Release Date: August 2012 for iOS, October 2013 for Android
It’s been out for a few years now, but Clash of Clans still boasts an active community of players. With a special Halloween-themed update released last week, it’s not too late to give it a try.
Clash of Clans is an easy to learn, if a bit simplistic, entry in the strategy genre. As town chief, players spend their time building up a village and assembling an army of fantasy creatures. Players take on both roles of protagonist and antagonist as they defend their home from attack, while also raiding and plundering the villages of other players. To survive, they need to master both an offensive and defensive strategy.
Gameplay starts with the village. It collects and stores resources used for building projects and army training. Collectors harvest gold and elixir on their own over time, though the player determines their efficiency through upgrades. Once constructed, buildings require little oversight and the player focuses energy on village defenses.
Villages remain vulnerable to attack by other players’ armies, which steal any unprotected resources. Walls and cannons provide a simple defense in the beginning, but higher levels grant access to an advanced arsenal including a variety of guard towers and booby traps. Upgrades to existing defenses increase protection and refine their appearance, transforming a sticks-and-stone village into a robust fortress.
The game’s simplicity works very well here. Each piece’s use is straightforward and easy to understand, but it’s in how they’re put together that they become more sophisticated. This makes it accessible to the player who wants to hurry up and go fight goblins, while presenting plenty of tools to players who enjoy analyzing and tinkering with every element of their defensive strategy. This is where creativity comes into play. With imagination and planning, tactically-minded players can directly manage everything, perfecting their village layout to surprise invaders in new ways. It’s as simple or complex as you want to make it.
Protecting the village only makes up part of the puzzle. Players must also muster a diverse army if they want to rise in rank on the leaderboard. In the single player campaign, players raid the Goblin King’s villages for gold and elixir, overcoming unique defenses and traps each time. In multiplayer, players can also raid the villages of other players, either gaining or losing victory points according to the outcome.
Multiplayer raids form a major component of the game, especially after joining a clan. Clan members take part in two-day “wars” against opposing clans. On the first day, members exchange troops and ready defenses. On the second day, they raid the enemy’s villages. At day’s end, the clan with the highest score wins, and its members enjoy the spoils.
Offensive strategy in Clash of Clans entails less hands-on control. Players choose which units to deploy and where, but cannot issue any additional orders. Troops act autonomously, bashing an obstacle to dust before attacking the next object in sight. This means that sometimes a warrior starts destroying a stone wall even if he’s standing right beside a gleaming heap of coins or is being blasted by a cannon corps. However, advanced unit types prefer to strike specific targets like walls or treasure, balancing this.
Therefore, strategy relies less on control and more on making smart decisions about who to send, where, and when. As a spectator to the chaos, players may feel helpless at first, but lost troops replenish quickly, making it easy to learn from mistakes. The unpredictability provides a challenge, especially as the maps become more complex. This may frustrate players who want to interact directly during combat or enjoy micromanaging tactics. On the other hand, it makes combat–strategy aside–incredibly simple to control. It only takes a tap. For younger players, that means a large enough army will eventually smash through anything. It’s fun to watch and exciting not to know exactly what will happen next.
On the surface, the game is cute, colorful, and bright. Depictions of violence remain benign and cartoonish. Characters only attack buildings and objects, not each other. Characters that die turn into ghosts and vanish.
Ultimately, though, the game is about war. Specifically, destroying other players’ villages to steal their stuff. Despite this, the game is very forgiving and fair. There’s no permanent destruction or loss. Buildings remain intact, and lost resources quickly renew. It feels more like a competition than a war, but the central themes may concern some parents, especially of younger children.
As with many free-to-play games, Clash of Clans features countdown meters on its building projects, and allows players to spend real money to speed up progress. The system feels fair and isn’t exceptionally prohibitive. However, parents will want to check their device’s pay lock.
Parents should also be aware that there is an in-game chat feed. Most chatter regards joining clans and shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
The controls don’t require any more reflex, speed, or precision than it takes to navigate the device itself. Playability mainly concerns the ability to strategize.
Though advanced players can find ways to make strategy more complex, the game remains simple enough that it’s accessible to a wide range of ages and skill sets. Players need to manage resources, but the system also manages itself. Though problem-solving skills will benefit players as they figure out what troops are best against which defenses, a big enough army will eventually get the job done no matter what. Frankly, it’s fun to watch the army destroy things, whether they win the battle or not.
Clash of Clans is a delightful and simple introduction to the strategy genre, while giving players the tools to get creative and imaginative. Players who need fast-paced or hands-on combat will be disappointed. While it may also disappoint those looking for an intellectual challenge, it provides light and whimsical entertainment without a steep learning curve.