DomiNations Review: CoC Clone or Killer?

The RTS genre has had something of a renaissance on mobile recently. Supercell’s mega-hit Clash of Clans has brought the RTS into focus on phones and tablets, inspiring a wealth of similar games to pop up. DomiNations is one of these games. DomiNations is notable for the studio that produced it – Big Huge Games. Big Huge Games and Brian Reynolds have a long and storied history in the strategy genre on PC – can they use that heritage to make DomiNations a Clash of Clans killer? Or will it suffer the same fate as so many other CoC clones? Let’s find out in my DomiNations review!

Clash of Clones

There are a lot of shared elements between Clash of Clans and DomiNations. The first few weeks of play are almost identical, in fact.

  • DomiNations has two resources, food and gold. This corresponds to elixir and gold in Clash of Clans.
  • There’s a single player campaign that teaches you the basics, but you’ve got to raid other players in order to really progress.
  • Your “Town Center” levels up, and as it does you unlock new upgrades, buildings, equipment, etc.
  • The troop progression is remarkably similar, with the equivalent of barbarians, archers, giants, wall breakers, goblins and even healers being the composition of many early game armies.

DomiNations Review: This archer looks familiar...

Pro Tip Archers in DomiNations don’t really do much damage to buildings – they’re there to counter enemy troops. They will never destroy buildings fast enough for 100%!

  • Bases are defended by archer towers, catapults (the equivalent of mortars), and other similar buildings.
  • Bases are protected by walls, which must be upgraded per-segment at a significant gold cost.
  • There are “war tactics” you can bring into battle that are roughly equivalent to spells from Clash of Clans.
  • You can join an “alliance” and request troops from your alliance mates, which can be used on offense or defense.

… you get the idea, right? There are a lot of similarities. The good news is that Clash of Clans players will feel right at home. But will they want to switch?

The Good Additions

The good news is that DomiNations adds a lot of cool things to the standard Clash formula.

One is a focus more on defensive units. Instead of wizard towers and cannons, DomiNations substitutes troop barracks and stables. These produce troops periodically, which will home in on enemy units and cause distractions and damage.

Pro Tip These buildings produce units slowly, so they’re vulnerable to being overwhelmed. Place them behind walls for greater effect.

DomiNations Review: Base Design

You’ve also got to take roads and gates into account when planning your base. Roads connect your town center to your other buildings, and the more buildings that are connected, the more gold per hour bonus you’ll earn. Where roads cross walls, gates can be used to keep the road network flowing.

Pro Tip Defensive units can’t jump walls – they have to use gates. Thus, the positioning of your gates is strategic and gives you a resource bonus.

When attacking, troops can return from battle to your base if you destroy every defensive structure. This is similar to the way combat works in Boom Beach, and it means you can get a lot more mileage out of expensive units. It also means the downtime between attacks is lessened considerably.

DomiNations Review: Surviving Troops Return!

Another welcome addition is the Library. Here, you can spend gold and food to get cool bonuses, like extra archer towers or more walls. The upgrades can be quite expensive and time consuming, but the benefits they bring are hard to argue with.

DomiNations also twists the builder concept by giving you more of them, but requiring various amounts of the builder resources for each project. For instance, clearing a tree might take 1 builder, but upgrading a storage might take 4. The builders can also be used to clear land to expand your base in whichever direction you choose.

Finally, there are a set of customizations you can make that give your base unique bonuses. Chief among these are your nation of choice, and what wonders you build. Each nation has its own advantages, like making your town center fire arrows at attacking units. Every few town center ranks, you can choose a new wonder. Each wonder has its own strengths, and you can pair them with your own city’s strengths to great effect.

The Ugly Holdovers

The problem that I have with DomiNations is that it has too much in common with Clash of Clans. The long list of similarities between Clash and DomiNations means that they feel a lot like the same game. If you’re tired of Clash, chances are you’re going to be tired of DomiNations pretty quickly. Constant raiding, the terrible base editing where that one wall is just not where you want it… ugh.

Basically, playing DomiNations is akin to deleting your Clash of Clans base and starting the game over from scratch. Do you really want to re-do all that work?

The number one annoyance to practically every clasher is your walls. Walls are expensive, and they’re a total chore to grind. Every new level of walls brings an ever increasing demand on your gold to keep pace with technology. Neglecting them leaves you open to easy attacks, so you’ve just got to knuckle down and bear it.

Also, the long timers on everything are a real drag. Already after a couple of weeks of play, I’m looking at 12 to 24 hours worth of waiting between activities. While the flexible builders help some here, it’s still just a snoozefest.

There’s also a lot of bugs. Sometimes letters are missing from help text, and sometimes the text is completely garbled. The servers are down for maintenance pretty often. A few times I’ve run into bugs where the game just spins trying to find my next match, even on my home LAN with great wi-fi.

ConClusion

DomiNations
Links:Homepage, Google Play, iTunes Store
Release:4/2/2015
Price:Free to Play with In-App Purchases
Rating: - Good
Our Thoughts:

DomiNations should be a more hardcore RTS game from a set of RTS genre professionals. What it is, though, is a Clash of Clans clone with some interesting ideas. If you can stomach the concept of starting over from town hall 1 and progressing back through the ranks, you’ll find some interesting ideas here. However, they’re held back by some serious issues and some really stale game mechanics.

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