E3 2018: Hands On with Command & Conquer: Rivals

The Command & Conquer franchise has endured a lot of changes since its original iteration back in the late 1990s. The real-time strategy franchise jumped from the smaller Westwood Studios to Electronic Arts around the turn of the century. The franchise has laid dormant for roughly ten years as there were plans to build a new game on the Frostbite engine, but that was ultimately scrapped. Now, Command & Conquer is making a change that may not be popular with original fans as it hops on to mobile devices for a clash royale game known as Command & Conquer: Rivals.

At EA Play at E3 2018, we sat with Michael Martinez, GM for Redwood Studios, and Greg Black, Combat Designer for Rivals and faced off against each other on mobile devices. Greg Black has an extensive background in strategy games with Blizzard and other companies. When asked about the decision to take the C&C franchise in this direction, Michael stated,” We are big fans of strategy games. We haven’t really seen a good or decent real-time strategy game on mobile. I always felt that this was the right platform to do that with the touch controls. For us, it’s all about that fantasy of commanding and army to victory. So we took that on and really wanted to deliver that RTS experience on mobile.”

C&C: Rivals is a clash royale game, but not a traditional base-building RTS. Players will face off head-to-head to gain access to control points. Games will last 3-5 minutes as each time a player fully controls the board, a missile is launched to destroy the other player’s base. Rivals uses the original Command & Conquer universe that features the GDI vs NOD. Martinez mentioned about reimagining the game for mobile. “Obviously, we had to reimagine things in a fundamental way. But the core pillars of an RTS are building an army, controlling an army, and dominating your opponent. That’s what we think an RTS is all about. So we have continuous unit control. It’s all about competition, skill and strategy.”

The battlefield will house four different buildings units and vehicles will be built from. These will be the barracks, war factory, helipad and an eventual tech building. Harvesters and ore refineries still play a part as these are used to harvest tiberium to build units. Rivals also features four commanders that have individual command powers. For example, Command Jackson has a way to make units go faster. With your loadout, players will swap what units they want to include prior to the match rather it be rocket soldiers or regular soldiers, specific tanks and vehicles, and then the eventual tech weapon. This all plays into the strategy of how you want to win. The team made sure to keep the C&C universe intact.

After playing a match with Greg Black, we asked how the team was hoping to hook traditional fans. “When we’re talking about getting that hour or two hour long experience down to a five minute experience, what we’re trying not to do is lose some of that key decision making and that key micro that you get in those games. There’s a lot of thinking to do in how you compose your deck, how expensive it is, and that will affect how many harvesters you will bring. What kind of opener do you want to bring like an aggressive rush opener like taking a quick missile and skipping the harvester. Maybe kill their early harvesters. Maybe you want to go greedy and contest late. There’s tons of positional micro in terms of how to take the points.”

In terms of Greg Black’s experience, he knows a thing or two about strategy games and should be enough to put some trust in this mobile game. “We are huge RTS fans,” Black said. “I have worked on previous Command & Conquers and I worked on Starcraft 2 at Blizzard. Our creative designer did the same thing. We’ve tried to really focus on the fundamentals of the experience. We wanted the emotional feeling of those games. I didn’t think it was going to be very good, but I ended up finding it really awesome. It’s really accessible.”

Command & Conquer: Rivals is an addicting game and fast-paced strategy game that tickles your nostalgia bone. There will be some fans that will refuse to give it a shot, but if you’re sitting in the same room with someone you’re playing and the battles are fast and intense, the hook is certainly there. There are units to counter other units and the strategy aspect is certainly there. It features enough depth while keeping things simple and fun. Currently, Rivals can be downloaded for Android devices.