Back on the 21st August I gave my thoughts on Command and Conquer Rivals, which were very positive. Two weeks on, what’s changed? Join me after the jump to find out!
So, when I left it, my early impressions are overall positive with a cautious eye firmly placed over the microtransactions to see how this affected gameplay. Again, I still haven’t quite gotten over Dungeon Keeper.
First of all, since the previous blog post, I have now unlocked the Brotherhood of Nod faction by reaching a player level of 4, I have spent exactly no money on the game (more on this later) and I am still thoroughly enjoying it.
The further in I’ve gotten, the better the game has become. Focusing on my continued experience with GDI Sectors first, the additional unit unlocks have opened all manner of new tactics, and the new maps add a surprising level of strategic divergence.
These new units have included flying units (which are still countered by Missile Troops) and these have not been an automatic inclusion. This is important to me as it shows there’s no power creep where latter unlocks are definitively better than early ones. The gold and cards I have earned through battles, daily bounties and chests, and that I have spent on my basic units have not been wasted on this early upgrades.
Why is this important? If the game’s sole purpose was to squeeze your bank account dry then it’d be an easy tactic to suggest you upgrade units, only to then later make them obsolete and require you to begin that process again with new units. Technically, this is what games like Magic: The Gathering and Hearthstone do when the Standard cycles – a load of your cards are now unusable and so you need to be working on newer cards.
I don’t mind it too much in Hearthstone as it’s a slow progression that can be earned in-game, and it stops new players having to learn thousands of cards and also balances the newer cards better, by having fewer variables to combo with. It’s good to see that this is not a strategy being used by EA.
It does, however, keep things fresh by making me think about what units I have to counter these new threats with, and when I have unlocked new units myself, I have had to carefully consider how they fit into my pre-game strategy. On one hand this is a simple check that I have something that can counter all threats, but I’m already noticing a meta and counter meta developing. Titans, for example, are proving very popular in GDI decks, and so I’m making sure to run Zone Troopers as they counter Titans well.
Secondly, the new maps. I was genuinely shocked when I first encountered a map that had only two launch pads whereas I was used to three. This forced me into a much more aggressive play style that my deck was not originally set up for. I later found a map where two of the launch pads were connected, which had the opposite effect, making me think harder about how to defend the connected pad, and how to push forward onto the other.
The inclusion of a second Harvester has also been an interesting strategic development. I’ve had some success spamming cheap units only and rushing the second Harvester to keep me funded to pump out the more expensive units, but I find I usually have to concede the first missile and end up with a massive surplus of Tiberium. The strategy clearly needs some tinkering on my part.
But what about the Brotherhood of Nod?
One of the series’ mainstays has always been the asymmetrical factions. When Command and Conquer first debuted, it was one of the first games where Faction want just a recolour, with the units being ultimately being the same for both teams.
Not and GDI have very different play styles to each other. GDI tend to be more solid, if a little slower and more expensive, whereas Nod favour cheap units at speed, which really compliments my favoured tactics.
It takes a while to unlock the Nod faction, and longer still before the two factions actually start fighting each other, but I really like this – it’s good game design that doubles down on teaching you your own units’ strengths and weaknesses by making you use them and face them at the same time. It’s also been interesting to see how others play the same faction and gives some great ideas of different strategies.
In regards to the microtransaction front, I’m pleased to note that several of my games have been against players with higher level units, and I’ve still walked away with the victory. Yes, in a 1-on-1 fight, I’d find my troops were a little worse for wear than usual (in an Infantry/Infantry firefight, the defender starts shooting first and usually has about 1 bar of health left if they’re equal – I would barely be alive and, in some cases wouldn’t quite survive if they’d taken even a peppering of damage beforehand) but it really doesn’t feel like a big deal.
Yeah, it’s damned scary to have a fully upgraded Level 6 Flame Tank hurtle towards your Level 4 Infantry, but my un-upgraded Level 5 Rocket Troopers and Sandstorms still blew it to smoke. I don’t want to poke fun at another player, but it was interesting to see that the player kept spamming these Flame Units – it felt like he knew they were fully upgraded and was wondering why they weren’t surviving against my visibly lower level units. This means that whilst the upgrades give an edge, slamming real world money into the game to fully upgrade to the top of your bracket does not make it an instant win situation.
Now for the controversial comment. I am not completely against microtransactions. Ultimately, even a Free To Play game costs money to make – the developers still need to be paid, after all. I make it a point in any free game with microtransactions to purchase at least something to support the developers. This is usually the Beginners Pack, a one-time-only offer that’s usually under £5 and offers exceptional value to new players. I get a load of cool stuff and I get to support the Devs.
In Hearthstone, this was 10 packs of cards for £4, in Command and Conquer Rivals… Well, I couldn’t tell you. See, the New Recruit pack on offer when you first start playing, and the Brotherhood Initiate pack that appears when you unlock Nod for the first time, are both limited time. As I’m between paychecks, if normally wait for payday to give the Devs a little support and enjoy a high value boost – but both these offers are now gone, so there’s no incentive for me to actually buy a pack anymore. I’ll likely go for the cheaper one on payday because I do believe in supporting a game I’m enjoying, but I’m a little bitter to have missed the special deals due to them being on a time limit.
This is strange and CnC Rivals is, as far as I can think, the only game I’ve played that demands that players pony up within a time limit.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not huge, and if you’re not interested in the purchases, oh well, it doesn’t affect you at all.
Regardless, this is a minor complaint that won’t even affect a lot of players in what is, otherwise,a fantastic, fun, and furiously fast game. I started the game thoroughly enjoying it, and it has only gotten better the more time I spend with it. Matchmaking has been great with both short wait times and comparable opponents, the netcode has been on form with only the very occasional minor slowdown.