The tug-of-war strategy genre is something that has been around since the Custom Map days of StarCraft, but only recently has it gained mainstream popularity through mobile titles like Clash Royale, Titan Brawl, and Star Wars: Force Arena. Each of the aforementioned has its own unique gimmick, such as controlling a Hero or having access to massive Titans, but they focus solely on mobile gamers. S2 Games has decided to bring that intense, fast-paced gameplay to the PC crowd with Brawl of Ages.
Imagine a mashup of Strife and Clash Royale, and you’ve basically got Brawl of Ages. The core mechanics are almost identical to Clash Royale while the game features a cast of units taken directly from Strife. Additionally, the progression system is completely different and it is, of course, available for PC through Steam as a free-to-play game. It is, however, in very Early Access so most aspects are subject to change.
For those who haven’t tried Clash Royale or other similar games, it’s basically a combination of tower defense, collectible card game, and multiplayer online battle arena. Matches are 1vs1 and last at most 3 minutes.
In Brawl of Ages, each player has access to a deck of 10 cards, two towers, and a throne. Initially, each player draws four cards that consist of units, structures and spells with an associated mana cost. Most units and structures can only be placed on your half of the battleground, at least until an enemy tower is destroyed, but spells can generally be cast anywhere. After a card is used, it’s placed at the bottom of the deck and another is drawn. Once the timer hits 1 minute then all mana generation is doubled.
The main objective in Brawl of Ages is to destroy your opponent’s throne, but if neither throne is destroyed then the player with the most tower kills wins. Once a tower is taken down, units can be summoned closer to the opponent’s throne. Additionally, a throne won’t start attacking until it takes damage. This leaves room for a variety of strategies, such as ignoring the enemy’s throne until both towers are taken down.
Buying Power and Progression
Besides being a PC title, another major difference from Clash Royale is the progression system in Brawl of Ages. In Clash Royale, players unlock news cards by acquiring chests from winning matches. If a player gains duplicate cards then the existing version is then upgraded. This means that someone who has either played the game longer or has spent more money will at least have higher level units than other players and will most likely have access to more rare/powerful units.
In Brawl of Ages, cards are still unlock in a rather random fashion, but there are no card levels. This is something I find to be a major positive aspect. No one likes to lose a match where they’ve outplayed their opponent but lost simply because their cards were lower level. This is something that commonly happens in this genre, especially when players are separated into ‘leagues’ based on their win/loss ratio. Eventually, players will hit a progress cap because their card levels simply can’t compete with other players in their tier. This has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with time or money spent on the game.
Unfortunately, the actual way to obtain cards in Brawl of Ages is kind of a mess. However, S2 Games is aware of this issue and released a statement saying that they intend to fix it. The studio has stated that they want to increase the pace at which cards are unlocked and give players more control over what they acquire. Currently, there are only two ways to unlock new cards. The first is through the ‘Big Brawls Board.’
For every in-game tower destroyed, regardless of a win or loss, players receive one seal. If they managed to destroy the throne, then three seals are awarded for the match. Players can unlock a Silver ‘spin’ on the Big Brawls Board for 10 seals, which can be accumulated at varying degrees of speed based on how good you are and who you’re matched up against. Items that can be obtained this way are Valor points, full cards, or card pieces.
The only other way to obtain new cards is by using Valor to unlock them directly. Valor can be obtained by selling cards, from the Big Brawls Board, or by winning matches in the Conquest (arena) mode. In Conquest, players fight until they’ve either won 10 or lost three matches. It can be entered once daily for free and buy spending Valor or premium gems. A single win will net 75 Valor while 10 wins give two gold spins and a diamond spin on the Big Brawls Board.
Card Balance and Pay-to-Win Aspects
With cards not having levels, balance is even more important. In other games, having a very high level common card can sometimes beat out lower level epic or legendary cards, but in Brawl of Ages everything is equal level. This makes it incredibly difficult to balance every card and justify the power of higher tier cards.
Currently, there are definitely a few cards that are stronger than others. Initially, I tried playing the game with other only the ‘Starter Deck,’ which is comprised of a few common, rare and epic cards. For the most part, I was still able to win about 50 percent of my matches but most were very close. Even with the starter deck, I was able to beat opponents that used multiple legendary cards.
I was also given a code, which unlocked a few epic and legendary cards along with some gems, to get a better feel for the game. Having access to additional cards definitely gave me more strategical options, but it didn’t necessarily make my deck instantly better. For example, I received Eclipse (AoE spell) and Blazer (knockback unit), which seemed to have incredibly niche uses that common or rare cards might fill more efficiently. However, Abaddon (high DPS unit with a bloodlust aura) paired incredibly well with a Shadow League (units that can be summoned anywhere) sneak attack, but something similar could be achieved with the Bloodlust Totem (common spell) instead.
The actual pay-to-win aspect is quite low right now. The only places to spend gems are on card skins, the Big Brawls Board, and on Conquest matches. And to be honest, the efficiency at spending currency on the board isn’t very good. After dropping 1,000 gems (about $10 worth) on two diamond spins, all I received was 1000 Valor. That’s less than 1/3 of a legendary card. In comparison, I unlocked a few cards with free-to-play rewards worth more than 2000 Valor if I was to exchange them.
Even though Brawl of Ages still needs a lot of work with its balance and progression system, it could definitely carve out its own little niche on the PC market. If you find games like Clash Royale enjoyable then you might want to give it a try.Related: Brawl of Ages, Early Access, Free to play, PC, Preview, S2 Games, Steam, Strategy