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E3 2018. EA was in their usual press swing, showing off games and concept art for upcoming titles that were…well they were alright, especially if you like sports. Then, something magical happened. The lights dimmed, developers took to the stage and an announcement was made: A new Command and Conquer game! Set in the Tiberium universe! Featuring the forces of NOD and GDI at war once again!

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Oh my yes, if I was a bubble then I was filled to the brim with the most joyous of gasses. I was a bubble of hype, floating perilously close to a pin of reality that was about to pop me because Command and Conquer Rivals wasn’t the next step in the evolution of this real-time strategy game on PC…It was a mobile game.

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It was the groan heard across the world, and I don’t blame you. People had been burned by mobile games in the past, and coupling the predatory practises of that medium with EA and their less than stellar record? A legitimate cause for concern. It didn’t help either that actual hands on time with the game resulted in an opinion of shrugged shoulders and apathy.

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This was an entirely okay game, that would probably be lost in the market tides and drowned under a pile of Flappy Bird clones. A couple of months later, and EA’s latest Command and Conquer has been spending some time on the market, earning its stripes. So how is it? Actually…not bad. Not bad at all. As a strategy game, C&C Rivals is simple enough to pick up.

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You choose either GDI or NOD, set up a base and battle to take control of key points in the map that will allow you to fire a nuke at your opposition. Two of these launches are needed to demolish a base and win the game for you. The nuke itself is a pendulum, with the weapon constantly shifting between players as control points are fought over.

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The actual art of sending units into battle follows your usual rock-paper-scissors: Regular infantry is your cannon fodder, vehicles can wipe the floor with grunts and specialised units are meant to offer a specific flavour of flexibility on the battlefield. It makes for a surprisingly simple yet deep game to learn and master, with plenty of strategies available to take advantage of your particular loadout. No single selection of units is guaranteed to give you victory, with evolution of your units being a key focus in Rivals as you learn maps, tricks and tinker with your squads.

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It all sounds good, but what about the microtransactions then? Well, of course they’re there. You’ve got loot crates aplenty, although earning them is easy enough and progress within Rivals unlocking more units and rewards for you. The key focus of Rivals though, is on that grind. Powering up units requires multiple cards of your troops, which you can use to increase their effectiveness and your own unique commander abilities.

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To even promote your soldiers however, you’ll need cash and while that moolah can be earned from successful battles, consecutive and higher levels for your favourite troops requires a heftier investment. It’s a grind of note, but an enjoyable one oddly enough as the cycle of war and attrition continues. To its credit, Rivals never pushes its microtransactions on players, giving plenty of incentive for dedicating a few minutes of playtime to its battlefields every day.

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There is a premium currency available that is separate from the usual credits earned, although this particular cash can be earned from unlocked crates. A miniscule amount mind you, but at this point you’re either playing the game at a casual point where you simply just don’t care or you’re invested enough in it to actually plop some Benjamins on the stupidly priced virtual cash. Still a better investment than cryptocurrencies, I suppose.

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There’s a delicate balance at play here, between reward and investment, which Rivals manages to nail. It may not be the Command and Conquer game that fans want (although a remaster of the originals is on the way), but it’s what we have right now. And honestly? For a free mobile experience, it has plenty of charm.

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One word of warning though: Rivals is an absolute hog when it comes to system resources, easily gobbling up battery life and heating up your device of choice. Heck, even playing it on an iPad Pro felt like I was handling hot potato at some points, thanks to the sheer heat generated by the action unfolding on my screen. Which also happened on my Huawei P20 Pro during testing.

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Other than that, there’s a lot to love about Command and Conquer Rivals. A welcome return to the Tiberium universe, quick to pick up and surprisingly catchy with its daily or even casual grind towards glory.

You could say that this game…gets the NOD from me.

Last Updated: January 16, 2019

Command and Conquer Rivals
The strategy is solid, the learning curve is well structured and the daily grind is as addictive as can be. There’s a brilliant little strategy game here, one that deserves plenty of love and none of the usual mobile gaming stigma that usually comes bundled with these experiences. For a game that is entirely free and still offers plenty of entertainment without spending a single cent on it, that’s not a bad deal at all.
7.5
Command and Conquer Rivals was reviewed on iOS

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