When EA first announced its revival of the classic Command and
Conquer franchise with Command
and Conquer: Rivals at E3 last year,
fans were obviously upset. Given EA’s track record and the
direction the industry is going, it would be easy to write this new
title off as a pay-to-win cash grab without even playing the
Now that the game is out, it’s safe to say what fans expected
couldn’t be further from the truth. Although it’s true the game
does little to carry the torch of the more than two decade-old
series, the newly-formed EA Redwood Studios has managed to warp the
C&C universe into a fantastic competitive
real-time strategy game for mobile devices.
A rose by any other name
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. Command
and Conquer: Rivals is not the game you (or your parents) played in
marathon LAN sessions years ago. If that’s all that matters to
you, take solace in the fact that in a few months the
C&C remastered versions developed by Petrogylph Games will
Rivals is more like Clash Royale than classic Command and
With that out of the way, let’s turn to what this game
actually is. Instead of a character-driven campaign with ham-tastic
live action cutscenes, all of the action beyond the first few
training matches is against other players. This makes it more like
Clash Royale and other competitive arena-style mobile games where
the entire experience is PvP.
In each match you can send harvesters into nearby patches of
Tiberium, create buildings to make units, and control those units
once they’re on the field. It sounds similar to the PC titles,
but gameplay has been cleverly adapted for mobile devices, which is
what really sets this game apart from its competitors.
It seems obvious, but the ability to move your units after
they’ve been placed is a key aspect of the game. This unlocks a
wide variety of strategies and allows for micro play that makes
each match unique and engaging. Usually mobile strategy games just
let you pick where and when to place units.
Step into the arena
The goal of each battle is to destroy the enemy base, and there
are several ways to go about it. The easiest is to control most of
the zones in the middle of the map until a nuclear missile launches
and takes out half of the enemy base HP. Do this twice and the
match is over.
You can also attack the enemy base directly with troops, which
takes longer but often surprises opponents. No matter which
strategy you choose, matches are quick. By eliminating the slow
early game that plagues all PC RTS games, the action is reduced to
a mobile friendly five minutes or less.
The Brotherhood of Nod is unlocked at player level 9.
When you first start playing, only GDI forces are unlocked, with
the Brotherhood of Nod available at player level 9. In case
you’re wondering, no, you cannot pay money to unlock the
Brotherhood of Nod or any other unit immediately. You’ll have to
play the game actively for three to four days before you can unlock
Kane’s cohorts, and much longer to unlock everything the game has
Thankfully, there is no stamina system, but progress is somewhat
gated by bonus experience. Your first ten matches each day reward
1,000 bonus experience, and every match after gives negligible
amounts (between 20 and 50), or even nothing after a certain point.
You can also gain large amounts of experience by completing daily
bounties, which are essentially quests, or from one time rewards as
you move up the competitive ranks.
Intense, strategic gameplay
Although the goal of each match is simple, getting there takes
quite a bit of strategy along the way. All of the traditional
elements of real-time strategy (RTS) games are present, like tech
switches, build orders, unit micro, and so on — all simplified to
work on mobile without the high barrier of entry for most PC RTS
That level of accessibility topped with the free-to-play
model means Command and Conquer can now appeal to a much wider
audience, perhaps at the expense of its existing fanbase. I’ll
leave it up to you to decide whether or not this is a good
Like earlier games in the series, units work on a
rock-paper-scissors basis. They are all strong against certain
enemy types and weak or useless against others. Some units can also
attack while moving, which introduces kiting as a powerful micro
strategy. Units that can’t attack while moving can block enemy
movement while they’re whittled down by adjacent units. Again,
moving your units around the field strategically is key to coming
out on top.
There’s also the classic strategy of crippling your
opponent’s economy by destroying their Tiberium collectors, which
instantly rewards you with a stash of Tiberium of your own.
Tiberium income is critical to affording more powerful units, and
it’s possible to overwhelm your opponent by building two
collectors, provided you can actually defend them.
Exceptional care was taken to make the game as balanced and
competitive as possible.
Matches are short and intense. Nothing compares to the feeling
of squeezing out a victory from the jaws of defeat. Each match
feels like it can turn on a dime, and if you lose focus you’re
bound to find a nuke headed your way. Maps are simple but
well-designed, and unit balance is great. Rarer units don’t even
crush their more common counterparts, which is an easy trap to fall
into for mobile games.
It’s clear exceptional care was put into making this the best
multiplayer experience possible. It does not feel like something
shoved out the door to cash in on gamers’ nostalgia. That alone
puts Command and Conquer: Rivals leaps and bounds ahead of most
mobile games released by big studios.
Rare restraint in monetization
Units in Command and Conquer: Rivals use a card system anyone
who has played a few free-to-play mobile games will find familiar.
Cards are upgraded by collecting copies from loot boxes and paying
a certain amount of the in-game currency, just like Clash Royale.
Unlike Clash Royale, card levels are capped at lower levels of
play, so you don’t need to worry about getting smashed by a whale
Spending money will get you upgrades faster, but it will not
give you a massive advantage over f2p players.
In my experience so far, unit levels play less of a role in
victory than good strategy. EA might not have the best track
record, but it’s safe to say Command and Conquer: Rivals is far
from pay-to-win. If you don’t believe me, go watch games at the
highest ranks under C&C TV in the Network tab. No players are
maxed out at this point, but the player with higher level cards
doesn’t come have an insurmountable advantage.
To be honest, I was surprised by the restraint shown in
monetizing this title. I’m not sure if it’s in response to the
hugely negative reaction to its announcement or the influence of
Combat Designer Greg Black, who was one of the multiplayer
designers at Westwood Studios in the 2000s before moving on to work
on Starcraft 2 at Blizzard. Either way, you have to commend the
developers for not crossing that line (yet).
There are daily deals, but no aggressive pop-ups shoving them in
your face each time you log in (I’m looking at you, Nexon). Yes,
a real-money currency (diamonds) can speed up loot box unlocks, but
there are few incentives to actually purchase them. They will speed
up your progress slightly, but you won’t leapfrog past a huge
percentage of the player base. Rewards, for the most part, must be
earned in C&C Rivals.
Future in mobile esports?
As demonstrated by the success of the recent
Clash Royale World Finals in Tokyo, the world of
mobile esports is growing, and growing fast. Command and
Conquer: Rivals is well positioned to get a piece of the pie as
long as it attracts an audience.
Although the game was downloaded more than a million times from
the Google Play Store in its first week after global release, it
runs the risk of slipping into the abyss of obscure mobile games.
Competitive games work best with a large player base. Given the
lukewarm reaction to its release, that might be a tall order for
EA Redwood has taken advantage of the weight of its parent
company by creating Commander
Training videos and other content to pull players in. However,
if it doesn’t work out EA could just pull the plug, like on
previous Command and Conquer projects.
Command and Conquer: Rivals review – Conclusion
It might not be what fans wanted, but credit where it’s due,
Command and Conquer: Rivals is a fantastic adaptation of
competitive real-time strategy gameplay for mobile devices. It
manages to stay true enough to its roots while changing radically
to suit today’s mobile gaming environment.
Set aside your reservations for a few hours and try the game out
with the link below. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I
Source: FS – Android
Command and Conquer: Rivals review – The perfect mobile RTS no one asked for