One of the most contentious games announced at this year's E3 was EA revealing that a new Command & Conquer game was coming our way. Yes, the cherished real-time strategy franchise would be back in 2018 with Command & Conquer: Rivals — a brand new game designed for mobile. All you need to do is check the reactions on the official reveal trailer on YouTube (2.3K thumbs up to 55K thumbs down) to get a pretty good sense of the immediate reaction to this title.
As a gamer who grew up playing C&C: Red Alert throughout the 90s, I'll admit I was a little apprehensive about how the C&C formula would be translated to mobile. I have a fountain of fond memories attached to this RTS franchise, so it was important to me that the mobile release retain much of the same look and feel as the games I remember.
Having played C&C Rivals for about a month in pre-alpha, I must say I've been pleasantly surprised by the game and think it has potential to be a really great mobile title. In spite of the criticism EA has rightly faced for some exploitive mobile releases in the past, the development for Rivals is shaping up nicely and should live up to even the most ornery fan's expectations.
Note: Command & Conquer Rivals is currently in pre-alpha testing, which means we're still very early into the game's development. As such, aspects of the game discussed here might change by the time the game is officially released.
The factions are at war again
C&C Rivals once again pits the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) against the Brotherhood of Nod in a battle to control nuclear launch sites. Unlike the previous PC games in the franchise that featured single-player campaigns for both factions, Rivals is a purely PvP gaming experience for mobile.
Each match has you battling on a smaller map where you must fight to control the majority of three contested areas on the map that control the launch of a nuclear missile. Control the areas for long enough and you'll launch a nuclear strike at your enemy's mobile HQ. It takes two nukes to take down your enemy's base, however, you're also able to deal damage with your troops if you can sneak them past your opponent's defenses.
Troops are spawned onto the battlefield by spending Tiberium, an extraterrestrial green crystal that you generate at a standard rate automatically and can be doubled by deploying a Harvester. The game is heavy on the strategy, so you're going to need to manage both how you spend your Tiberium on HQ upgrades and troops, along with sending the right troops in to defend or attack.
Great PvP action
In spite of the limited player base due to the game still being in pre-alpha release status, there's always been players available to play against and the action is always varied, balanced, and challenging. There's a learning curve for figuring out the best ways to deploy your troops, and you quickly learn the strengths and weaknesses of each troop type as you play. For example, the most basic ground group is best for countering rocket launcher troops, which are best at countering vehicles, with most vehicles being strong against other vehicles and aerial units.
The tap controls for controlling troops works really well, and often matches will come down to which player does a better job of positioning and managing their troops. While the map is always the same size, the placement of rocks and Tiberium fields can drastically change the layout of the battlefield and will absolutely have an impact on your strategy.
Daily missions also throw a bit of a wrench into your strategies, as occasionally you'll forgo actually winning to the match to complete some goals. For example, you might be tasked with taking out your opponent's Harvester, which may require you to send a tank on a bee-line straight to your opponent's base.
Familiar mobile gaming trappings
In spite of all the good here, this is still a free-to-play mobile game from a major publisher so you should already know there's going to be some timed crates, card collecting, and a bit of a grind involved for upgrading your troops.
You need coins to upgrade your troops and cards to level them up — both of which are found in your daily crate drops. Diamonds are the other in-app currency deployed here and are predominately used for buying bulk coins and rushing crate deliveries. Cards, crates, and coins can be bought in the shop, but at this point of early development, there are no micro-transactions although the interface is there.
The crate system is pretty basic at this point and designed to have you checking in every four to eight hours. Given the reliable state of gameplay and EA's masterful ability to use micro-transactions for monetization, you can be sure that this will be a popular money sink for many RTS fans.
Are you GDI or Nod?
One interesting decision at this point is the separation of the GDI and Nod factions. You start out playing as GDI and unlock the NOD after leveling up to Level 4. Rather than offering the same troops with a different color palette, there are unique troop sets for both the GDI and Nod. The troop types are still mirrored, but the stats and abilities of equal GDI and Nod troops are appropriately different.
Cross-play between factions is only unlocked after you've levelled up a bunch. Starting out, when you play GDI you are matched against another GDI commander and likewise when playing as Nod. Overall, I've found the gameplay to be varied and rewarding at its best moments, and frustrating and glitchy at times which is to be expected for an app in development. Given the vastly different strategies I've seen employed for both factions in the game, and the variety of strengths and weaknesses across the growing assortment of troops to choose from, I continue to remain cautiously optimistic about this game.
Have you checked out the game?
The game is currently in pre-alpha, but you can help test the game by pre-registering for the game on Google Play. If you're in the U.S. or Canada, you may be invited to test the pre-alpha version of the game and will also receive a special early bird bundle when the game launches.
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