Royale with Cheese

Like with many bloggers, I have been playing Clash Royale for quite a bit lately. It has been an interesting experience – my feelings on the gameplay, the payment structure, and overall package has oscillated wildly, sometimes several times within the same day.

The basic structure of the game is dropping troops to go destroy towers, MOBA creep style. Resource parity (1 elixir per second) and the random nature of “deck” draws (4 cards out of 8) makes for an often nail-biting experience. While I hesitate to use the term CCG, considering there are nearly 50 different cards, Clash Royale does have that seductive element of deck-building and metagame strategy that makes the genre difficult to put down.

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I love waiting arbitrary amounts of time.

The game is not without its cheese, however. The reward mechanism are Chests, which are time-released and tied to the general Arena rank you were when you earned them. There are four empty Chest slots to fill, and the shortest timer is 3 hours; you can cap out your Chests in four matches, which can be done in 10 minutes. You can open these chests early with the cash shop currency, of course, or spend dollars buying gold, which is necessary to level up your cards. Cards, incidentally, which are randomly opened from chests.

The random card distribution mechanism is the source of most of my ire these days. There are card rarities, of course, and the Epic cards are some of the most powerful. It isn’t that they are impossible to counter, but rather they need to be countered somewhat immediately. The difference between not having a given Epic card and having one is immense. Getting a 2nd copy will let you level it up to level 2, which is a 10% stat gain. So not only is it possible that you won’t get a powerful Epic troop, you might be facing someone with one that will always win against your own even if you do get one.

The Prince in particular is one I have harped on elsewhere. He costs 5 elixir to deploy and can easily be swarmed with low-HP, high-volume units, sure. But if he isn’t, he deals double-damage on the first hit on your tower, and will often completely destroy it before you can even drop more troops… unless you are specifically pooling elixir to directly counter this strategy. The Giant can also destroy a tower if left alone, but his ponderous gait and inability to deal minion damage means 1-2 skeletons can finish the job. It’s hard to even say that the Prince is a high-risk strategy though, because even if he can be countered by being swarmed, he’s still, you know, a high-damage troop. One that you have to plan around in every single match lest you be taken unawares.

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Current deck. Would not recommend this setup.

I continue to play Clash Royale though for a reason that’s somewhat surprising: I can. I still boot up Clash of Clans periodically, but my play is limited to ~3 minutes every 1.5 hours due to the structure of the game. I was originally playing Clash Royale the same way, mentally declaring it a toilet game, e.g. something you only play once you have empty chests available. But… you don’t have to. As Syncaine notes, you can still play and get rewarded with trophies for wins, which eventually pushes you to the next Arena rank, which makes the chests you acquire contain more and better goodies.

After a particularly brutal series of humiliating defeats dropped me out of the Arena 4 bracket though, I realized that hey, it’s actually kinda fun just playing the game and trying different things. You’ll encounter bullshit matches against vastly superior troops, sure. The leveling system structure even means you’ll face opponents who have towers with more HP and damage than your own. But… but! There is literally nothing stopping you from pressing the Battle button again. There is no Energy gauge to limit your screen time to some arbitrary, cash shop optimized level. Getting zero progress rewards does suck and makes my eye twitch with the inefficiency of it all… but, hey, I’m pushing buttons and playing a game.

Which is surprisingly and embarrassingly uncommon for phone games of any genre.

So I say give it a shot, if it sounds interesting to you. The early game experience is kinda terrible I’ll admit – people running around with Princes in Arena 1 and Arena 2 are terrible people – but once you get a handful of epics, the game opens up considerably. Well, as considerable as a two-lane MOBA-esque quasi-CCG can.

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Posted on March 17, 2016, in Impressions and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Yeah, the game has been quite fun so far :) And definitely not p2w if you don’t have to rise the ranks :)

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  2. They used to have a gold-payment for starting matches. Which meant you felt BAD when playing without being able to get any rewards (money down the drain makes me sad). But when they removed that cost, my oppinion of the game, and especially of the payment structure improved considerably. The game is effectively free to play as much and whenever you please…. Which is VERY rare for mobile games i my experience. Your progress is semi-fixed (you can get better rewards at higher arena levels though so skill can make you progress faster), but your playtime isnt.

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  3. Ohh a little tip… Try including the “tombstone” (skeleton hut) once you get it. It is a cheap and effective hardcounter to (some of) the lower arena cheese attacks (hog and prince especially). And it works well against some of the other meanies as well (giant, giant skellie, pekka, etc. and even as distraction for the dreaded loons if you lack the dps to kill it outright).

    It doesnt fit in every deck (no card does), but it is a surprisingly versatile card if you arent running a building heavy strategy.

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    • I definitely was running the Tombstone there for a bit, but settled on the melee Goblins instead. I was tired of the Tombstones being almost immediately destroyed by Musketeers and basically everything else. And, you know, the skeletons they spawn being useless for anything other than distraction (since they die in 1 tower shot).

      Good call about it being a cheap distraction for Balloons though. One strike on a tower is almost half a tower’s health, which gets kinda ridiculous.

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  4. It’s a real sign of the times that you’re calling it a MOBA. It’s a TD, push wars, RTS, whatever you want, it’s not a MOBA just because it has towers and lanes :/

    To be honest though I’m glad the most successful games right now (MOBAs on PC, CR on mobile) are all basically custom games from Warcraft 3 and earlier. Really shows you why those maps were so fucking fun.

    Clash Royale is really good fun, actually, I really love it. I’m really happy with my deck (albeit Arena 2) but I haven’t played much and the matches are good fun and tense. I think my deck pisses a lot of people off because I’m willing to lose a tower and still swarm the lost lane with minions (hi double goblin hut) and it almost always pays off because people have spent all their elixir pushing into me and fucked up their rotation so they have no wave clear.

    Once you realise, like you said, that nothing stops you pressing Battle the game becomes so much better. I’m gonna rly ground out games when I have some downtime with internet access.

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    • Hey now, I very specifically said “[…] dropping troops to go destroy towers, MOBA creep style.” MOBA creeps, not MOBA in general. Or MOBA-esque, I suppose, in the final sentence.

      Yeah, the game is fun and definitely eats up my breaks at work in a way that Clash of Clans cannot. Which kinda sorta makes me question all other mobile game design. Why can’t we just keep playing the games? Did designers settle on timers simply because they were the first thing that appeared to work?

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