Clash of Clans is one of the most profitable mobile games in existence. But developer Supercell has so far refused to bring Clash to Windows Phone. That refusal opens up the doors for companies like Gameloft to swoop in and make their own Clash-like games. But Gameloft’s Total Conquest sits on the buggy side of things, so maybe you’re looking for a different game to play involving clans and clashes.
That’s where Game Insight’s Cloud Raiders comes in. A competitive raiding game set within a Skylanders-like world of floating islands, Cloud Raiders shows loads of polish even during its first official month of release on Windows Phone. With casual strategic battles, base building, clan support, and unrivaled cross-platform support, Cloud Raiders is both a great replacement for Clash of Clans and an impressive game all on its own. Read on for our full review.
Like Robinson Crusoe in the sky
At the start of the game, the player’s airship falls prey to an attack from rival sky pirates. It quickly crashes, stranding the crew on one of the fantasy world’s many floating islands. The team will have to build a base in order to keep those pirates at bay, and take back some loot in the process.
Your base is centered around a building called the Stronghold. This building determines what buildings and items are available to you and how far you can upgrade your existing buildings. You’ll want to upgrade it at every opportunity since it directly impacts your offensive and defensive capabilities. At the moment, the Stronghold maxes out at level 6. The game teases several units and items that can’t be built just yet — not until game Insight raises the Stronghold level limit.
To defend your island, you’re going to need guns and arrows. Well, cannons and crossbows to be specific. Placing these types of turrets wisely requires some trial and error. Each one has a certain radius and might be stronger against some enemies than others. One turret only attacks aerial enemies, which 99 percent of players don’t use so it’s practically worthless. I think Game Insight plans to add another type of aerial unit in the future, which might make them more prevalent.
AI raiding parties will attack your base intermittently, but luckily those attacks only begin with your say so. Human players on the other hand will attack several times a day. Depending on how successful they are, they could come away with lots of the gold and clouds you’ve accumulated. Stand up to player attacks sufficiently well and your rank will increase; lose and it drops down a hair.
Building walls also plays a huge role in base defense. Walls cost lots of gold to build, and can be upgraded several times for increasingly steep prices. The overall idea is to protect your Stronghold and coin and cloud reserves sufficiently with walls, which slow nearly every enemy unit down. Meanwhile your turrets will pick off the invaders, hopefully before those baddies get to the good stuff. Base layout really offers a wide array of strategic possibilities.
The real fun in Cloud Raiders is attacking other players’ islands. Each time you go out on an attack, you’ll bring an army of units. These include infantry, archers, strong guys, bomb dudes who blows up walls, and a few more types. Each costs a certain amount of clouds to create, takes up a different amount of space in your attacking team, and prioritizes specific targets. A few of the units can be upgraded eventually, but (annoyingly) not all of them.
The game automatically matches you against an opponent. You get fifteen seconds or so to study the rival player’s base and decide whether to attack it or not. If you the recommended target looks too tough or (more likely) has too little gold to be worth the effort, you can spend a little gold to re-roll... and re-roll... and re-roll. The matchmaking could be a lot better. My vote is to let players prioritize gold, clouds, or valor (PvP points) in order to cut back on the repeated searches for decent targets.
Having settled on an opponent, it’s time to deploy your units! Players don’t directly control their units in this game, which might make you think the battles lack strategy or are too hands-off. But in fact, the choice of where and when to deploy each unit plays a big part in winning the battle. Knowing what your units will attack and providing them with proper support can make all the difference. Once you get the hang of things, these casual strategy battles get pretty fun.
After returning from battle with the resources you’ve stolen, your units will be exhausted. Rebuilding a raiding party can take up to 30 minutes depending on the level of your buildings and the size of the raiding party. The wait can be a drag, but games like this want you coming back throughout the day.
Coins, clouds, and gems
In Cloud Raiders, players will mine and steal two types of soft currencies: coins and clouds. Coins are mostly used for building and upgrading defensive buildings and walls. Clouds pay for unit production, some non-defensive buildings, and clearing away obstacles from your island. Eventually clouds will pile up while players constantly scrounge for gold; the two currencies don’t have a perfect balance.
The premium currency is gems. Although completing missions (such as clearing away obstacles and upgrading specific buildings) rewards players with gems, you can also choose to buy them with real money.
Like with most free to play games, gems can be used to speed up building times and other processes like unit production. Speeding up unit production can be especially useful since it lets you attack other players and steal their gold faster. If you’re trying not to spend much, speeding up stuff probably isn’t the way to go.
On the other hand, Cloud Raiders is one of the most fairly monetized free to play games I’ve come across. In almost every way, not buying gems won’t put you at a disadvantage. The one and only aspect in which ponying up is strongly encouraged would be builders.
See, you can only upgrade one building or structure at a time by default. These things take minutes, hours, or days to complete on their own. A second builder costs 500 gems — five bucks, basically. Extra builders get more expensive after that. But if you get into Cloud Raiders and seriously dig the gameplay, buying that second builder is practically a necessity. And that’s fair, to pitch in a little something if you like a game and plan to continue playing it for very long.
Clans and cross-platform
Being inspired by Clash of Clans, Cloud Raiders has full clan support. Right now, joining a clan lets you share units with other clan members (so you can take more units into battle than a clan-less player) and engage in asynchronous clan chat (global chat is coming soon). Clans have their own leaderboard rankings, providing an extra level of competition to the game.
It just so happens that Windows Phone Central has a clan of its own. After restoring the clan headquarters building on your island, request to join the WPCentral clan. You must have 250 valor (PvP ranking). I look forward to teaming up with you guys!
Clans and all of Cloud Raiders’ features are cross-platform right from the start on Windows Phone. Players can jump back and forth between Windows Phone, Android, iOS, and Facebook without losing any progress. Playing with friends regardless of their platform preference is just too cool. The upcoming Windows 8 and RT versions will be cross-platform too.
Although Cloud Raiders has a bit of an AI campaign, there’s no real story to it and you’ll eventually run out of campaign raids to complete. The real meat of the game is raiding other players over and over — hence the game requiring an online connection. If you’re a competitive player with a mind for strategy, you’ll love endlessly raiding hapless (and not so hapless) bases.
It’s great to see Game Insight branch out into games with core appeal on Windows Phone, especially with full cross-platform and cloud save support. Let’s hope they continue releasing games like this in addition to their stable of city builders.
Cloud Raiders — Windows Phone 8 — 84 MB — Free — Store Link