sense for manna, or oil. I assume manna needs to be kept warm or cold or not exposed to air, or something that requires big tubes. Of course oil can be stored in any old barrels, but those can leak. I assume the EPA inspects your base and levies a heavy fine if it’s not in an approved storage area. But gold? You can just toss it in a hole – pirates perfected that technology years ago. Instead it’s “we’re out of shelves in the gold house – better dump it.”

     

    A funny thing, you don’t even really need HQ unlocks for most things. Gold costs increase exponentially. That’s enough of a limit. Level 3 cannons cost 10K, lvl4’s are 20K, lvl5’s are 50K. If you’re struggling to raise the 10K, you don’t really need to be prevented from spending the 20K, and definitely not the 50K. Even if you only care about one part of the game, once you’re spending 100K for stuff you may as well get those lvl3 cannons – the 10K price is virtually free.

    But the HQ upgrade is another way to drag things out. Even though it doesn’t do anything right away, it feels like a big deal so it costs double normal and takes extra long (like a week, after you’ve been playing for a while.)

    The main trick is making every little upgrade feel like you’ve done something. If the game can get you jazzed about raising your gold limit, that’s great – you were entertained. I especially enjoy raising the research limit. I’ve now unlocked the ability to spend a million manna, which I have no way of getting, on a spell upgrade. But I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    Heroes

    Heroes are fun extra-strong troops that march along on all of your attacks. They usually also work as a weak defense, standing wherever you place their building and attacking nearby invaders. Clash of Clans gives you a Barbarian King hero. It’s just a larger version of your first boring starter troop, attacks in the stupidest possible manner, has only one thing to upgrade and you only get it when your army is large enough it doesn’t make that much of a difference. That’s key – it’s just one more thing, and not the star.

    There’s so much good stuff we can steal from role-playing games to make heroes more fun, and more powerful, and pretty soon the interesting part of the game – picking an army and a strategy – is gone. Some of the things you see in newer clash-likes:

    • Give a hero right away. Don’t make them wait until late game.
    • Use more. Quickly ramp up to using four heroes at a time
    • Offer a choice. You might use one-at-at-time, but gradually unlock choices as you level. Select the best one for the army you’re using. Or, more common, have dozens of heroes winnable in chests, with some clearly better and rarer than others.
    • Give heroes really specialized abilities: +15% to ranged attacks; healing aura, self-regeneration; troops ignore walls for 8 seconds; destroys traps; a freeze spell; teleport… .
    • Complicate the upgrades: have skills upgrade separately from hero level; let them find or upgrade their sword, armour and runes. This gives you a chance to advertise different parts of the game – maybe runes only drop if you play in Clan vs. Clan events. But the problem is you need to make all this worthwhile, meaning your hero starts to become the star of the game.
    • Make them customizable. Let them the skills/spells they have. Have different types of
      swords. In retrospect this seems obvious – make them just like computer RPG heroes.
    • Instead of having them upgrade like everything else (pay the gold, wait for the builder to finish,) have them gain experience points and level from attacking.

    The Warhammer clash-like does a lot of this: you use one hero at at time, from the start, chosen from a big randomly acquired stable. Each has one unique skill, plus another rerollable skill and 3 selectable equipment pieces. They level as you attack with them and can get quite tough (but leveling up a new hero by attacking easy targets is a pain.) It’s almost fair, except for the usual chest nonsense (getting the rare hero you need, plus the rare equipment.)

    Titan Empires was an early game using “fun” heroes. They have crazy abilities, two things to upgrade and you quickly use two at once. The best part is how they have long cooldowns. You attacks will rotate through your hero roster, choosing 2 that work together (or just the last 2.) Your troops still seem to matter quite a bit.

    One thing Clash does well is keeping hero levels as just a time-sink, like walls. Each upgrade to a hero is a measly 2% increase, is expensive and there are lots of them (plus it uses a builder and puts the hero out-of-commision.) It mostly gives die-hard players something to do.

    The original, Backyard Monsters, used heroes as an end-game. You get a hero pedastal very late, which can hold one of three very powerful heroes, which you can lose if you don’t keep them happy. When you got these, it seems like the game centered around them. I think Clash was influenced by that – add heroes late, but be sure to keep them weak.

     

    With the full set of character tricks it’s easy to turn a clash-like into a standard RPG grindfest. If you’re careful, you can make it seem like a clash-like. Give a hero at the start and quickly ramp up to using 4 at a time. Also allow 4 on defense. Have maybe 7 ranks of them (grey, green, blue, purple, orange, red, “divine” with sparkles, wings, Ascended.) Use a combining system where you need to sacrifice/merge more and more level N heroes to get to level N+1. Have everything else a hero needs require some different currency and a different mini-game. Use multiple upgrade paths (level, color, stars.)

    I’m a fan of how Dawn of Gods has you increase hero skills: sacrificing any other hero gives a percent chance to increase this hero’s skill. You get a tiny increase to subsequent rolls if you fail (if you sacrifice a dozen heroes in a row, you have a 5%, 6%, 7% … 16% chance to raise your skill.) And then the base chance depends on relative rarities: a legendary hero needs to be fed rare heroes to skill up (or hundreds of lesser heroes.) It’s overcomplicated, has a lot of randomness, gets much more expensive, and hides the cost.

    You can usually spot the clash-likes where they just crammed in ways to spend money on heroes. Then there are ones where they just got a little too excited about all the things they could add to heroes. One of the ways to spot a hero-obsessed clash-like is when attacking. Sometimes you’ll see a so-so base with 2 heroes guarding it. Their level “is that even possible?” glowing in some mauve shade you’ve never seen and effortlessly destroy your army. That game went a little overboard with heroes.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    Reskins!

    Earlier I wrote that I’d never seen a simple clash reskin. I was wrong. But even the reskins are fun and have some redeemable qualities.

    “Clans of Heroes” is about 2/3s of Clash (no attack replays) with a reskin. But the flavor text is really something. It was out in Jan 2014, which seems kind of late for a pure clone.

    The best new feature is it shows an Ad when you open it, and again every 5 minutes. No prompts or anything. You’re moving a building and bam – an add starts. They’re always for the same game, too.

     

    Resources and ore and reiku. I actually prefer the ore to gold. The extractor pulls pretty blue slivers out of the ground. Defenses go up to Teslas, but with no traps. They all look about the same, except cannons are inexplicably floating spheres with evenly distributed studs.

    Troops go up to Pekkas (7 total – there’s no dark manna.) The female archers are named “Neutron Men,” have one hand replaced by a reiku cannon, and have one bionic eye. They, I quote, “attack enemy by virtue of dripping bullet from arm.” Reiku-use figures in several troops’ text. It’s roughly newish Japanese for “spirit ki,” which is the rubbing hands healing technique from Karate Kid. But it’s the same pink color as elixer, so it’s fine.

    There are two new features. The communal builders’ hut can be upgraded for a small build-speed increase. And you can spend 1000 trophies to buy a defense-enhancing rune for one building. Based on my experience, this messes up match-making as everyone drops from 1,000 trophies to 0.

    The models and art are pretty good. A consistant cortoony style, but not the same as Clash. Sort of a manna-punk aesthetic. The giant is a legless golem of floating rocks with an iron sphere core. And this wouldn’t be complete without the game’s full name: Clan of Heroes – battle of Castle & Royal army.

    But there’s more. Two years later (Dec 2015,) an exact copy of this, titled “Heroes Clash – Castle of Clans” appears on iOS, by “Xiao Lui.” The publisher page is FaceBook, which is what the pros use. It show two more copies of the App store screenshots, and nothing else. I “Liked” it anyway.

     

    “Era of War: Clash of epic clan” is another original pure reskin of early Clash, but has some fun bits. The name is the first one.

    The Developer Website page takes you to the front page of some kind of ISP or VPN. That seems like a mistake, but the splash screen shows the same name. I feel like they may have bought this game cheap just for those two forms of advertising.

    Gold is relabelled wood. The storehouses look an awful lot like the ones on Boom Beach. Elixer is renamed food. It’s cute – the farms are little pens growing a pig; the storages are piles of thick ham-steaks. But when you tap a farm there are no pig sounds. Go ahead, guess the real sound. It’s the bubbly elixer noise from Clash.

    Every troop is an obvious copy except just one. The angel is a blue glowing sphere renamed “Soul.” That’s clever, but they more than cancel it by having “God of War Altar” and “Goddess of Archery Altar” (Barbarian King and Queen.) See if you can guess buildings “Magic Creator” and “Special Barrack.”

    The healing spell allows troops to “recover a large amount of blood.” I know, making fun of translations is easy. The game apparently originated from Vietnam, in 2015. I’m wondering if no one localizes for Vietnamese, which is what gave them the idea.

    There is one nice idea here. The campaign missions don’t use your army. They give various interesting preset troop mixes – giants, healers and archers; dragons and minions; giants, wall breakers and barbarians .. .

    Bonus fact: an era isn’t any particular length of time. It’s just however long whatever it is lasted.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Gods of Olympus

    Gods of Olympus has you attack an innovative base using 5 fully controllable heroes with cooldown skills.

    The heroes (Gods) are simple but nicely done. Each has 2 unique abilities sharing a cooldown – you can use one of the other about every 15 seconds. Then, eventually, a 1-use super ability. There are 8 heroes total, and so far they feel different. The controls are the usual – tap the hero icon (which brings up the specials.) Tap to move or target.

    Leveling is done by paying an increasing cost to individually increase either touhgness, power, or any one skill. There’s no limit except how much gold you can get (see below, about that.) If you have a favorite hero, or ability, you can keep it extra high.

    You can’t switch your heroes. You slowly buy them (after an hour you’ll have 3,) and always attack with them all.

    Attack limits are the usual: an energy meter, holding 4 attacks at a time (but don’t worry – as you quickly level you get bonus energy, so can play for several hours at first.) The inflation made me laugh: you have an astounding 4000 attack energy, but attacks cost 1000.

    There are no spells – only the hero abilities.

     

    There’s no Town Hall. Instead, you get one dedicated temple for each hero you own, with specific bonuses for that hero. You win by destroying all of the opponent’s temples.

    Defensive buildings are: various shooters, 2 types of soldier spawners, and more rare special-purpose buildings you unlock by expanding your base area. Your heroes do not defend your base (which is how it should be.)

    The shooters don’t take much space and you get a lot of them. The archer and infantry buildings spawn hordes of tiny little warriors, running towards your heroes like ants. With no targets, heroes will stomp and slash at them.

    Additionally, you get many small “hero houses,” also based on which heroes you picked. Athena’s give a health boost to touching buildings; Appolo’s regenerates them.

    There are no walls, but every building (including the low-health decoration buildings) fills its footprint, so just packing buldings together protects the inside pretty well.

     

    Like the heroes, buildings don’t have upgrade limits. You can upgrade all you want, as long as you can pay the increasing cost. There’s no limit on how many buildings you can have. The shooters, barracks and buff-houses are grouped. The cost to buy a new one is based on how many of that general type you already own. Some players have fields of level-1 arrow towers.

    This means you can mix&match. Buy any 16 towers – you like flamethrowers? Go nuts on them. Buy all explosion houses, or get mostly archer barracks. You can sell them back later if you change your mind (for a small amount of gems.)

    Help from clanmates is in real time. If you’re online when you or a clanmate is attacked you can watch the attack and occasionally place some troops. They mostly blend in with the swarm, but they make a small difference (and it looks like several clan-mates are allowed to help at once.)

     

    There are no resource generators or storage buildings. You don’t steal from the other player. The game picks your opponent and you get a standard reward for winning, based on level/trophies(?) You even get about half that if you lose an attack. Defensively, you get bonus gold for killing/injuring attackers. So the better defenses you make, the more gold you get.

    The art is a clean, detailed style. The worst part is they all look so interesting. Hades temple looks like a mausoleum. The gem-producing buildings look like a pool, an amphitheatre, a garden. Until you memorize what each of the 8 temples looks like, you’ll spend a lot of time killing the lovely decorative buildings and wondering why you haven’t won yet.

     

    The game advertises no builders or build times. That works fine. None of these games need builders anyway, since you only get gold so fast. But they do help with the pace. I got to level 20 (4 heroes,) in a few hours. With builders, that might have taken a week (during which I would have cleared a spot on my daily planner, and make the game a part of my life?)

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Orcs vs. Knights

    Heroes of War: Orcs vs. Knights isn’t anything special, but they tried some different stuff which makes it interesting to me. It starts as a gritty slower, smaller Clash, adds GameOfWar features for no good reason, and end-game seems to shift to beefing up your now very powerful Heroes.

     

    The look is WarHammer plus SteamPunk. Dark, smelly, T-shaped oil pumps gather your elixir. It’s nicely grim-looking. There’s a pretty world map, and you can look at your neighbors, but it means nothing. You can’t attack them. When you get a random opponent it shows you where they are on the map, but has no game effect. Attacking has another useless but pretty graphic. You can choose from four bases, tap to view that base, go back and forth. But you can press Next to get four more with no penalty.

    In all these games the base has little obstacles you have to clear: rock, big rock, boulder, bush, tree, elder grove .. . Usually these are limited by your level so you can’t clear big trees from the back half of the base until level 10. This game cracks me up by using levels for them. A stump is a “lvl 1 tree,” while an actual tree is a lvl3 tree. The lvl 4 rock is nothing to mess with.

    There’s a button labelled LiveStream which lets you watch other players battle (in Real Time, I assume.) It seems to pick the highest level players it can find, and lets you move to the next. More on that later.

     

    You get 2 builder’s huts and can buy the 3rd as part of a $10 pack (double the normal $5. Huh.) The game goes slower since build times are longish and initial gold isn’t easy to get. There’s no dark elixer equivalent, and you have about the same ten troops as Clash. But you get a leader early on. There are only a few, unlocked as you level up. All leader’s have the same minor special ability: 3 uses of being able to attack a target you pick. You soon get a choice between two leaders. All-in-all the starting combat isn’t completely boring.

    Other fun changes are a defensive barracks with a selection of unique defense-only troops. This is instead of having a leader defend. You eventually get a defensive building who’s only purpose is to buff nearby buildings. A change that I’m not sure about is loot being pro-rated by the percent of the base you destroy. If you see a rich player with exposed gold mines worth 100K, you can raid them and retreat (you keep non-destroyed troops.) But since you only destroyed 10% of the base, you only get a meager 10K of the actual 100K you stole. The overall effect is you only make money by finding a base you can destroy. As per the name, there are two sides (Orcs and Humans.) But not really. The heroes look different, but I’m thinking everything else is just a reskin, and you’re given opponents from both sides.

     

    The Game of War stuff is pointless, but cute. There’s a button you can tap five times a day to collect a random small prize, usually a 10-minute builder speed-up token (you have to wait 15 minutes between clicks.) It also has standard GoW quests. Each quest is a button with a different time listed. Tap to begin and get free rewards when it ends, they run out but you get more tomorrow. All-in-all, it wants you to make frequent 10-second log-ins to make all these taps. Clan mates can tap once to speed up your building construction (also directly from Game of War.)

    Equipment is made through the odd Game of War system. Everything is made from common materials like wool, leather, stone, gotten from battles. They come in levels 1-4: instead of snakeskin and dragon-hide you have level 2 and 3 leather. Higher level equipment is created using the same recipes, but using higher level wood and stone. Higher-level materials are made by merging lower levels – level 4 wool is made from four level 3 wools (and so on – total of 64 level one wools to make a lvl 4.)

    This isn’t in Game of War, but feels like it could be: there are daily hours-long events: either upgrade or attack to get points, with prizes for point totals, and grand prizes for players with the most. I get how it’s a nice surprise to see a 2-hour event has started, and might foster community, but it doesn’t seem very Clash-like, and seeing BrazRulz87 always win the big prize is disheartening.

     

    At higher levels it seems like there’s a big swerve to heroes. After getting 2 heroes unlocked I was nowhere near enough free gems to unlock the 3rd. One of the pay heroes flies and was able to destroy my base by itself (to be fair, it was probably also over-leveled.) The first hero equipment you can make is nothing special. But lvl4 equipment can double a stat, and heroes have four equip slots. Eventually you get to use 2 heroes at once and it appears a clan-mate can lend one (this is from watching the LiveStream feature, where only Heroes and no troops are trashing a huge base.)

    So end-game this turns into grinding to get the most powerful heroes. I don’t get why you’d start out with weak heroes, then move to strong ones. That just makes everyone unhappy. But then the game has very little population. I’ve only been attacked by a few people testing whether their mega-equipped flying hero can solo my base (it can.)

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Hero Sky

    Hero Sky is a decent clash-like, with lots of smart improvements, but, like the name says, it focuses on heroes. Only 3 at a time, but they’re tough enough to partly ruin the game.

     

    There are 12 troop types. The first 11 are about the same as Clash – the balloon is a hilarious flying penguin. The 12th is new – a gelatinous cube that paralyzes one defense at a time and sucks the life out of it (I haven’t unlocked it, so can’t say how fun it is.)

    They added a 10 spaces “drop anywhere” capsule. I use it to emergency drop two giants when fragile troops are in trouble and I need a distraction. The capsule also seems to hang around, absorbing some shots. They also added a “wins in a row” challenge. You let the computer pick who you have to fight and try to get a streak.

    I like how they changed troop donations. Instead of going to a person, you Donate to a general pool. When you request troops, you get a random selection of what’s there (so, a 1-person clan can donate to themself, which is nice.)

     

    Defenses are pretty much the same as Clash, but get lots of 1×1 water spaces, which slow and damage troops standing on them, and can be upgraded. For fun, the spring trap is a 2×2 campfire which sucks up 10+ spaces of troops (it lures them to it, in a small radius. I assume they quit attacking and tell stories?) The best innovation is tapping any two wall pieces to select everything between them. This is much better than “select row” and should be in every clash-like from now on.

    Once a day you can choose to defend your base vs. 5 waves of computer opponents (a rare currency is the reward.) The interesting part is you’re allowed to tap-place your army and use hero skills.

    There’s a special dragon defender which I’ve never seen. It requires at least 20 each of 5 special currencies. I’ve gotten 8, total. 92 to go.

     

    Heroes are the usual 6-star method – combine two maxed-out 3 star heroes to get a 4-star. Only a paying player can grow the best ones. They hit very hard, on offense and defense. They get a 1-use special, and give various buffs to surrounding troops, increasing as they level.

    The equipment is sneaky. Most is personalized and you get lots of it for higher level heroes you don’t have, enticing you to buy them. They have an even sneakier event: you get a high star, but level 1 hero for free. But you lose it after 2 days unless you max out the level. There’s no possible way to do that unless you spend – its classic creation of loss-aversion.

    My least favorite thing is that half of the male heroes are massive hulks, while most of the females are overly sexualized (lots of skin and the leg armour is fishnets.) I wouldn’t open the hero menu in public – I don’t know what the art director was thinking.

     

    The have excessive daily events: 2 lottery spins using your manna, 12 rotating daily quests (mostly destroying buildings) with a gem prize for finishing them all. Then the random hero every 6 hours, and a building to send heroes on timed quests.

    Clan wars look interesting. They take place only on weekends (that seems to be a trend.) There are 3 pre-made clan bases. Each is defended by 3 player bases (your clan has to defeat the group of 3 before you can attack their clan base.) You use war spoils to buy clan-wide buffs (+2% to warriors, and so on.) As usual, everyone in my 20-person guild is inactive, so I can’t say how the wars work in practice.

    The game is a wasteland. I get attacked once every few weeks. I think it was popular before I found it, since I see lots of bases where someone clearly took pains to design a defense.

     

    The base is pretty. It sits on a huge rock floating in the sky. The army camps are floating galleys, sails and propellers, air-docked just off the side of your air-island. New troops walk over and up the gang planks.

    Another pretty thing is the pointless upgradable scout function. You’re shown 3 possible bases with loot described as: little, average or plenty. There are ???’s for other stats. Your Reasearch building can upgrade these, or add a 4th possible target. That seems neat, but in practice you’re going to tap to examine each base anyway, and you can still easily press Next to see more. But it looks cool.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Castle Clash

    This one is just funny. It’s currently a standard “teams of 5 heroes” game with a useless clash-like element for decoration. I think it was sort of a clash-like, then just evolved away.

     

    The clash-like part is odd, but there. There are lots more Town Hall levels than normal, but with very small unlocks. You don’t even get walls until about TH4. The defenses are a few towers, but at level 10 you can specialize them into mortars or wizard towers. Then you can customize them by slotting unused leaders to give extra damage, range or health.

    Troops come in 4 basic types: grunts, tanks, archers and wizards (which do more damage than archers, but are easier to kill.) As you upgrade a type, you unlock a slightly different version. There are 3 levels of the 4 basic types, 12 troop types total. In a very strange choice, your offensive army also defends (the army camps have a detection radius.) This would ruin the game, making it just army vs. army, except the leaders ruin it even worse.

    It looks like the game originally was a real clash-like with strong heroes. You use 5 at once, plus your army. As usual they come in uncommon, rare, legendary and epic (the last, I don’t even know how to buy if I wanted to.) You can level them, level their skills, reroll the special ability and have to unlock higher levels. Then there’s some stuff for leaders called Crests and Artifacts that I haven’t even seen yet.

     

    I assume the ruination began with the addition of “starter boxes.” These are common – you give new players a bunch of stuff to shoot them past the boring parts. But those boxes had vastly over-powered leaders. They later added hero pets to the game, making heroes even stronger. Then loosened up the how quickly heroes and pets level up. Gradually the armies became useless.

    Now, when you attack another player’s base their defending army will dissolve with few blasts from your heroes. So will their buildings. One of your pets shoots out trios of long-range fireballs which blast 1/3rd of the buildings’ health with each shot. The exploding buildings sounds like a hailstorm. When you meet their defending 5 heroes your own army will evaporate. Then your heroes and theirs face-off for 5-10 seconds to decide the winner.

    But there’s no reason to attack other players. You get the good hero tokens from computer missions. It has the standard computer bases, then another mode where you can’t bring your army, only heroes (which is fine, since you stopped wasting time recruiting useless troops a while ago.) Defense mode doesn’t even have an army – a few computer heroes attack you. The main trick is to make them trigger all of your heroes at once, but use buildings and walls to split them up a little.

    Then they completely abandon the clash-like idea. In a team mission 4 players fight a huge monster (you each contribute 4 heroes.) There’s a scary-looking base, but it explodes in seconds. Then fighting the monster takes a few minutes. A similar daily event is your heroes vs. another big monster – no bases involved. The Player-vs-player arena is just your heroes vs. theirs.

    To make sure you know it’s now just a hero vs. hero game, they added the Sweep. This is where you go to a stage you’ve cleared, press the SweepX10 button, and wait a little to collect the loot. It takes about 5 minutes of total clicking to get it all.

     

    My favorite thing is how World Chat is done Club Penguin style. You can only send a few pre-made messages. Maybe this started life as a pre-teen game?

     

    The same developer, I Got Games, has another that’s the same but different: Clash of Lords 2: New Age. There’s a standard, but completely useless base, but they got rid of troops completely. Instead, your heroes come with pre-set retinues – the warrior hero has a dozen little warriors with it, for free, and so on. They’re more aggressive about monetization: trial VIP status, gem-buying events and specials, games where you get 1 free spin and need gems for the good prizes.

    As a clash-like, it’s terrible. But it’s not bad as a “piles of bolted together junk to level heroes, with very little gameplay.” No joke – that’s a popular genre.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Clash of Zombies

    Clash of Zombies is a somewhat interesting new-syle Clash-like, which is overshadowed by the twitchy aesthetics – zombies, SciFi, plus, for no reason, superheroes altered to avoid copyright violations. It also seems pretty dead – I haven’t been attacked.

    The basics are an exact copy of early Clash – same troops, buildings, resetting traps. Then it uses standard hero-heavy: you quickly get to use 3 heroes on the attack, through various daily spins and log-in prizes. As with all hero-heavy clash-likes, heroes can level, and upgrade, and improve multiple skills. And the Epic heroes completely out-class the normal ones.

    It has the new-ish defense mode: let several waves of computer troops attack, with prizes for killing them all. While watching you can assign your builders to slowly repair buildings. That’s new and somewhat fun (the repairs stop when the building is topped-off, so you have to pay attention.)

    A completely new feature is you have an extra army camp which can only be filled by “capturing” troops from those defenses (it happens automatically.) You later use them all at once during an attack (1 icon to drop them all, like using Clan Castle troops.) It’s kind of a fun way to wait – start training troops for the next attack, and refill the other camp by playing a defense.

    Then, oddly, it gives you another defense game, which is the same thing except the troops attacking you are only leaders, in just one wave. I guess it’s something to do when you reach the limit on the first type of attack – it has its own daily limit and rewards.

    CoZ also has the standard new-clash style Arena. It’s just a normal attack, except you aren’t allowed to use Next. If you win, you get Arena points, which give daily stuff based on how many. If you hate this feature, just make a few to get to the lowest rung, then collect the daily bonus.

    Finally it has the bad hero-heavy feature, where you can attack a computer base using only your heroes. This one is odd. You use every hero you own, but the computer HQ is 1,000 times tougher than normal. Damage carries over (currently my Stage 1 has the HQ down to 89%, which is the result of 4 attacks.) I suppose it’s sort of nice even your old Common leaders have a use here.

    At first it looks like defenses can be customized, but they really just have extra level ups. Each defense has two bonus skills, leveled using a semi-premium currency (spiky rocks, which can also buy and level up some heroes.) They’re pretty neat – stun chance, damage over time, power-up nearby defenses if no targets .. . But they cost enough only paying players will have more than a few.

    This game also borrows the idea of buffing buildings by stationing unused heroes in them. In this case, its “armour.”

    ===

    The aestetics are all over the place.

    There’s mostly a science fiction theme. Your HQ is a space ship, which you’re gradually repairing. If there was an in-game explanation, I missed it (the starting scene is about a wave of zombies wiping out someone else’s base, who you must now locate.) But it’s still a neat idea.

    Archers are women aiming hip-mounted blasters. Grunts have an energy sword and shield, goblins are fast tracked robots (named Walle, stolen from the Disney movie.) The first defensive buildings are laser cannons and laser towers (notice how they use “cannon” and “tower” exactly the same as Clash?) The dragon is a massive floating airship.

    Then it gets weird. giants are still named giants, but are clearly blonde non-giant body-builders wearing a green pair of Hulk hands. Air defenses are named “Patriot,” from the 1st Gulf war, which is high-tech but oddly out-dated. Wizards (named Masters) have an energy cannon coming out of their arm, but copy the hood and goatee of Clash wizards. The description for Particle Towers says they cast Spells, and one special ability is creating a Master when destroyed (which would be cool if this was a tower with a guy on it, and not a machine.)

    For the zombie theme, your 3rd resource is Survivors. The generator is a radio tower (calling survivors to your camp, a staple of zombie movies.) The defensive battle is against waves of zombies, which you can capture to unleash on an enemy. Also a nice nod to TV and movie zombies. Survivors are mostly used to level-up heroes.

    There are 5 zombie heroes to collect. Two are regular zombies, then another is a resident-evil-style mutant with an arm replaced with a gun. A fourth is Stitches from World of Warcraft (a blubbery multi-body hulk wielding a sickle, chain and cleaver.) The last is “Zombie President,” which appears to be just a zombie in a black suit, with wavey blond hair and a thick red tie.

    Clearly the zombies bored them. The rest of the heroes are super-heroes plus assorted comic book characters. Eve from the Wall-e movie (I had to look it up. Someone likes that movie.) Ninja Turtle, Tank (just a regular army tank,) Goko (from dragon ball Z,) Garuda (a giant bird-spirit from Final Fantasy) and a few swordsmen which I assume are from an Anime.

    Then we get to bizarre possible attempts to avoid being sued. Captain America is just red (no white or blue,) but otherwise clearly him and the text mentions his shield and that he’s a super soldier. Superman is blonde, and named Victory with a big V on his chest; but he has the distinctive pose and forelock, and the text calls him superman. An obvious drawing of Collosus (X-men) is named Metal Man.

    The two basic resources are an exercise in bad design. Clearly they’re assuming you know that Clash has Gold and Elixer. In this game, gold is called Energy, and is a blue elixer-looking droplet. Meanwhile elixer is named Food, which is in gold cans (and the ends strongly resemble coins.) I like the food cans as part of a post-apocolyptic feel, except you’re making them. not scavenging them, so canning them all seems pointless. And I’m not sure what future energy is a liquid. I guess Naquada from Star Gate can be.

    A final bit of fun, first time I’ve seen this in a clash-like: in-game, next to the other daily bonuses, is a link offering a bonus if you download Clash of Zombie 2. I know nothing about it, except it’s not a Clash-like.

    All-in-all it’s not a terrible game. Not that different than other Clash-likes, but has some originality. Like all other hero-heavy clash-likes, probably completely ruined once you realize big-spenders with good leaders dominate. But two big problems: anyone just glancing would assume a DMCA take-down is imminent; and the SF/Zombie/superhero mix is just too head-spinning. Plus, the lack of players, but that’s not the maker’s fault.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    May I watch an Ad?

    In WarHammer 40K: Drop Assault, I look forward to watching the Ads.

    If you haven’t had the pleasure, in the last year it became possible to put 30-second watchable video Ads on a mobile game. By possible I mean it’s now simple for a game-maker to get paid for them. Several services do all the work of contacting advertisers, handling the money and giving you a few simple commands to play Ads in your game. They even check whether the entire thing plays. It’s a real Ad, too – takes over your screen and can even show a “Download now” App Store button.

    These days, a completely free game doesn’t need to sell you anything. It can play an Ad every 30 seconds or make you watch one before every round. Even higher quality freemium games often have you watch an Ad to get the daily bonus, or use “you’re out of energy – watch an Ad for more?” It’s all pretty clumsy.

    Clash-like WH40K:DA does Ads brilliantly. It has: limited Ads, two clever ways to use them, lets you decide whether it’s worth it, and puts them in a place they make sense.

    Ad method one is to reduce a build time. This is great since it’s rare and can’t be abused. You can watch 1 Ad/building and the reduction is a percent of the total build time. For a 15-minute build time you can watch 1 Ad to reduce it by 2 minutes. For a 16-hour build it’s 2 hours. The genius is how usually there’s no point, so it doesn’t feel mandatory. But rarely you open the game, see your long build is close to done and you get to watch an Ad. Spend 30 seconds to save 45 minutes.

    The other way to watch an Ad is to get 50% more stuff after winning a battle. This is extra-genius. You’re in a good mood after a win plus you could use a 30-second break. You feel like you earned the Ad. Finally, it doesn’t feel like a task because of the limit. You want to save the Ads for the bases with really big pay-offs. Or, even if you make only 1 attack you can look at how much you got and decide if 50% more is worth it (the game is still a clash-like – maybe bases have no loot.)

    There is one more thing to use Ads for – the thing everyone does. On the world map you can watch an Ad once/day to get gems. That’s boring, but limited Ads still makes it a little interesting. Maybe you have 3 big attacks you want to increase, but you want the gems – oh, the dilemma.

     

    Star Squad Heroes (which is a more recent semi-Clash-like) uses the same “earn your Ad by winning” trick. But it’s for a bonus chest. I won’t click a front page chest-Ad but I have watched a dozen of them after winning attacks. But it becomes a job quickly – win some super-easy useless attack just for the chest. Warhammer’s “150% of what you won” way is more fun.

     

    Adding Adds isn’t new. Way back in 2000 we had paid internet Ads. They didn’t appear on the page – you had to click a link – but a web page could make money by getting viewers to click to other people’s Ads. Free browser game ArchAge had a stat “Luck” which you maxed out each day by clicking on 5 Ads (of course you immediately clicked the back button. Everyone knew 99% of Ad click-throughs were mostly fake.)

    When Clash of Clans came out there wasn’t a good way to put paid Ads in an App. Ads in Clash-likes is somewhere you can’t use CoC for guidance.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Star Squad

    Star Squad isn’t a real Clash-like, but what it borrows is interesting.

    The game is a spaceship with upgradable rooms – like Pixel Starships but with some decent changes.

    It copies the Boom Beach neighborhood nicely: ship’s radar opens more areas, pay gold to unlock, foes are a mix of other players and NPCs, option to replace unbeatable enemies after a few days. Boom Beach makes interesting NPC bases with mixes of buildings no player could make — Star Squad steals that very well. I like the ships with 12 weak laser rooms where the 2 crew run to the next as you blow up rooms. They copy Boom Beach special encounters nicely. Each has a few stages with NPC dialogue.

    The back-story is generic semi-cartoony space opera (the same way Boom Beach is silly WWII.) The bad guy is an incompetent space warlord, minor villains are mustache-twirling space thieves.

     

    Since there are no troops to train, you can’t limit attacks that way. But the alternate clash-like food system works great (since you’re in a spaceship, it’s called energy.) An upgradable room to produce it, another to store it, and increasing attack costs that mask how you get to attack less as you level up (but you can watch an Ad to get more.)

    The really interesting thing is the starter pack. It’s $14.95 for a builder, a bunch of gems and a rare crew member. It’s the cheapest deal. As we know, every other builder pack is $5. That’s the best number and the thing you always copy. If you’re just a little Clashy, you want the $5 pack people have been trained is a good deal. Is $15 the new $5? I guess we’ll see.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Clash of Mech

    Clash of Glory: Mech War is an interesting low-rent hero vs. hero clan-like. Like all of these an attack is your 4 heroes tearing through the enemy base like cardboard, then duking it out with the enemy’s 4 heroes.

    Older version of these have you train a useless clash-style army. This uses the newer method, where your heroes automatically come with a few of their own troops. As usual, there’s no way to select which troops, but it’s another thing you can upgrade. I’m not sure which hero comes with the airplanes, but they make a cute buzzing sound as they fly right up to the target then quickly die.

    The heroes are called mechs, but for no reason. In these types of games the point of a Mech is to give you two pictures and two flavor-texts – a shiny robot, and a bare-chested pilot named Steve “Ace” Fist. In this game they skip the pilot. The Mechs are just robots. But they at least do one thing to make them more mechanical: all damage after fights needs to be repaired, which costs gold and time. Most can fight injured, but you can’t even take your leader mech out of the garage until it’s completely healed. At least it has it’s own garage. The other mechs repair 1-at-a-time and can’t even be queued. It’s really annoying. The game gives a you pile of 1/2-hour repair speed-up tokens.

    The main funny thing is there’s no hero selection. Every other game like this has dozens of C/B/A/S-ranked heroes they can sell you, which is the point. This game gives everyone the same few heroes, unlocked as you level (it’s not terrible – you have to upgrade your HQ, then win enough points in battles.) That’s fine for a real clash-like, where the troop selection is what matters. But in this it ruins the little gameplay there is.

    One thing original: you get a special leader mech at the start. Everyone gets the same one and you keep it forever. It has different rules for leveling and also casts your spells. There are 12 total, unlocking slowly, and you choose 3. They’re pretty weak – a tiny amount of healing, weak weak armor, a tiny increase in damage. I think they have a cool-down. The problem is this mech starts very weak and is hand-to-hand. It always charges in and dies right away. The spells are leveled using a cash-only currency, so maybe this thing gets tougher, eventually.

    The other fun thing is a modification of Boom Beach-style PvP base battles. A special screen shows 2 bases which last for just a day. You and other players are supposed to fight back-and-forth over them. After the day you get special resources based on how long they were occupied and how many times they were retaken. This is the only way to level your normal mechs’ 3 equipment slots.

    For battles you get a list of a dozen player bases, which you can pay to refresh. Oddly, they don’t leave the list after you beat them. I’ve attacked one guy several times a day, then once a day after that (it was the only easy one on the list.)

     

    The monetization is intrusive. There’s a standard VIP system: 10 levels with increasing bonuses. I’m at VIP level 4, just from logins, but need to pay to activate it. The main screen always has a chest with the daily deals. There’s a daily login reward, and the other standard “tap 5 times/day” button. Building a clan castle costs two book pages – I assume they’re in the Store, since I’ve never seen one.

    But not being able to join a guild isn’t a problem. I’ve never seen another player. The only evidence of life is a frequent scroll across the top “SmashHammer has been awarded XYZ for [something].” This is what you get when you download something after a chain of “You might also like” more than 6 levels deep.

    The makers are NextGen Entertainment. A little searching shows they also make “Fruit Smasher.” Altogether, this is better than what a game named “Clash of Glory” Mech War” should be, but that’s not saying much.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]WarReign

    War Reign is a nicely done Boom Beach-style fantasy-themed game. The most interesting thing about it is 3 different races – different buildings, troops, spells and leaders. In clash-likes with 2 races it’s almost always just reskins. The StarWars clash-like has different Rebel and Imperial troops, but it pretty much had to. War Reign really stands out in this. Sadly, balance problems and a low player-base drag it down.

    There are some minor things I like, or are just interesting. The now common defend-against-a-computer-attack mode lets you cast spells. You get 4 (every race’s are different,) cast in the Boom-Beach energy style. I don’t love the Lure-to-this-building spell, but the first cast is virtually free so I’ll keep trying to use it (the radius is only enough to attract HtH troops.) It feels fun and I feel like I’m still getting better at it. It seems obvious I should cast weaken on troops when casting toughen on the buildings they attack, or is that overkill and I should space the casts out? Hmmm.

    The attack maps are split into NPC and human. Human opponents are on their own screen. You get 5 at a time and can pay (daily) to refresh them all at once. The regular Boom Beach map has computer bases, invaders retaking old ones, some special bases, just no human opponents. That style seems to be more popular now, and I prefer it. NPC bases are more like fun puzzles, while the human
    bases just seem more competitive and deserve to be apart.

    The Boom Beach Statues aren’t there. Instead you can upgrade everything using a currency you only get from fighting other players. It’s the usual: +4% wood production, +2% troops health… . The difference is you can buy them all. This would be the main thing to grind for between building upgrades.

    The balance is way off – the game gets hard, fast. The computer bases have a small jump in toughness, not too bad. But the special event bases are ridiculous. The first one I got was a little tough, for very little reward. Then it prompted me to go to stage 2 with the reamining half of my army, or else have to restart at stage 1. Yikes. After a month I was getting ones that seemed like misprints – littered with long-range, tough, overlapping powerful guns.

    The balance against other players is the worst. You have no chance against someone your own level. My under-leveled, randomly placed guns can beat off someone the same level as me. And the game prefers giving me opponents a few levels higher. There’s a Victory chest for getting 5 wins against other players. It’s a cruel joke. I’ve only beaten people who have quit, after gaining a few levels with them still on my map.

    The game partly makes up for this by cheating on the Victory rules. Like a real Boom Beach game, killing the HQ wins (everything else explodes in an instant.) But unlike BB-style, you keep what you loot and even get PvP currency after a bloody red Defeat screen. Since you keep troops that don’t die, you probably can grow by raiding other players if you figure out this trick.

     

    But the 3 races are pretty nice.

    Undead are the most distinctive. Their mortar does less damage but creates nastly grubs. These are espcially good against heavy-hitters, something normal mortars will barely scratch. The shorter range “death popper” also creates these. Early on Undead get an Eye of Mordor (the standard ray that grows in strength as it zaps 1 target.) Humans get a slow, hard-hitting cannon. I think elves get a machinegun (thorns.) The Undead special defense is a pustule that explodes when destroyed (nor much use against archers.) Humans just get a very tough building and elves get one that heals other buildings.

    Undead traps all do minor damage, plus a percentage (so are better vs. tough guys.) Human traps just hurt you, while elf traps (I think) also slow you.

    Undead troops are weak skeletons, standard archers (spitting bugs, but still archers) and archers than gain power as your skeletons die. The first offensive spell summons a pile of skeletons to anywhere you want. The second lets all your troops heal by doing damage for a while.

    Then everyone gets unique leaders (they unlock as you level up.) One can summon more skeletons, another has a brief invulnerability and always heals by doing damage, another boosts nearby attackers. The human and elf leaders are more about defending or healing nearby troops, although one human leader does close-up area damage.

    Humans and elves get a healer troop. Human spells are healing and direct damage (Undead don’t have a spell that just smashes things.) Elves get the only haste spell.

    A problem with all this racial variety is there’s not much room to experiment within a race. I only have 4 troops types unlocked and I only use skeletons and the good archers. The choice of leaders make up for this a little, but it’s not like Clash where you’re excited about different troop strategies.

    If the game was more competitive and had players I would play the other 2 races. It appears to let you have one base of each, and switch between them. If you don’t mind probably playing on a dead server, this is worth a look. You can burn the gems they start you with to quckly unlock about half the stuff.

    Lately, this is from SmileGate Megaport. Huh. Smilegate is a South Korean computer-oriented conglomerate. This looks like a side-product. They had at least one hit, but have to keep trying other things. Plus it links to their main service, “Stove.” Maybne if it does nothing more than gather players into that, it will have been a success.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Empires and Allies

    Despite the terrible name, publisher and theme, Empires&Allies is a nice-looking, innovative Clash-like. Even when the end-game gets spendy, it does it in an interesting way.

    It looks nice. The theme is near-future military, so you get machine guns and a howitzer; but also orbital lasers, flying drones and mechanical anti-tank robot crabs. The crabs pause then pounce onto your tanks. The drones fly over their targets and cicle as they fire. The infantry have some grenadiers mixed in with the rifles. The beefy half-tracks zippily accelerate, overshoot and make 2-point turns. They leave little tracks on the group. Your area-affect missile tanks arc shells directly over the target which then burst straight down in a cone of sub-munitions. Explosions rock nearby trees.

    The buildings are a bit smaller than normal – your base looks like a little desert outpost. This makes you question the whole concept where it’s your castle or your HQ. In every clash-like you have far too few buldings, taking far too litle space to be anything except a spartan advanced base. All these other games need to rewrite the backstory to say this. Besides the size, E&A does a nice job making it so you can spot defenses and tell them apart.

    I don’t even hate the dialogue. Most military-themed games are boring rah-rah. One of the rotating “new troop was built” messages here is a sarcastic “nice base.”

    Mechanics-wise, Conquest&Empire is Boom Beach. But it has the usual improvements: a button to retrain all dead troops at once, selectable sub-groups for the “move to here” flare (which always costs 1 energy.) There are walls, but very weak – good for directing attackers into the gaps.

    The absolute best new feature is the roving patrols. Plenty of clash-likes have defensive troops with a detection radius, usually pretty weak. E&A gives you 4-5 sets, with the option to put them on a long winding patrol (it’s just a toggle: patrol or stand around) and they’re fairly strong. They actually matter. The crabs slaughter armour, including heroes. But they do little to infantry and can’t hit fliers. Patrolling infantry is good for that. Patrolling tanks can survive your spells and have the longest range.

    The NPC missions have you conquering the planet, occasionally retaking areas and fighting very tough bosses. Oddly in a Boom Beach clone, it uses a Nexting system to attack players, which means you can attack as much as you like. Looting uses a funny mix. It’s basically clash-like – a 3 star system and you only get loot from the buildings you destroy. But you get nothing if you lose. You have to get at least 1 star to get any loot at all. You never a get a free shield, but you can make one. Attacking other players gives parts which can be used to build various things. Making a shield item takes about an hour, and you can save them.

    End-game gets funny. You build and collect lots of power-ups and are expected to use them before attacks. There’s a day-long 10-point increase to starting spell points. Each of the 5 troop pads can be powered-up (they change to an “Alpha” version of that troop.) An event gets you 15 minutes of a free mega-spell (for 15 seconds you can use a machine-gun or laser on the enemy base. It’s almost a mini-game.) There’s a massive area nuclear blast spell (you get 5 uses for joining a clan, not sure how to get more.) You can enable free repairs for your hero (see below.)

    Defensively, you can build and enable a stealth field (you can be attacked, but part of your base is hidden.) You can drag a pretty substantial day-long power-up onto a defense. And, I’m not sure what these even are, but sometimes a helicopter drops rediculously tough defensive troops (even on NPC bases.)

    I haven’t gone all-out on these. It looks like an active free player can acquire and build many of these power-ups reliably. But you have to wonder when a lower-level player attacks using mostly gold alpha troops and more spells than you can manage at your best. I feel like free players may hit a wall in this game. Not the usual “same as a paying player but slower,” but an actual “can’t win any attacks” wall.

    The heroes are interesting. You can use one at a time, from a choice of 3. They unlock mid-game (you have to win about 30 battles against other players to get the currency to unlock the first one. Then even more for the rest.) The tank hero has a big, regenerating shield. The sniper hero has a longer range than any defense (but the anti-tank patrols will cream it, and it walks very slowly.) The last hero flies. On defense the hero you select can wipe out swaths of attackers with its special (the game plays a very distinctive warning tone when you scout a base with an active defensive hero.) But heroes don’t auto-repair, and repairs cost a lot. You can’t really afford to keep a hero on defense. Of course, if you somehow can you’ll do much better.

    The heroes also level up by fighting, which is always a problem. Items double the experience gain or simply give a pile of free experience. My level 6 sniper hero can solo NPC bases which would otherwise be darned tough. I’d imagine being able to somehow power-level a hero gives a huge advantage.

    But all-in-all this is worth it for a month or two of free play. Then it looks like a pretty good game if you’re prepared to spend a few cups of coffee a month on it.

    Then, lastly, it’s from Zynga. Zynga is famous for inventing FaceBook games that spam your friends and give gems for filling out credit-card applications. And being worth a ton of money until everyone hated those tricks and they weren’t. I suppose they’re just another publisher now, but it’s not a name you expect to see on an actual game.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    Army Tanks Aren’t

    In a clash-like there need to be lots of viable army types, which means each troop type is a little puzzle. Clash-likes tend to come in Fantasy and World War II-themed, and the WWII-themed ones need an army tank. The great thing is, as opposed to real life, clash-like army tanks don’t have an obvous role. They fit right in as puzzle troop.

    A little explanation of mechanics: troop types can count as 2 or more normal troops. Since your army has a limited number of “troop spaces,” this is just for fun: you can have two archers each doing 10 damage, or a single 2-space gunner doing 20. “Guns” do double the damage as arrows, which is fun, but gunners do the same damage as archers.

    The main feel of an army tank is toughness. A typical game army tank might count as 8 troops, have 12 times the health and do only 5 times the damage. Three of them can eventually take out a building with no losses. They feel like army tanks.

    Of course, the 24 archers you could have bought would kill things almost twice as fast. The drawback is area-of-effect explosions make short work of archers, and each shot will pick one off. They’ll tend to spread out, not focusing fire, with the edges wandering into fields-of-fire they shouldn’t have. Large troops have those natural advantqges over smaller ones. Ideally, your ranged troops won’t get hit – a typical army puts tough troops in front, screening them. But in practice the archers take a few shots and being tougher is worth something.

    The last thing about clash-like tanks is they always move slower that foot-troops. For real even a WW-II tank moves faster than a person (when it’s not worried about fuel or hasn’t thrown a track.) But tanks have treads and slower movement feels tankier, so it’s fine. The problem is that extra travel-time reduces their effective damage even more.

    So now you have a funny troop. It’s like an archer, but does too little damage, even accounting for how stray fire will never kill one. But it might be your only choice besides a super-fragile archer. It’s also like a front-line tough-guy, except it shoots from too far back for anything to hide behind. And it’s not that tough (only 50% tougher, pound-per-pound.) An all-tank army looks cool at first, but will gradually take casualties. At best they tend to run out of time. But in a good clash-like, every other troop has similar problems, making that a possibility.

    Tough troops have one oddball advantage. In most clash-likes it doesn’t matter if troops live or die. You either “spend” all troops in an attack, or troops are always free. Only a few clash-likes let you keep the troops that live. But if you’re playing one of those you can use tanks to destroy a weak base with no losses. Or you can notice the defenses are destroying you, call for a retreat, and your “devastated” army had zero losses – just a lot of 1/2-dead tanks.

    The absolute most fun use of army tanks is what I think of as Axis&Allies syndrome (the best way to win that game is to ignore everything you know about world war II.) In a clash-like it’s irresistable to mix infantry and tanks, since that’s how real life works. Your 1/2-strength infantry will be targetted and killed first, not protected by the tanks at all, and not having done much damage. Then the remaining tanks will slooowly trade their lives for a few more buildings.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Cloud Raiders

    I was a little disappointed that “Cloud Raiders : Sky Conquest” uses the same old troops. But it adds enough other neat stuff, that it’s worth looking at.

    Missions where you defend the base are a new thing, and Cloud Raiders does this the best. Each vs. Computer mission has 3 stages where you defend, then a fourth where you attack. You get 3 defensive spells, each on about a 12-second cooldown — area blast, freeze and poison. They take a while to land, especially the blast, so you have to lead troops or guess where they’re going. You can also place a few defensive troops (sort of — you get two buildings which release a small number of troops when enemies come near. You can choose to hand-place these troops anywhere when playing a defense.) Of course the defensive spells come from an upgradable building and much be researched, in true clash-fashion.

    The 3rd defensive wave includes a boss — the game pauses while the bosses’ banner pops up. The 4th battle against them is on a unique raft with some guns and lots of pirates. After you beat each stage you have 24 hours before it resets, or only an hour if you lost.

    The funniest part of computer missions is the treasure map. You get a jig-saw map piece in the tutorial. You see a drawn-in map fragment placed on a wooden board. It looks nice. You’re told collecting all 11 will be pretty neat. Once you’re on your own and beat the first pirate base you’ll be lucky enough to get a second map part!! Then again the next time! It turns out there are 11 pirate bases, so you see where this is going. Once you beat the 11th base the final map part goes in (you thought they might be random and we’d have to hunt for them? Oh, no.) The special reward for map completion is … Campaign Stage Two! I’m trying to appreciate how they added a story, but this is like the Simpsons’ Mall Angel.

    As you complete various daily quests you’ll get “reserve troops.” You can’t make these, but they seem to come at a so-so pace. They can be used to refill your army. They vanish after a few days so even if it’s troops you don’t like, you may as well use them. I think they wold have been cool, if I ever remembered to use them.

     

    The aesthetics of the game are nicely done. You know how every other clash-like has fake-random junk spaced evenly spaced around the base? This has the junk, but in clumps. It feels like you’re clearing an actual small forest, rather than moving a bush someone set down.

    The walls have custom pieces! Straight, stand-alone, corners, T’s, 4-ways and ends are each hand-made. The corners curve nicely. The ends slope down (the wood ones just a little, lvl 3 concrete walls slope into the ground.) A fun trick: place 2 wall parts with a space between them. Both will be tall posts. Then move one so they touch. Both turn into end pieces, appearing as a low washed-out berm. Some envelope math: that’s (9 wall levels) X (6 pictures for each.) This is an old trick for ACSII maze-games, but still, other clash-likes don’t use it.

    Your base looks like a big, square island — lots of water around it. Looking closer it’s a giant floating rock. That’s why you’re a cloud raider (and the poor pirates are on actual rafts.) That explains why the attack screen shows someone free-falling, holding an anchor. And also why elixer in the game is “clouds.” And why your base sometimes has parts obcured by thick fog (you’re in the clouds.) When you change island skins there’s even a lovely animation showing floating pirate ships lifting buildings and dashing to your new home.

    Troops-wise, you can’t do much with a pirates-theme. The archer is an archer. Giants are just big guys. Wizards are a pirate holding a small cannon. The massive robot PEKKA is a big guy in a metal diving suit. The dragon is still a dragon.

     

    Some things I don’t love, but are still clever: you get one “troops come here” spell in your first battle. It turns out you do not get one each battle. It was a consumable item, only replaced by randomly discovering another. The Daily Dollar Deal is an item on the map (a tentacle rising from the ocean, shaking gold out of a chest.) I like that “skeuomorphic” style. For the defensive battle you tap an enemy ship parked just off-shore; very nice. My issue with the tentacle is after you tap it and choose NO there’s a second window with Cancel/Skip. Cancel cancels skipping, which returns you to the option to spend a dollar. Got that? So the sequence is “No, Skip” to return to the game. Also, it’s a floating island — how long is that tentacle?

    The Titan Invasion is similar. A huge monster appears on the map. Tapping it starts a defense. It you win you see a big screen showing how you’ve passed stage 1 of 5 titan stages. You can collect your winnings now or keep going. Collecting now brings up an option to spend a few dollars. Arrg! But that’s a recommend way to place freemium buys — unlocking a place to spend cash feels like it took some skill. I think what bugged me here was you can already buy stuff up-front, so I’m not sure how this is special. Maybe I’d have liked it more if it clearly had “75% off titan package” and so on.

    Joining a clan gives you a bonus 25 wall sections and 3 traps. That seems overly clever. Do you lose them if you leave? Is there a clan named “ForWallsOnly_noTalking”?

    The bottom scroll is also overly clever. It’s beautiful — you can hide or show a strip on the bottom, which scrolls left and right. It shows your current army, current spells (barrels full of fire or healing,) some other stuff I’m not sure about, greyed-out pictures of all the troop types you can’t build, a second copy of the attack button. Gah. Just let me tap a barracks to see my army.

     

    This is advertised as a cross-platform game. It’s on Android, iOS, Windows and FaceBook. On iOS the oldest version shows 4.0 in 2014, so maybe people still played games on PC’s back then, before everyone had a cheap tablet or glass-screen cell phone. For that matter, FaceBook? The original, Backyard Monsters, was there. But that was when it was the only option.

    Seriously, I get why cross-platform seemed like a good idea. There’s a follow-up game in 2015 Cloud Raiders: Survival Arena which is a real tower defense game. I feel like, OK, it seemed like those might be coming back. A lot of making a hit game is just luck with trends. Plus the studio, Game Insight, is based in Lithuania. That’s where “World of Tanks” was churning out cash while no one in America heard of it.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Interplanet

    Interplanet starts off an outer-space clash-like with some clever bits, then turns into a slow-play guild vs. guild. It’s probably the perfect game if you wish Game Of War had a clash-like part added. First the clash-like parts:

    Your buildings (little space modules) need to connect to each other using tubes. Some have only 2 on opposite sides, while a few have 4, and others just 1. You start connecting from your HQ, which has tubes coming from the four compass points. Not everything is the same size, so they don’t quite form a grid and different “arms” can have their buildings almost touching. You also get two 3-way connectors (at 60 degrees, diagonal, so your base isn’t a grid at all.) The other “alien” race gets lots of 5-way conectors – their bases have lots of buildings positioned in funny triangles.

    That all makes base design fun, and a little challenging. The UI really confused me at first. When you touch a building you get a “Move” icon for it. Tapping changes the screen and lets you move just that building, but with an extra confirm button. It turns out there’s only a general edit mode – holding any building lets you move it. That context sensistive move button just fooled me.

    The buildings are tough to tell apart – lots of shiny grey. They must know that since on attacks you get sharp, distinctive icons on all defenses. But at least gold is gold-colored and elixer is the same dark blue (it’s called energy and minerals, but gold color and blue color are all you need to know.) Looking closer at those weapon icons, they’re part of a system where various weapon types are better/worse vs. various armour types. It’s one of those rule sets which you can’t control enough for it to matter, but you’ll try since your sure they kept working on it until it mattered, right?

    There are no walls, but you can sink lots of spare gold into your builders’ huts and the general 3 and 4-way connector buildings. The upgrades increase their health, which will slow down attackers. Strangely, the build-times aren’t 0 — they’re always one minute but you can always speed-up a minute for free.

    A really cute feature, which works with the space theme, is changing your planet. A building allows you to search for a planet, which gives a random bonus to your production. You have to beat a random base in order to move there, and it only lasts for a few days. The bonuses are odd. Lvl 4 planets gives a total of 80%, split randomly between gold and elixer. Moving up to a lvl 5 drops down to 70%, but adds a huge bonus to a crafting resource you have way too much of anyway. Each planet gives a lovely semi-3D background while you orbit.

    As a space game, everything attacks from longish range —- there’s no equivalent of a hand-to-hand barbarian. But the spacing and relative ranges make it work. It matters how guns are arranged and which way attackers come from. The first two ship types are like a tank and archer. The archer has a range of 40. The “tank” has a range of only 35 (defensive guns fire from 40-50,) and about double the health and half the damage. So it’s sort of a tank. A fleet with 7 of one type, 8 of the other is slightly better than anything else (you attack with 15 ships.)

    Where this is truely faithful to Clash are the horrible shield rules, spare-change league rewards and silly breaking-shields-to-attack rule. Attacking removes 6 hours from your shield – typical “look how fair we’re being” nonsense. If someone destroys 49% of your base, you get no shield. The longest 12-hour shield is only for complete destruction. So, as usual, when your defenses start winning more, you get attacked more frequently and lose more gold. Also like CoC, you need to make 1-unit attacks to lose on purpose until the game gives you opponents you can beat. Your victory bonus will suffer a massive-seeming drop from 5K to 1K, until you realize both of those are pocket change.

    Your army is where it gets very non-clashy. You gradually upgrade and equip the same space ships. It’s a slow, expensive process. You never lose them (if they’re blown up in an attack, you pay a little for repairs.) You’ll be using the same fleet and same battle plan for every attack. If I wanted to try an army using the very long-range ships it would take a week to build and upgeade them (during which time my other fleet would be falling behind.)

    Luckily there’s not much to army selection. After the starting “tank” and “archer,” the next unlock is the traditional “special-purpose troop that has no real use but seems cool.” It’s the only turret-targetting ship, with a stun special, but doing very low damage. Next is the goblin — the resource targetting ship. It also has weak guns (and no bonus against resources. It’s weapon type doesn’t even get a bonus vs. the defense-type of resource buildings.) Next is another archer except tougher and a little lower damage. You’ll swap these in as you can (there’s also an increasing weight limit, and these weigh a lot.) Then a minesweeper – you need 1 or 2 since the few defensive bombs are lethal. Then you get a useless area-affect ship with very low damage and a small area.

    The attacks aren’t completely boring. Each ship has a 1-use special. For the archer ships it’s a zap which kills about 1/2 a building. The trick is to use it when a) you can see that ship is targetting a fresh non-trivial building, or b) that ship is being attacked, which means it will die in a few seconds. The tanks have a short-term shield which needs to be timed for when they’re targetted. If you have two minesweepers, note the area cleared by the first one and remember to pop the second as you move past there (again, upgraded bombs are lethal.) The area-of-effect ships fire a fan of missles — be sure not to use them when aimed at a building on the edge.

    The special abilities are delightlyfully complicated for no reason. They have a 2 minute recharge. Battles are the standard 3 minutes, so I have never had one recharge. They also have a different initial charge-up time – about 8 seconds. If you deploy your fleet from as far as possible, the shield abilities will be charged by the time you come into range of the longest range defenses (but you’d have been better off deploying as close as possible. Still, far-away feels like an option.)

    You can attack once every 5 minutes. As you level up, that increases. I’m up to 12 minutes. The actual rule is you need to pay for and wait on repairs of damaged ships. Against anyone worth attacking you’ll lose at least 4-5 tanks, any one of which is 12 minutes to repair (all ships repair at the same time.) You can create 2 extra fleets, but enormous upgrade costs make it so you can’t have a second good fleet.

    Repairs start nearly free, elixer-wise, but get expensive quickly. You can’t afford to fight anyone your own size – the repair bill will wipe you out. So if you weren’t losing on purpose before to get easier fights, you have to now. I tried making a cheap-to-repair army to just grab some gold, but they die too fast without stealing much. You’re pretty much stuck lowering your score to get safe, boring battles.

    The main thing you do is basic grinding: pilots and equipment. Slowly craft level 1 equipment, using materials randomly dropped during attacks (or from “quests,” through the Exploration building.) Make 15 of them to equip the whole fleet. Level 2 equipment takes even longer. Pilots slowly gain experience from being used during attacks, then take 8 hours (1 at a time) to upgrade, then more grinding. Choose between pilots with an 8% bonus to shields, or to hull, or 4% overall (as you might guess, all targets are half shields and half hull, making this is a non-choice.)

    So now we’ve gone from a clash-like to a grinder. But it keeps going. After a while “Conquest” mode opens. You get to move fleets through a star-gate into an open-world guild-vs-guild slow-play free-for-all “send, wait, and read attack reports” area. The goal is to conquer planets, which produce unique currency spendable at the planet store. With enough you can buy top notch pilots or equipment or even ships you haven’t unlocked yet. You’ll fully equip your fleet, and then your second fleet, faster.

    It’s a whole game. Your ships have completely different stats for this mode (which don’t even translate – ships with the same speeds have very different conquest speeds.) Planets come in fixed levels and types: high currency makers, or two types that make defenses. Some planets have links which allow them to mutually support themselves against attacks. You can only own 4 planets, meaning there are plenty of useless lvl1 planets for just anyone. Each planet has a different rotating store – you can send currency from a planet to one with something you want, or, I think, to a guildmate’s. They have buildings you can upgrade (there’s no arranging – just a list) Attacks are Game-of-War style: send a fleet and wait an hour for it to arrive. It will carve off X damage with a text report. Repeat over a day until defenses reduced to 0.

    You have to keep playing the clash-like. All building upgrades in Conquest cost gold, which you can only get in clash-like mode; and ships still need to be upgraded using elixer (and, later, the dark elixer equivalent.) You’ll want to continue upgrading your original base. But clearly 80% of your stuff will be coming from this PvP part of the game. The clash-like part is just time-wasting use of your over-powered ships.

    One early hint was all the free gold. A real clash-like has you quickly into the game – attack other players to earn gold for upgrades, which will slowly become more challenging. We all know the other style – throw free stuff at the player for 2 weeks, then make them hit a wall. In this game, even after a month I had upgrades I couldn’t possible buy through attacks, but I had plenty of “gift” gold waiting for a tap to drop into my treasury.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]PlanetStorm : Fallen Horizon

    Besides playing like a space-themed 1/2 of Boom Beach, “PlanetStorm: Fallen Horizon” is a really well-made game.

    One change is having two unique races, which is good and bad. The bad is, as always, dividing units among both races gives a sub-par selection. Humans start with the standard: shortish-ranged tough guys who screen medium-ranged soldiers. Then standard snipers – longer-range, a little more damage, but much more fragile. Then three army tanks. One is a tough, medium-range expensive humanoid robot. It looks nice. Then 2 more actual army tanks – very tough, long range, slow. Sure, you can play around some with army types, but not much and nothing new.

    The good are the defenses. Humans get the usual single-shot gun, a multi-target machine gun, a mortar, a slower heavier gun, a flamer, and 3 more I haven’t seen yet. The slow gun is pretty cool – every few seconds it picks one target and, over a second, fires 4 red blasts at it. The mortar effect is more like a long-range shotgun. The flamer actually sets units on fire – they take damage for a few seconds after being hit. The other race, space elves(?), have the mortar replaced with a single-target long-range continious beam weapon. The flamer becomes an electro-tower: similar except hits jump to several further targets, shredding a tough-guy/soldiers-behind army.

    The game has leaders, sort of. At some point you notice a mystery mech comes with you, even if it died in the last battle. It’s got a 1-use big area blast spell. There’s no menu for it, which means no options and probably no choices later (your all long-range-tank army will be stuck with a medium-range leader who dies quckly.) Elves appear to have a different leader.

    The last new feature is 2 new building types that limit troop upgrades. PlanerFall has the usual troop Research building, which needs to be upgraded to unlock better upgrades. But human upgrades are also locked until you upgrade the Baracks buildings. Ditto mech upgrades and the Factory building. That’s all those two buildings do. I’m a little proud I was able to figure that out, but don’t see the advantage.

    The intro is clever: your derelict spaceship’s AI snidely rebukes you for fighting every scavenger you meet. Your only hope is a crash-landing on an abandonned mining asteroid (where the remains of your space ship become your headquarters building.) A gruff human drill sergeant yells at you for trespassing, then offers you some advanced units for an attack. We’ve seen this trick, right? You get to play a base battle with the best units, as a preview. But there’s always too much going on. The best way to preview troop types is in a campaign, where each stage gives you an interesting preset army.

    Immediately after that, a woman in low-cut space-elf armour does the same thing. After that battle, your ship’s AI relays an overheard conversation with her and a skeptical underling about you being the chosen saviour of the galaxy. This sets up the most biased “choose your race” in any game ever. If you’re inclined to read, the humans have “overwhelming power” and the space elves have “high-tech”. I’m not sure how those are different.

    There are no idols (customizable enchantments) and the resources are cut down. Instead of needing gold, wood, metal and stone for an upgrades, at most you need carbon and uranium (you mine carbon from your asteroid. Wikipedia says “sure, I suppose so.”) The other resourse is iridium, but it’s used only for buying troop, troop upgrades and map unlocks (and if you google “asteroid mining”, there’s iridium.) Spells are the usual: the troop-leading beacon, heal, stun, and a blast that can damage 2 buildings if they’re touching.

    The daily quests are clever. You get two random quests a day: “win 6 times in less than a minute”, or “upgrade 3 troops/defenses”. The fun part is how they stay until you complete them, but only 5 slots worth. You can sort of finish them at your leisure. But the guild events disappoint me. The top 4 scoring guilds in the entire game get a prize. But if that’s you current player-base, maybe that’s the way to do it. My random “anyone-can-join” came in 8th, not much thanks to me.

    As I write, in-game chat rages about how the second builder works. As we know, Boom Beach style games have 1 builder and shorter build times. The controversy is over whether the 1000-gem 2nd builder is a 1-time use, or permanent. People swear to both. The web didn’t have any clues, but put me onto a great example of a no-information review, at https://gamershead.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/planetstorm-fallen-horizon-tips-and-guide. It doesn’t tell you the game is a clash-like, and claims twice you can play with your friends (like all clash-likes, play is solo against someone’s randomly picked pre-made base.) It was clearly written by someone who briefly watched the game being played, then tried to decipher notes a few days later. Which makes it an above-average mobile game review.

    The most impressive thing about PlanetStorm are the battle maps. The game studio, Aykiro, lists employees under two categories, Game Developers and Artists. As we know, artists make 3D art, and these guys did a fantastic job. One battle map is a raised rocky ring surrounded by talon-like rocks, a round pit-like moat then the blackness of space, with scorpions crawling in the pit. Another is an asteroid top in a beautiful panoramic view of an asteroid field, with meteors streaking by, exploding when they hit something. Another is an island in a river with waterfalls – 2 baby dinos wander along a ledge and check you out; while a rare spiderpion walks out of a cave and back. The ice-floes area has a fat lizard man walking behind the ice piles, while angry yeti wander the snowy edges of your base, roaring.

    The big map has a Barbarella feel with churning dust clouds and parallax as you slide the screen. My home base has a giant prowling sandwurm and a migrating dust tornado. It’s by far the most work I’ve ever seen on the environment in a game like this. It’s just a shame the gameplay makes me want to re-install Boom Beach.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Craft Warriors

    On first look, “Craft Warrior” looks like another minecraft-themed barely-a-game, with build-times. But once you puzzle it out, it’s a good, orginal clash-like, plus it has user-crafting.

    It borrows many of the “new” clash-like features:

    • Attack tokens. You can attack 5 times in a row with no waiting. You can change up your army with no cost and no waiting. Tokens recharge 1 every half-hour.
    • No breaking shields to attack nonsense. If you’re online when your shield runs out, you may get attacked. If so, the game puts a count-down on top and prevents you from spending gold until it knows how much they’ve stolen.

      You can even check how well “ghost” copies of your base have done by tapping the shield icon. It’s the same display, but with an explanation of how these don’t count for you. You can even watch those replays.

    • The fling trap. The old “spring” trap kills units. This is the one that simply throws them somewhere. This particular version damages on landing and stuns a half-second if they survive. First seen in the Clash of Clans mini-game, the consensus is to hurl them next to a powerful short-range defense.
    • Walls are 3×1 spaces. It won’t grow extra connections for you – walls still need to be touching to block the enemy. But it’s 1/3rd the work re-arranging them.
    • A “troop defense” building where you pick from your normal units. Some games give a building with special defensive troops. I like this version better – you get a good selection from things you already know. Technically it’s the same as the old clan castle, but selecting them yourself, and not begging for over-leveled units, is much nicer.
    • Destroying buildings frees up that area for placement. I didn’t care for this back in Rival Kingdoms. All it did was enable a boring strategy (spell blast a building next to the Keep, then drop most of your army there.) But in this game it works.
    • No resetting traps, refilling donated troops, or refilling training queues. In general, the game doesn’t force you to make annoying maintanance checks.
    • A charge-attack unit. The spearman does a lot of damage if it gets a few spaces run-up straight to the target. It can do this for every new target, but it’s somewhat expensive and not super-tough.

    Then they add some clever new-ish things. The last is the coolest:

    • Pop-up defensive walls. The main use of these is drawing attackers into an apparent hole, then having these pop up. The game also allows you to place them nearer to buldings than regular walls. You could use them just for that, with the lure then pop-up as a bonus.
    • The rubble is also new buildings. This takes some explaining. Your base has the usual un-movable rubble laying about, with level restrictions on when you can clear it. But each is really a future building. When you unlock a gold mine, you’re really unlocking the ability to rebuild one particular “smashed goldmine”. Sure it’s cosmetic, but it looks pretty cool and it’s fun to search your island for the unlocks.
    • Line-of-sight for some defenses. The massive spear throwing defense has a huge range, does good damage, but placing it next to your tall HQ building cuts off that entire half of its firing zone.
    • Weapon pedestals. These are 2×2 towers, a little higher than your walls, which can have a defensive weapon dragged on top. Some attacks can shoot the mounted defenses directly, while others have to beat up the tougher tower bases. Of course, they help with line-of-sight (before you figure this out, your spear-thrower inside of your walls will rarely fire at anything.)
    • Spells are paid for out of the troop budget. If you want to cast a fireball, it costs 15 troop spaces (which is two good troops.) It seems cool you can choose a spell-heavy smaller army, or go spell-less like Conan.
    • Defensive troops have decent AI. They don’t use a detection radius and can’t walk through your walls. Defensive troops inside your walled area only attack once the enemy has broken in. And they won’t roam the map afterwards — they return home and wait. Archers may walk a little and shoot, while swordsmen wait for you to get closer. In general, they act like real defensive troops should.
    • Unlocks are based on your overall level. Boom-Beach style games, which this is, require you to make upgrades until you gain a level. Then you’re allowed to upgrade your HQ for all those unlocks. In this you get the unlocks right as you gain the level. If you want a good defense then you should upgrade your HQ. It increases toughness and the number of defensive troops wandering around it, and HQ destruction is still 1 victory star. But it’s not a bottleneck.
    • Replacement troops. You attack with only 6 individual troops (more as you level up). Maybe you pick a shield guy, 2 warriors and 3 archers. The rest of your army is buying replacements. If your archer boxes say x2, x2 and x3, it means you’ve paid for 7 archers and can use three. But you can re-place them all when they die, and again for the last archer. It’s kind of fun. You could buy the best troops, with some replacements. Or you attack in waves of cheap stuff — can let them all die then come back from another direction.

      Your defensive troops are the same way. Buying the best, with no replacements, is obvious and works OK. But with cheap ones, the second wave can often swarm and surprise distracted attackers.

    The troops are nicely done – none are clearer better that any other. The second ranged troop out-damages archers, but it can’t shoot things on top of towers. The Bandit is a tank/warrior hybrid with a small area attack (like CoC’s Valkyrie.) The Paladin says it’s immune to poison, so I suspect it’s not quite as tough as the tank, point-for-point. The ninja is only good against other troops, and climbs walls; it seems good on defense, or maybe on attack since people seem to like tough-guy defenders. OK, the ninja may be the one dud, for now at least.

    It’s difficult, so far, to see how the attacks shake out. It’s putting me against people enough lower-level than me that I don’t have to try hard. Meanwhile the people attacking me are the same. But I’m also not in a guild (you get an extra defensive troop), still have cheap wall upgrades, most people are maxing out offense, and good town arrangements take a while to figure out before everyone copies them.

    It’s surprising how much there is. There are 18 unit types. You only get one of each weapon, but I’ve got 4 so far (long-range LoS spear, short-range AoE, long-range weak mortar, medium range LoS slow-and-hard.) You can pick from a dozen starting races (more on that, below.)

    The crafting part isn’t anything to do with ingrediants and things you can use. It’s like making and selling objects in Second Life. Unit types can be completely remade. They’ll be blocky, but the blocks are pretty small. There’s a shop to use player-created troop models. As you’d guess, trademark violations are the most popular: DeadPool, Batman, and I assume the rest is from DragonBall Z.

    That’s what the dozen races are – just different starting models and names for your units. To make it interesting, you aren’t allowed to switch to them: you can only edit yours or swap to other player-mades. That area even has categories for Best Rated, New, Most Purchased (I haven’t “bought” one yet, so I’m not sure if you pay for them somehow, or that’s just the word they use.)

    I was torn between the Undead, Animals or female ninja squad. It turns out the last are actually slightly-built men. I turned one’s chest-baring Gi into a more descrete robe, but I’m hesitant about doing anything about the 100% flat, ah, frontal area. Which has me wondering on the censorship policy. And why there’s no chat. And how long until a certain player-made fascist leader gets pulled from the store (that mustache is super easy to make with blocks.)

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Monster Castle

    Monster Castle is a real clash-like, but done as a 2D side-view of a multi-floor castle. That means each of your buildings merely has a width of 1 through 3 spaces. So far making a defense is somewhat interesting. Attacking, well, troops can only be placed at the single front door, so that’s boring. But you get a decent troop selection, hero special abilities, and spells, so maybe attacking is fine.

    There’s a cute animation of the front door getting kicked in when the first monster reaches it. Your guys kill everything on floor one, then walk to the 1-space ladder and repeat. This means the best ladder placement is all on the left side – attackers will always walk across the floor, killing, then back to the ladder. This means your spike traps will hit every attacker, twice. In general, the side-view means every trap wlll always be set off.

    The first defense is a short-range bolt-gun. It’s main use is to hit enemies in a small area on the floor below. After the spike trap you get black, tarry slow trap; a hidden bomb, then the mortar. This is cute since the shell arcs, going up and down through floors, then hitting the target floor and exploding. But it’s still the standard mortar.

    There are more defenses, pretty much the usual. As you level, you unlock three customization options for every defense. Even the bombs have an option to be wider, or stun, or knock victims down through the floor. It looks like they really thought about unique options for each. Even the “barricade” (just a strong 1-space obstacle) can turn to tougher steel, reflect some damage, or explode on death. There are cute pictures!

    You don’t have any walls to upgrade, but there are two gold/wine sinks. The dragon trap is basically a bomb, except your dragon flies across that floor, breathing flames. On it’s off-time it lives in a cool cavern below your castle, where you can plow extra gold to level it (more dragon trap damage, I assume.) There’s a magic beanstock. Plowing in wine allows you to send workers on better beanstack quests.

    The troops are the usual – close-range orc warrior, gnoll archer, bearman tough-guy, healer, 2 floaters (they go through floors, which I assume means they get quickly slaughtered). 9 troops total, plus 5 spells. And every troop also has 3 customization options. The bears can get extra HP, reflect some damage, or a chance to resist the spring-away trap.

    As you upgrade your Throne (your HQ), the floors get wider and you sometimes get a new one. This is also a problem, since attacker can be placed in any large gap, for example the new empty top floor with a clear path to your Throne. Killing it wins, but you can also wiin by getting stars and you keep any gold and wine (manna) regardless. Oddly, troops placed in a mid-floor gap walk either up or down. They might have a clear shot to the throne, one floor up, but decide to walk down instead.

    The game suffers from upgradable heroes. They gain levels as they attack (or are fed lots of rare resources) and upgrade powers using other rare resources. There are buyable epic heroes, for offense or defense. An over-leveled defending hero or two will crush you. The customization options also require lots of rare currency. It seems like a few bucks gets you a few more good heroes. But you can’t buy the other many currencies – extra ones come from random chests requiring diamonds. Let’s see: $1 buys 100, and it requires 3 to 8 hundred for an extra chest. Yikes!

    The theme is monsters uniting against humans, especially a certain overproud big-jawed duke. It’s cute and cartoony. For no reason, the loading screen is 2.5D and moves as you tilt the device. I knew TenCent was a huge chineese comglomerate, but this is the first game from them I’ve seen. But “Lemix game studio” gets the credit for a nice job.

    As usual, I have never been attacked, or even seen a message in chat. If you want to take a look at the game you can find plenty of free gold from people who reached level 8 then left a hole next to their Throne room. But if not, just press Next. Otherwise the level 40 Epic golem at the front door will send you back to the troop training screen.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.

    [Game]Mini Kingdoms

    “Mini Kingdoms” at first looks like a typical rushed halfway Clash clone, but once you get past the art, it’s a nicely done, original stripped-down, tight Clash-like.

    At first you get warriors and archers, then giants. Yawn. The only resource is gold. There’s no theme and sloppy art. But then you notice it uses squads and attack tokens. In the screen looking at a base to attack, you can easily tap to swap unit types in your 3 squads. While placing them mid-attack, time stops and you’re shown the first three buildings they’ll go after, in order (a chain of three arrows.) That’s pretty nice. There’s a toggle for x2 or x4 speed on the battles, which is good since there’s nothing to do once you place your squads.

    The wizard troop is even more impressive. They do less damage than archers, but hit one extra target touching the primary one. Over-all they kill things faster. It’s great when they torch a blocking building and the defense tower behind it. But people figured out not to have all buildings touching. Double-but, if no buildings touch, you can tap-tap and switch to archers before starting the attack.

    Defense-wise, cannons and archer towers are both named towers and look about the same. But the next defense is great – a squat giant-killer. It fires a huge shot, at close range every 5 seconds. If your giants wander near it, and the archers are delayed, your giants will suffer. Since it fires so slowly, it’s not that dangerous to a squad of 8 archers.

    The bombs look like garbage – triggering them produces a red circle, then it goes away and troops take damage. But it triggers at 6 spaces and affects 7. If archers walk anywhere nearby, it will dmamage most of them, unlike the usual crqp-shoot bombs. These bombs are also visible and don’t need re-arming.

    Your one other trap is the stupid-seeming chicken-trap. The tool tip is wrong, but it turns any one troop into a chicken. It’s a great giant-killer. but archers can painlessly set it off, merely losing one.

    All-in-all, you have to look over the enemy base, check locations of everything and carefully place your three squads. The game gives you time for this. And you have to work for gold in this game. Build times are fast and gold costs go up fast. You get 3 attacks in an hour and opponents give predictable fair amounts of gold. There’s some gold for smashing vaults, but the main chunk is for beating the HQ. I think my longest Next-ing streak for a good base is 3.

    Your next troops are a flying archer and flying giant. Yawn, except the terrible art style pays off here: one’s an archer riding a huge bat, the other’s an armoured guy riding an armoured bat. Then it gets creative again. There’s a ground fire warlock that spawns air troops when it attacks. The air defense would make short work of them, except there’s an air troop that spawns ground troops. The two can screen each other. High level defenses include a long-range ice (damage + slow) tower and an air wave (area damage to flying?)

    It’s an interesting no-frills Clash-like. Quick to play, not too much to do, but you spend all the time thinking about your attack.

    comment

    Your email address will not be published.