Why I lost interest in Clash Royale in just a few weeks? I’ll try to focus on session control and the power balance in the game and if those can be the answer.
[This article is cross-posted from the author's personal website, www.fortunovi.com]
First I want you to know that I really like the game! - the fact it’s a synchronous PvP, the art style, the gameplay - everything. Yet I have a very serious issue with Clash Royale - after only two weeks of non-stop playing I got tired of the game. I played whenever I had a free chest slot till all my slots are loaded and occasionally I spent diamonds to speed up the unlock process. Till Arena 3 I won almost every game and had 80% three crowns wins.
Initially I was very impressed by the way Supercell approached session control in the game - the slot system, the short combats and minimum management work on the deck. This is why I was quite surprised when after such a short period suddenly I just didn’t feel like playing. Why would I feel this way about this wonderfully crafted game?
One of the main reasons is exactly the fact that the game feels “crafted”. What do I mean? Its session mechanic and gameplay are so well defined that at a given moment the game starts to feel synthetic - even though every battle is somewhat different the overall session structure is the same every time and the bigger problem is that the interaction pace of the player with the game is also similar - during the day players unlock silver chests and save the golden/better one for the night which distributes the daily sessions on every 3rd hour. It is a linear pattern-forming structure that could feel repetitive to some players (obviously I'm one of those).
If you take a look at top players’ decks it’s hardly to ignore the fact most of them often use normal cards which are available right from the start. The current Global No. 1. Player have 3 common, 4 rare and 1 epic cards! This means and it’s obvious after you play for awhile that the rarity of the card doesn’t mean a thing. It is a meta diversification which doesn’t have any real gameplay value contrary to the player’s expectations. Take for example Diablo - the rarity in the Action RPG series really counts. When I get an Epic or Rare card I want it to be stronger than a common one, but it is not.
* The only exception here are the "Legendary" cards which are so rarely found even in top players' decks that we cannot actually count those as a factor for this aspect of the game.
OR they just wanted to focus purely on the player’s skill than their luck/money in finding the better cards. Then why put the rarity at all? It is just misleading.
I guess in the long run Supercell will implement more and more cards and some of those would be indeed very powerful and "epic". But right now this is not something visible in the game.
Another problem is the card upgrades. I have a couple of cards on level 6 already and still I don’t have the “feeling” my cards are more powerful.
The game just doesn’t have a way to communicate this to the player. I already lost interest in unlocking new cards, because I don’t encounter a card which I “need” to have and I have unlocked only 26 of 54 card available. This is a big problem given the fact card collecting is one of the long-term goals of the game.
At least Supercell could have implemented different skins for higher tier cards - the Giant could get a bone armor at level 4 instead of the default leather tunic. It would be even easier on the players because this will give them the opportunity to quickly recognise the card’s power level.
There is another problem I see here - piling up unnecessary cards. There is no system to sacrifice or replace cards you don't want - this is done perfectly in Heartstone, where you can sacrifice cards you don't want to get an universal resource you can invest in upgrading other cards. Right now I have hundreds of cards I don't intend to use and I won't spend gold to upgrade them. Maybe we will see a future upgrade addressing this issue.
In most games we have this “pulse” (as I like to call it) type of experience. The players progress through the game’s obstacles growing in power till a certain threshold is reached (example: Level Up) At that moment the game offers a sudden increase in power - new skills, items, buildings, depending on the game type. Then you enter an overwhelming power period when you’re “kicking asses” until the game’s difficulty increases enough to compensates for this.
It’s the gentle balance of those little bursts of power which provide the players with the needed thrill to keep them engaged.
I guess Clash Royale was designed in such a way so the “overpower period” is replaced with an intensity rhythm, driven by the session control. It just doesn’t seem to work with me. I definitely lack the overpower moment when I unlock a new “rare” or “epic” card and I would expect to wreck a little bit of havoc for awhile.
Suggestion: This can be somewhat solved if some temporary boost is implemented in game - maybe in the way of the statues mechanic in Boom Beach. It’s just that the cards are so tightly balanced that in the end the “thrill spike” is lost. You can get a X% boost of a card properties for 1 hour after you unlock/upgrade it.
There is a repeatability problem in the main gameplay as well - the battle. Even if you switch to different decks the battles are actually the same - 2 towers, castle, 2 attack paths, 2/3 stages - initial, midgame (when at least one tower is destroyed), sudden death (optional - when the time’s up and both players have the same number of towers left). I guess it's just not working for me.
Even though I have my concerns on the aspects I’ve discussed above, the game is a major hit and a revenue monster, so who am I to criticize?
I have a couple of suggestions I would love to see implemented through future updates: