When EA released Command and Conquer: Rivals for mobile, I for one was extremely excited. I got in on the ground floor, played a ton of matches, and quickly realized that I’d have to spend a little money if I really wanted to compete… oh, and I was already 6 months behind those who participated in the beta.
In competitive games, especially ones that go so far as to hold esports competitions within months of release (something EA did that was awesome – and they even live streamed it all), it’s easy to get wrapped up in the competition. Including a pay wall to perform in that competition can be a real temptation to those who are entirely too competitive – who then want to pay to keep up.
Eventually, players hit a progression wall and have to make a choice to open their wallets or to NOT be the very best -- like no one ever was. And for those reasons, I ended up putting down C&C Rivals – instead wishing there was a free to play game in the RTS category that didn’t hide units behind loot boxes and pay walls.
While Red Reign doesn’t fill that niche completely, it sure does give me a quick RTS hit when I really wanted one on mobile!
Red Reign truly is snack-sized in how they manage the gameplay. You essentially have two resources, wood and gold, and they begin production immediately via a wood cutter and a miner, similar to how any harvester on Command and Conquer starts harvesting ore or Tiberium immediately upon the start of a game.
But rather than giving the user full control over HOW to set up their base, the positions of the barracks and archery farm and town hall etc are all standardized. You literally just click and hold for 5-10 seconds to build it if you have the resources. Furthermore, you click and hold to build units one at a time. And you can even click and hold on your mine or your lumberjack to also increase the speed of production temporarily.
In fact, the controls are so quick and simple that you pretty much don’t even control your army really. You build units and they sit outside of your base. If enemies come, they attack. If enemies aren’t present, they stand around. And then you have three pathways to get to the enemy base – going up and right at a right angle, going directly kitty-corner to the enemy, or going right and then up at a right angle. Hit any of those three buttons and your entire army heads out – with new units staying back at the base until they get further direction.
It's really simple, and surprisingly, really really fun.
You still have ways to upgrade from swordsman to archers to siege units to mages etc. The various units still have various strengths and weaknesses and various costs, but this is about the simplest version of a real time strategy game I’ve ever seen and I found myself really enjoying it.
And you can play versus the computer or play multiplayer mode. Honestly, if you have Apple Arcade – try Red Reign.
While Red Reign may not provide hours and hours of entertainment, it really does feel like the type of game I could play in a waiting room, with snack-sized matches that last 5-10 minutes (or less) and still offer a ton of fun and strategy. And the computer is difficult enough to keep me super entertained even when I don’t have internet access.