As many people noted in the comments during our Clash of Clans series, I haven't been playing for very long. While we were winding down yet another crazy CES coverage day I noticed Phil pick up his Nexus 9 and furiously tap to collect a few resources, and when he caught my gaze he explained that his little girl was obsessed with this game so he picked it up. A quick look at my Google Play account confirmed that I had installed this game for my son a while back, but really didn't know anything about the game.
Today, I sit before you a changed man. It has been 30 days since I installed Clash of Clans, and it is now the game I play the most on all of my devices.
It didn't take me long to be impressed with Clash of Clans. The game starts off by making sure you know there's never a need to spend actual money in the game. You can turn off in-app purchases entirely, and this is the first mobile game I have ever played that was so up-front about it. There's a parents guide that accompanies this experience, and it breaks down what the game is about and does a great job reassuring parents about the game their kids are playing. I probably should have known all of this before letting my son play it, but that's another matter entirely. As first impressions go, Clash of Clans hits all the right marks.
The other impressive thing about Clash of Clans is the ability to play on everything. The cloud sync for this game is cross platform and happens in real time. While I am more likely to pick up my tablet for longer gameplay sessions, checking in on my village from my phone is quick and easy. I long for a world where every game in the Google Play Store is as capable in this respect as Clash of Clans. It's the cloud experience we were promised way back when, but is likely expensive to build and maintain.
Clash of Clans breaks things down well. There aren't a lot of particularly advanced concepts for beginners, and once you realize the long-term purpose of your village it becomes a lot more fun. Developing strategies for attack and defense, learning from your previous village builds and building tactics around the limitations of your buildings and soldiers becomes the order of the day. It doesn't really matter which battle rank you are, the game increases naturally in difficulty and pits you against players with mostly similar tools. As matchmaking goes, it's an impressive experience that keeps me thinking about the next battle.
Clash of Clans doesn't feel like a grind, it feels like a constantly changing puzzle.
There's no shortage of complaints about Clash of Clans being a "play to win" game that is only fun to people who spend money. To date, I've spent $15 on Clash of Clans. The gems from those purchases went toward upgrading my base in the early stage of the game, where every build phase meant waiting for an hour or two and delayed everything I wanted to do next. When my Town Hall hit Level 5 and I joined the Silver League II battle group, it became clear that I needed to stick around and focus on combat aspects of the game. I'm playing against more skilled players and losing more frequently, which felt like a natural point to stop speeding through the game. I am unlikely to want to spend actual money on gems again, since the game rewards me with all the gems I need for things like artificially speeding up my resource collectors. While I can't speak for everyone, it seems like this would be true for many.
I know that I have just barely scratched the surface of this game. I haven't done nearly as much in the way of Clan-based activities yet, which fits nicely with my mostly solo gameplay preference, but the game itself is growing and improving as I continue to play. The top tiers in this game are played by titans with monstrous armies and massive fortresses. The climb to that part of the game is going to be a long one, but that time is going to be spent learning the more advanced aspects of gameplay and so far it's been a lot of fun. Clash of Clans doesn't feel like a grind, it feels like a constantly changing puzzle. It's satisfying in the same way a good game of chess is satisfying, only here the chess board is always different and the pieces can number in the hundreds in the blink of an eye.
My biggest takeaway from 30 days in this game is how surprisingly fun this game has become. I play this game for about 30 minutes every day, split out into roughly five-minute segments in between tasks. The way I look at it, I've spent $15 on a game that has kept my attention for longer than most of the games I spend four times as much on, and in another 30 days I'll probably feel exactly the same way. If the quality of a game is determined by measuring gameplay and enjoyment over money spent, Clash of Clans is already in my top 50.