Cloud Raiders review: a cross-platform competitor for Clash of Clans

Looking for an alternative to Clash of Clans? Android offers several fine multiplayer raiding games/clones to choose from, including Castle Clash, Galaxy Siege, Total Conquest, and more. But the Clash-like game that has won my heart is Cloud Raiders from Game Insight.

Cloud Raiders offers a lot of polish (though Clash is still smoother), including AI battles, clan support and chat, and a very simple and fair in-app purchase system. It also boasts one feature that its competitors do not: unparalleled cross-platform support. You can play Cloud Raiders on Android alongside players from iOS, Windows Phone, Facebook, and (soon) Windows 8. Very cool, but how does it play? Find out in our detailed review with video!

Sky pirates

Cloud Raiders Android

At the start of the game, the player’s airship falls prey to an attack from rival sky pirates. It quickly crashes, stranding the crew on one of the fantasy world’s many floating islands. The team will have to build a base in order to keep those pirates at bay, and take back some loot in the process. Incidentally, the clouds should really be on a separate parallax layer than the islands themselves.

Your base centers around a building called the Stronghold. This building determines what buildings and items are available to you and how far you can upgrade your existing buildings. You’ll want to upgrade it at every opportunity since it directly impacts your offensive and defensive capabilities. At the moment, the Stronghold maxes out at level 6. The game teases several units and items that can’t be built just yet – not until Game Insight raises the Stronghold level limit.

Defend the base

Cloud Raiders Android

To defend your island, you’re going to need guns and arrows. Well, cannons and crossbows to be specific. Placing these types of turrets wisely requires some trial and error. Each one has a certain radius and might be stronger against some enemies than others. One turret only attacks aerial enemies, which 99 percent of players don’t use so it’s practically worthless. I think Game Insight plans to add another type of aerial unit in the future, which might make them more prevalent.

AI raiding parties will attack your base intermittently, but luckily those attacks only begin with your say so. Human players on the other hand will attack several times a day. Depending on how successful they are, they could come away with lots of the gold and clouds you’ve accumulated. Stand up to player attacks sufficiently well and your rank will increase; lose and it drops down a hair.

Building walls also plays a huge role in base defense. Walls cost lots of gold to build, and can be upgraded several times for increasingly steep prices. The overall idea is to protect your Stronghold and coin and cloud reserves sufficiently with walls, which slow nearly every enemy unit down. Meanwhile your turrets will pick off the invaders, hopefully before those baddies get to the good stuff. Base layout really offers a wide array of strategic possibilities.

Raiding parties

Cloud Raiders Android

The real fun in Cloud Raiders is attacking other players’ islands. Each time you go out on an attack, you’ll bring an army of units. These include infantry, archers, strong guys, bomb dudes who blows up walls, and a few more types. Each costs a certain amount of clouds to create, takes up a different amount of space in your attacking team, and prioritizes specific targets. A few of the units can be upgraded eventually, but (annoyingly) not all of them.

The game automatically matches you against an opponent. You get fifteen seconds or so to study the rival player’s base and decide whether to attack it or not. If you the recommended target looks too tough or (more likely) has too little gold to be worth the effort, you can spend a little gold to re-roll… and re-roll… and re-roll. The matchmaking could be a lot better. My vote is to let players prioritize gold, clouds, or valor (PvP points) in order to cut back on the repeated searches for decent targets.

Having settled on an opponent, it’s time to deploy your units! Players don’t directly control their units in this game, which might make you think the battles lack strategy or are too hands-off. But in truth, the choice of where and when to deploy each unit plays a big part in winning the battle. Knowing what your units will attack and providing them with proper support can make all the difference.

After returning from battle with the resources you’ve stolen, your units will be exhausted. Rebuilding a raiding party can take up to 30 minutes depending on the level of your buildings and the size of the raiding party. The wait can be tiresome, but games like this want you coming back throughout the day.

Coins, clouds, and gems

Cloud Raiders Android

Players will mine and steal two types of soft currencies: coins and clouds. Coins are mostly used for building and upgrading defensive buildings and walls. Clouds pay for unit production, some non-defensive buildings, and clearing away obstacles from your island. Eventually clouds will pile up while players constantly scrounge for gold; the two currencies don’t have a perfect balance.

The premium currency is gems. Although completing missions (such as clearing away obstacles and upgrading specific buildings) rewards players with gems, you can also choose to buy them with real money.

Like with most free to play games, gems can be used to speed up building times and other processes like unit production. Speeding up unit production can be especially useful since it lets you attack other players and steal their gold faster. If you’re trying not to spend much, speeding up stuff probably isn’t the way to go.

On the other hand, Cloud Raiders is one of the most fairly monetized free to play games I’ve come across. In almost every way, not buying gems won’t put you at a disadvantage. The one and only aspect in which ponying up is strongly encouraged would be builders.

See, you can only upgrade one building or structure at a time by default. These things take minutes, hours, or days to complete on their own. A second builder costs 500 gems – five bucks, basically. Additional builders get more expensive after that. But if you get into Cloud Raiders and seriously dig the gameplay, buying that second builder is practically a necessity. And that’s fair, to pitch in a little something if you like a game and plan to continue playing it for very long.

Clans and cross-platform

Cloud Raiders Android

Being inspired by Clash of Clans, Cloud Raiders has full clan support. Right now, joining a clan lets you share units with other clan members (so you can take more units into battle than someone with no clan) and engage in asynchronous clan chat (global chat is coming soon). Clans have their own leaderboard rankings, providing an extra level of competition to the game.

Clans and all of Cloud Raiders’ features are cross-platform compatible thanks to the magic of the cloud. Players can jump back and forth between Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Facebook, and eventually Windows 8 - all without losing any progress. The freedom from platforms has created a significant player base that several competing games can’t match.

A worthwhile alternative

Although Cloud Raiders has a bit of a single-player campaign, there’s no real story to it and you’ll eventually run out of campaign raids to complete. The real meat of the game is raiding other players over and over – hence the game requiring an online connection.

If you’re a competitive player with a mind for strategy, you’ll love endlessly raiding hapless (and not so hapless) bases. Of course, Clash of Clans does most of the same things as this one. But if you use multiple platforms or want to play with friends on other systems, Cloud Raiders is the easy choice to make.

Paul Acevedo