I have been avoiding anything with the name "Clash" and/or "Clans" for a while now. Not only because I don't enjoy this type of time waster, but with the success of Clash of Clans, the deluge of clones and similarly titled games out there on the Play Store, this dislike of mine has turned into an outright aversion. That until today, when I noticed that Clash Royale had the same developer, Supercell. The curiosity was building up. Is this another version of Clash of Clans, or something completely now. To my amazement, this little game was quite the surprise.
Clash Royale inherited the cutesy/uncanny valley character design and general color theme. However, the gameplay is far from resembling a coin farm type freemium. Clash Royale actually employs real tactics and a good dose of strategy.
In CR you will be fighting off head to head with another opponent, to see how many towers both of you manage to destroy before the time runs out. Destroying the king's tower grants an instant win.
Each player starts with three towers (two arrow towers and the king's canon tower) surrounded by a deployment area. During play you will be able to attack your opponent by deploying units and launching direct attacks. All of these come from your hand of cards. Playing a card costs elixir, which is a free resource that is accumulated automatically during a match. Units advance on their own towards the enemy while attacks allow you to pick specific spots. There's nothing more satisfying than launching a volley of arrows against the witch's skeletons, while your knight rushes unblocked towards her.
Towers also shoot at incoming enemies, so blowing them up will lessen some fire off of your forward attack groups. Not only that, but a destroyed tower means more deployment space for the attacker, so once a player has lost his arrow towers, his opponent is somewhat on a roll. However, the game is not yet over. Smart play will usually win over placing troops as soon as they become available.
There's also a cool replay gallery called TV Royale. From there you can replay the last 24 matches on every map. You can pause and even play at 2x speed.
The metagame is fairly strong. Similar to a collectible card game you can edit your deck as you see fit. Winning matches will grant you chests that contain new cards. Getting a rare card is reason to be happy, but duplicates are also welcomed. Every duplicate card that you gain increases that unit's experience which in turn will increase its stats.
Advancement is fairly brutal. Even though advanced cards can only be obtained at higher levels, buffing up your existing deck is rather easy if you spend a little bit of real cash. That or wait for hours to unlock rewards that should have been granted immediately after winning battles. That's the plague of freemium I guess. The game is fun, don't get me wrong, but you will soon find yourself stuck at waiting for a chest slot to open up. From that moment on, you're left to decide how much is Clash Royale worth.
The main problem with freemiums (if repetitiveness is omitted) is their progression curve is completely linked to how much money you spend. Even if you spend a sum that you think the game would be worth if it were a one time purchase deal, you're never sure if your benefits equate to how the game should feel. This is immensely frustrating to me, and i dare to say that the business model actually breaks the game, despite its merits. This is certainly true for Clash Royale.