Clash Royale, An In-Depth Review

7.7 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 8/10
Sounds: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10

New and innovative style of CCG/MOBA gameplay. | Excellent graphics and animations.

Monetization of in-game prizes is frustrating. | Lacks casual PvP matches.

iOS, Android

Free to play with in-app purchases.

March 3,2016

English, Arabic, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian Bokmål, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Turkish

Supercell is a name you should already be familiar with as they published Boom Beach, Clash of Clans, and Hay Day, some of the highest grossing mobile games of all time. All of their games have addictive and compelling gameplay that is enhanced by their use of cute 3D graphics and easy-to-navigate user interfaces.

With the ever increasing popularity of mobile TCGs/CCGs, we knew it would not be long before this mobile game publisher would take a stab at the genre. Supercell has thrown their hat into the ring with Clash Royale, an online, real-time, free-to-play CCG/MOBA hybrid set in the same universe as Clash of Clans.

Does Clash Royale have the same addictive gameplay as Supercell’s previous titles? Read on to find out…

Title-screen

Clash Royale is not exactly a sequel to Clash of Clans, but it is set in the same universe. There are many characters and creatures that have crossed over into Clash Royale.

GAMEPLAY

Clash Royale is a deceptively strategic game wrapped up in a simplistic-looking shell. The CCG components of the game are card collecting and leveling up your cards so that you can enhance the overall power of your Battle Deck. Towers and lanes cover the basic MOBA elements that blend so well with the CCG components.

Beginning the game, you are thrust into a basic tutorial that explains how to play your units and how your resources work. After this, you are left to play the remainder of the tutorial battles without any further guidance, and this makes Clash Royale appear simple and lacking strategic depth. However, this could not be further from the truth.

The strategic merit of Clash Royale can be seen in the player’s decision-making process of what units to play, and when. Battles are fought in real-time, so your decisions have to be made on the spot. Trusting your judgment and counter-playing your opponent’s moves and unit placement will be crucial in securing victories. The game has a relaxing feel to it, but the pressure you feel in battles completely changes that and should be able to bring out the competitive nature in anyone!

Playing your units costs Elixir, which replenishes over time. You will always have four units or spells to choose from in your hand at any given time. Having this variety helps to counteract the units your opponent may play. Spells do what you think they should, deal damage and some may even immobilize enemy units. Your units are your offensive backbone while spells help to deal a little more damage when you need it.

The-battlefield-can-be-quiet

Send your units to attack the opponent’s towers and castle. Be careful that you don’t leave yourself without a possible defense!

Each unit has summoning costs, health, and attack statistics that you may view in greater detail. The characters and creatures of Clash Royale also feature in Clash of Clans. Both games are set within the same universe, and if you have played Clash of Clans, you will recognize many of the faces in Clash Royale. The familiar characters should entice Clash of Clans players to try something a little different in Clash Royale.

Battle is conducted over two lanes with both players having two towers and one castle each. Your units will progress along the path they are closest to and will always attack any units or towers they come across, whatever they encounter first. Victory is secured either by destroying the castle, thus earning you three Crowns which go toward a Crown Chest, or by the timer elapsing and you have destroyed more towers than your opponent. If you destroy at least one Crown and win, you will earn as many Crowns as towers you had destroyed before the timer ran out.

There are a large number of different unit types that fill specific roles. Your towers can attack any unit that comes into range of them, but some ground units will not attack flying units, for instance. You will find that as you collect and level up units, you will identify unit combos that are hard for your opponent to counter. What I enjoyed most is that there is plenty of flexibility in unit compositions for your Battle Deck. When I checked the matches that you can watch and the leaderboards, I was able to see plenty of different Battle Decks.

Graphically, Clash Royale is well-presented with some excellent detailing. The character models and other 3D effects are clean, crisp, and bright. The overall aesthetic of the game comes across as cartoony, but not in a childish way. The sounds are non-intrusive and are rather pleasant, especially the battle music. The overall polish is exemplary as you would expect from a publisher with as much experience (and yes, money) as Supercell.

Watch-TV-Royale-for-hints

The “TV Royale” page presents you with an excellent opportunity to learn more about what the highest ranked players use. If you are lucky enough to find the same cards, you too could do very well for yourself.

MODES AND FEATURES

Clash Royale is not a broad game yet, as there are very few modes that involve battles. All player-versus-player battles earn trophies which will help you climb the leaderboard. The only way to play a non-ranked game is to play a training match. However, the only reason to do so is to test your Battle Deck, as you will not earn rewards for winning.

If you want some deck ideas, or just to learn some advanced strategies, you can watch other player battles through TV Royale. I found watching matches between players is very helpful in identifying excellent strategies that I could adopt in my battles. You can also gain useful information by just looking at their Battle Decks – remember to make a note of the spells they’re using, too!

Of the few non-battle modes, the card collection will be your most frequented screen. You will be able to edit your Battle Deck and see all of the cards you own, and those you don’t. Cards are found in chests won from battles or by buying them in the shop. However, you can only find cards that correspond to your arena rank. This limitation ensures that both you and your opponent are likely to have access to the same cards, making your strategy the key to winning.

The card collection screen is where you will also level up your cards. As your cards level, their base statistics such as attack, health, and damage per second increase. You should also pay attention to their other attributes such as attack range and movement speed as these are also important things to consider when building your Battle Deck.

twelve-hour-wait-time

I have never come across a game that monetizes prizes or rewards – until now! I don’t know why Supercell chose to do this… Oh wait, yes I do.

So far, everything I have said about Clash Royale has been positive – with good reason. Clash Royale has some great components that are fun and enjoyable. However, there is one major Achilles Heel that drags the overall score down significantly. Somehow, Supercell has decided to monetize the prizes it awards you in-game, though not directly.

With each win, you are awarded a chest that contains more cards and gold, the in-game soft currency. However, you are not able to open your chests immediately. Instead, you are required to wait after clicking open and will only be able to open your chest when the timer expires. Waiting is fine for the chests awarded from the inaugural training matches, but as the chests get better their timers get longer and longer. A silver chest will set you back three hours of waiting, and a gold chest requires an eight-hour wait!

So, how is this monetization I hear you ask? You may pay Gems, the premium in-game currency, to open them immediately. Your acquisition of Gems in Clash Royale is exceptionally slow, so in-app purchases are a must if you intend to access your prize straight away. You need the cards contained within the chests to power up your units and to acquire the gold necessary to pay for those power-ups.

The worse news is that you can only ever have four chests waiting to unlock at any time, even worse is that only one can have an active timer. If you have four silver chests and are unwilling to pay to unlock them, you will be waiting 12 hours before you can open them. This will significantly reduce the number of battles you’ll want to take part in, because why bother if you can’t get a chest from it because you’re full already? I find this feature disappointing, but understand the business decision behind why they’ve implemented it.

Featured

Aggressive play styles win more often than passive play styles. Assault your opponent early and it’ll be hard for them to recover.

DECKBUILDING AND STRATEGY

Access to your deck in Clash Royale can be found within the Cards screen, which is essentially your card collection and deck editing area. Adding cards to and from your deck is very straightforward. You can gain additional detailing on each unit and card via the Cards screen which helps in crafting the perfect team and spell composition.

Increasing the power of your units and spells is also done through the Cards screen. When you open chests (once you’ve waited or paid), you may acquire duplicate cards of those that you already own. When this happens, and you meet a threshold, you can pay gold to enhance that card’s power. The more cards you have, the higher levels the card can achieve. Some cards are worthy of more investment than others, but you should always enhance a card if you plan to have it in your deck.

In many of my online matches, I found that playing aggressively was the best strategy, but you also need to consider the possible counter-plays. I would often want to send in a ranged unit behind a melee as support damage. The melee units have higher health than ranged units, so can “tank” hits from towers and enemy units while the ranged unit puts in the damage numbers.

If you wait too long, you’ll give your opponent the time required to have too many counter-plays while you struggle to keep up with the units they’re pumping out. The tide can turn quickly to you being in a reactionary position, and that is never good in a real-time environment.

Golden-chests-with-long-waits

Clash Royale is fun and addicting. It has some excellent strategy behind a simple-looking game. The huge problem is the rewards system, which doesn’t feel rewarding in the slightest. It’s very frustrating.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If it weren’t for the blatant grab for your wallet, there’s a great game here. I would heartily recommend Clash Royale as a must have title to add to your growing stable of new and innovative titles, but I feel reluctant to do so when it’s monetized as blatantly as this. It is a shame because Clash Royale is certainly innovative.

There is still plenty of fun to be had when playing Clash Royale. The ease with which you can settle into the game adds weight to the argument that you should give it a go. However, if you’re not the type to eventually put hard cash into a game, but rather expect to be able to progress at a decent rate, then you will be disappointed. Hard cash is the only way to get the best experience possible out of Clash Royale.

The excellent graphics, animations, and Clash universe are the key selling points of Clash Royale. The implementation of the CCG/MOBA mix has been expertly crafted into a pleasurable gaming experience that is well-balanced and offers strategic depth. It is worthy of a download at the very least. After that, it is your decision as to how much you’re willing to pay to continue that experience.

For more screenshots, click here.

For a list of best Clash Royale decks, go here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by
Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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