Nearly 9 years ago, when I was only in the 3rd grade, one of my best friends was playing a game on his iPad. The iPad. Like, the first one. It had no camera, and definitely wasn’t running anything better than iOS 5. While I forget what game he was playing, what I do remember is that he told us he saw nonstop ads for a game known as “Clash of Clans.” Hoping that downloading it would stop the relentless advertising, he clicked. Next thing you knew, not only him, but also me, my brother, my friends AND their parents (mine weren’t that cool) were all into this game. Sporting the name “Dumbledore’s Army”, our clan had a blast talking in chat and.. attacking other player’s villages. Yeah, all these things I am about to talk about – Clan wars, Leagues, Challenges, Versus Battles… they weren’t a thing back then.
However, that’s just proof of the strength of this gameplay. All these years later, as Clash of Clans approaches it’s 10th birthday, I still carry the very same village around with me in my pocket that I made back when “alden13minecraft” sounded like a cool username. While it hasn’t remained the primary choice of entertainment for me this whole time, I continue to check on the ol’ base every once in a while and can be found active a few weeks out of the year.
So, let’s talk about this timeless game that introduced me to the social world of the industry – and the experiences that have come with it.
Clash of Clans is, at its core, a strategy game. You are building a village, with various defenses, resource collectors and storages. After training up an army with a selection of troops and spells, other player’s villages can be attacked for loot and glory. These days you aren’t going to find yourself spending that much time speculating about where to place your defenses – at least if you like to look up the most effective layouts online as I do. However, attacking is a different story. In regular multiplayer battles, you are allowed to browse potential opponents for as long as you would like before you decide to attack. You are always given 30 seconds at the beginning of the battle to plan things out, and once it begins, a few minutes to deploy all of your troops and attack. You win if you obtain at least one of three stars: one for destroying the town hall, another for taking out 50% of the base, and a third for the 100% wipe. Whether a victory or defeat (you get more rewards for winning, of course), you head home to spend your collected resources, some on building and troop upgrades, the rest to train another army. Rinse and repeat.
There is also a “Builder base” you get to take care of that is pretty similar to this with the exception it takes place in a live versus battle format (each player attacks the other) with different types of troops and gives you a set amount of resources for winning and none for losing. It’s not exactly as fun as attacking from the main village, but a neat thing to have on the side nonetheless.
This basic feedback loop remains incredibly satisfying to this day and is over quick enough that it’s rarely a huge hassle to hop on for a few minutes to get everything done and dusted. However, for those that aspire to something a little bit deeper, you have the option to join Supercell’s version of a social group: Clans.
Clans achieve what all social media companies claim they care about: connecting people. When you join a Clan, you become part of a team. From fighting in wars against other Clans, donating each other troops stored in your “Clan Castle”, or simply exchanging tips and base layouts with one another, Clans connect people in a generally positive manner and it is straight up fun, period. Heck, I remember my friends and I using it as a method to text each other when we didn’t have our own phones. And for those who do aspire to that extra strategy and challenge (2013 me was definitely not) Clan wars is the competitive mode. As you have a full DAY to study each other’s bases and plan attack strategies with armies, things are going to get hardcore and stakes are high. In fact, it can get so close that Supercell had to implement a tiebreaker system that tracks average destruction of villages down to the nearest 0.01%.
Of course, I call it a competitive mode, but how competitive can a mobile, free-to-play game really be? After all, I did just mention you are constantly upgrading your offense and defense. While it’s not perfect I’ll say it’s… pretty decent? Maybe? Although the Clan War “Leagues” matchmake purley on wins and losses, the regular Clan Wars are waged based on a combination of each participant’s offense and defense levels. This generally results in pretty fair matchups every time. Unfortunately, the rest of the game is not so.
You see, while there is something to be said for the fun of slowly getting stronger over time and easing into the new mechanics that are thrown at you at each “Town Hall” level, this is still a Supercell game, which means aggressive monetization. Pay to get more resources, pay to complete a building upgrade faster, pay to train an army quicker, etc etc. It’s not so fun to talk about, but the truth is, games like these prey on human weaknesses. Just to name a few, the game is meticulously designed to:
– Regularly keep you coming back several times a day, every day, with the hope of turning the game into one of your hobbies
– Make it socially acceptable to spend money (and to make people feel bad when they haven’t), sometimes by giving clanmates gifts when you purchase certain packs or by making sure other players can easily see the skins you’ve purchased
– Set a clear monetary value to resources that are always available so the limited time “deals” (of which there are often several every week) seem like good value and they can advertise as such
– Allow for thousands of dollars to be spent so that “whales” (people who are easily convinced to spend large sums of money) can be taken advantage of
If you don’t believe me that these sorts of things are what the developers have in mind when making these games, then I encourage you to watch this video “Let’s go whaling” where the CEO of a mobile game company discusses the “tricks” they use to make as much money as possible.
So.. yeah. That’s some serious beef I’ve got with this game, and the same applies to my Brawl Stars review too, although I didn’t discuss it to the same degree and am actually going to go back and revise it a bit after I publish this review. All of this is to say: Clash of Clans is a fun game. But you’ve gotta be careful. If you have a habit of overspending, this could easily lead to sin. I will dare say that this might not be a game young kids should be playing, at least without great parental supervision. Fortunately as a kid I didn’t have, well, much money at all to spend on these things, but now that I’m an adult and have access to my entire bank account with the click of a button, it’s a lot tougher to keep my hands out of the wallet.
If you are someone who does not have much time to game, and especially if you have a Nintendo Switch or Steam Deck and can easily play less manipulative games on the go, I don’t particularly recommend dipping your toe into this side of the industry – although it’s not all bad, especially if you have good friends to play with.
Priestly comment by Fr. Stephen (trekkie4christ):
“Clash of Clans can get intensely strategic, but is remarkably rewarding when a strategy pays off. A bunch of us in seminary formed a clan together, and the camaraderie that developed from it became a cornerstone for great Christian friendships.”
Free-to-play friendliness: 3/5
Graphics: 5/5 (Rated so high when considering the small app size and how well it runs, even on old devices)
Sex/Nudity: A few female characters, most notably the Valkyrie, are wearing somewhat revealing clothing, but most everything here is incredibly cartoony so I’m not even sure how much of an issue that is.
Language: Aside from potential inappropriate usernames/messages from other players, there isn’t much. A profanity filter is available in the settings.
Magic/Occult: Lotsa cartoony magic (a witch that spawns skeletons, spells that buff your troops, magic runes etc)
Violence: Cartoony fighting with swords, bows and arrows, explosions and such. One thing that might rub younger kids the wrong way is the “Wall Breaker” troop which is essentially a suicide bomber, but it’s a skeleton so technically is already dead. Not as bad as it sounds, I just remember being a little confused when I was younger.
Consumerism: The game heavily pushes all those microtransactions I mentioned earlier, including a season pass that expires every month