Clash of Clans and Game of War: Fire Age have been sitting on top of the top grossing charts of the Apple and Google Play stores for so long that a lot of game developers have taken notice. And now we’re seeing a flood of competitive mid-core strategy games entering their market to take a turn at competing for the always elusive gamer’s wallet.
In the past few weeks, two very interesting new games have arrived to much fanfare. The first is DomiNations, a mid-core strategy game that has its roots in the historical nation-building style made famous by Civilization. In DomiNations, you start with a small tribe and try to build it into a sprawling empire.
Rival Kingdoms is the second promising entry into the genre. Like Clash of Clans, and Game of War, it takes a more fantasy-oriented path, drawing from a medieval setting with a heavy emphasis on magic and back-story that seems at least partly inspired by Game of Thrones. In this game, you start with a small Kingdom with the goal of growing it and fighting the invasion of an ominous force called the Ruin, which is advancing slowly and methodically over the land. On your side exist the Ancients, a group of powerful mystical creatures that aid you in battle. They are collectible “hero” units that can be leveled up and trained to become more powerful.
Both new games follow the established model in mobile gaming of focusing on short player-vs-player battles (most lass less than three minutes), while providing single-player campaigns to provide context and story. The single-player campaign in DomiNations is very similar to that of Clash of Clans and primarily exists to train players on the basic mechanics of the game while providing an alternate path to resources. In Rival Kingdoms, the single-player campaign also provides access to unique units in the form of collectible Ancients.
Of the two games, Rival Kingdoms is my favorite. It moves at a faster pace, with a greater focus on battles over farming for resources and base building. It uses the energy meter model for battles — you have to spend a “Battle Stone” each time you want to attack, and those are replaced every 20 minutes. You’re limited to 5 at a time in storage and can spend the in-game currency of Diamonds to buy more once you run out. There are other soft currencies in the game, but the only one produced in your kingdom is gold, keeping things very simple.
The Ancients are another reason to love Rival Kingdoms. These are powerful beings that you utilize in battle. Each time you attack, you choose an Ancient to accompany you. The Ancients provide spells that you unleash using stored mana. Use of the right spells with the right timing has an enormous impact on the outcome of the battle. Everyone starts out with the same Ancient, but the rest are acquired through a variety of means — mostly by (slim) chance. The collectible nature of the Ancients, combined with the ability to level them up through use in battle, creates an emotional attachment that makes the game all the more fun to play.