These days, it seems you can’t be a major iOS publisher without doing your own take on Supercell’s Clash of Clans. GREE has just released thrown their offering into the pit, the military-themed Call to Arms. In this case, it’s Clash of Clans if the clash took place in modern times and the units had access to firearms and tanks.
Call to Arms has all the trappings of this very specific subgenre of social, real-time strategy games. You’ve got resource buildings constantly minting Coins and pumping Oil for you. You’ve got a Central Command to protect from other players. You can build Howitzers and Tactical Missiles to protect your base. You can train Private Joes and Bolt-Actions to raid other players’ bases to steal their resources and earn Medals. The terms aren’t nearly as catchy, but the basic gameplay is nearly identical.
Honestly, I worry that some of these games are trying too hard to be like Clash of Clans. It seems like companies should be taking Clash of Clans as a springboard and then innovating from there rather than trying to copy the Clash formula so exactly that the game feels like a fan-made tribute to Supercell. That is, you don’t get players by doing the exact same thing that the #1 game in the genre is doing. You get players by doing something better — or at least different.
That said, Call to Arms is no more guilty than the many other Clash clones we’ve seen his the App Store. Although, I do think Call to Arms is a more awkward clone because the theme doesn’t really fit the mechanics. The single best example of this awkwardness is the most basic unit in the game, Private Joe. He’s the equivalent a Clash’s barbarian. An average unit all-around that’s cheap and quick to produce. The problem is, Clash’s Barbarians wield swords and Private Joes wield machine guns. How does GREE get around this? They just make Private Joe walk right up to a building before he starts unloading. It looks completely stupid. Sure, it’s mechanically identical to Clash of Clones and it may even be better for the game’s balancing. I don’t care —there’s a serious disconnect that happens when the mechanics so poorly represent the theme and that needs to be addressed.
Before I move on, can I just say how much I hate the way Private Joe and the rest of the units look? GREE is clearly trying to capture the same cartoony charm of Clash and it just didn’t go well. They combined cartoon body proportions with much more realistic facial proportions and the results are just ugly. It’s absolutely apparent in-game when you see male characters next to female characters. The females at least got large cartoony eyes to match their huge noggins so they don’t look nearly as ridiculous as their male counterparts. I am normally the kind of player who can easily look past bad graphics if there’s good gameplay… oh, there it is! The gameplay’s not that good (and it’s certainly nothing new) so the graphics are sticking out like a sore thumb. I can’t begin to accurately describe how unsatisfying it feels to unleash an army of hideous hobbit-goblin crossbreeds that are too stupid to shoot a building unless they’re close enough to punch it. They’re not cool, powerful, cute, or even funny. To continue beating this dead horse: there is not a single reason I want to use the game’s most basic unit. Don’t even get me started on the next unit, who happens to attack things by bumping into them with the miniature Jeep he’s driving.
To GREE’s credit, Call to Arms is bringing a few additions to the table. Alliances can engage in Alliance vs. Alliance warfare in fierce combat for territory and other rewards. All players can receive a free item from the Cargo Plane Airdrop on a daily basis. Finally, Call to Arms has a building you can construct that will let you simulate attacks on your own base. This is an incredibly cool feature that lets you experiment with the AI, test offensive strategies, and test your base for defensive weak points — all without the constant drain on your Medals and resources that you’d definitely experience if you ran these tests against other players.
Call to Arms is monetized through the in-app sale of Gold bundles. Just like Clash of Clans, the premium currency can be earned at a slow rate in-game by clearing the obstacles that naturally spawn around your base. Gold can be used to instantly buy more Coins or Oil; to speed up construction, training, and upgrades; and to purchase more builders (which are actually adorable little versions of Rosie the Riveter from the classic “We Can Do It!” WWII posters). It starts at the same rate as Clash (500 for $4.99) but the bigger bundles actually give better rates than Clash does.
Call to Arms plays so similarly to Clash of Clans that I don’t think anybody would want to invest their time and money into both. The theme is probably the single biggest difference, so if the more modern theme has some appeal to you that medieval fantasy doesn’t, Call to Arms might be your cup of tea. It’s worth mentioning that Clash feels more polished overall. Of course, Clash of Clans has had over a year to get to that point. In its current state, I don’t think Call to Arms adds enough to the formula to make up for the refinement it lacks. The self-attack simulator is really cool, but I don’t know if it alone is worth the one or two weeks you would need to put into the game in order to afford the simulation building. Then again, the game is completely free, so if you’d like to see how it works and you’ve got time on your hands, there’s nothing stopping you.
Download Call to Arms from iTunes App Store: https://itunes.apple.com/ca/app/call-to-arms/id653120964?mt=8