I’ve always been a big fan of the Command & Conquer franchise. C&C Red Alert is still in my top 10 games of all time. And for the last few years I’ve continually searched for a mobile version that’s fun to play.
With the appetite for tower defense games (where you build various towers on a map that shoot at hordes of enemies racing through your deadly maze), I’d have expected a game like this much sooner. After all, setting up pillboxes and defending a base was always the best part of C&C.
So when I found out about Rivals, I was intrigued. Could it live up to the other franchises? How would they incorporate a strategic game on mobile?
After trying it out for a few days, I’ve got some thoughts, to say the least.
The focal point of the game is PvP. You build your squad by collecting coins and unit upgrade cards from battling other users in real-time strategy.
Each match opens on a landscape where you and your opponents bases are already built. You can only see troop movements in the space where your troops and base are located. And you can build extensions to your base to unlock units (like a Barracks to create infantry, or a War Factory to create vehicles). Everything is powered from Tiberium, and your stock of Tiberium is slowly collected (automatically) as time passes via a bar that increases at a relatively slow rate.
You can also build a Harvester for yourself to collect Tiberium faster, but it has a pretty high early-match cost.
In the center of the map is a missile silo, and near that silo are three pads that can be controlled in order to power up the missile and shoot at your opponents base. If you send troops to stand on those pads, you will control them and the missile bar will begin to increase. If you can hold those positions without your opponent getting players on the same pad, you’ll eventually fire a massive missile at your opponents base that’ll take out half of their base’s total health. If your opponent steps on the same pad as you, it becomes contested and the missile progress is neutral or stalled. Whoever holds the majority of the three pads has control of the missile when it powers up and fires.
The goal of the game is to destroy the enemies base, usually by firing off two missiles (via controlling the missile pads). Of course, one could theoretically just attack the enemy base directly, but all reinforcements created begin at a base, so they’d likely just create a bunch of units to kill you while controlling the missile pads.
There are a variety of different units you can build, all with varying Tiberium costs, but every unit falls under one of a few different categories.
These are humanoid type units. Some carry rifles, some rocket launchers, some shoot lightning from giant electric guns. But they’re all on foot in groups of 3 or so.
These are usually tanks or jeeps with rail guns or missile launchers. At much higher levels you get to unlock some fan-favorites like the Flame Tank that shoots a giant flame instead of shells, or the Tick Tank that burrows into the ground and takes WAY less damage as it dishes out impact after impact. They’ve even got some weird mechanical worms that look sort of like something out of Tremors.
Choppers, jets, bomb droppers, you name it. If it flies, it falls into this category.
The main base is the most obvious structure, but mini-turrets also probably belong in this category.
You also get a commander that has special skills. The opening gameplay commander allows you to make one mini-turret every so often and pop it on the map close to your troops.
Battles and Upgrades
The unit types matter because certain units are good against certain things. Rocket launcher infantry are really good at taking on Vehicles and Air Units, but not so hot against infantry and structures (for some reason). The infantry units with machine guns are great against other infantry but not so great against Vehicles and Air Units. And those electrocuting infantry are great against other Infantry but also against Structures.
This really constitutes the core of the game. You build units in response to your enemy, hoping to counter them with stuff that hurts them and take over more missile pads. And because the missile pad gets CHARGED when you’re on it, but doesn’t shoot one way or the other until it’s FULLY CHARGED, you can sneak in and take over a missile that your opponent has mostly charged and fire it at THEIR base.
And as you win battles and collect gold coins and cards, you can use those to level up your troops. You have to sort of select a deck, similar to other games, rather than have access to all possible troops you’ve unlocked, adding another layer of strategy to the game.
As an avid JWA player, I do find this game to be pretty interesting. For one, it does things that people wish JWA did. The matchmaking is based on progression, which means you don’t fight people who have troops at much higher levels than you. But on the other hand, it seems to even the playing field of the troop levels in that way. It caps the level of your units at each ‘arena’ to ensure no one has overpowered units at low arenas. And since some units can’t be unlocked until a certain level, those units shouldn’t really exist in certain arenas — again forcing those further in progression from dropping arenas to mess with those further back.
While in theory, this is pretty awesome, the fact that it really does limit your troops to a level cap can make progression feel a bit hollow when you’re unlocking or upgrading your stuff beyond the cap. It sort of negates the progress you’ve made.
All in all, I really do love the game. It is a little focused on micro-transactions like most mobile games these days, but as a pure casual player, i can see myself enjoying this game for quite some time, and it seems to leave plenty of room to enjoy it without paying oodles of cash.
So go download it and check it out. What do you think?