Apple Arcade: ‘Red Reign’ Review – Simple RTS on the Outside, Complex Strategies on the Inside

If you’ve ever played Starcraft’s or Warcraft’s traditional multiplayer modes, you’ll probably be drawn to Red Reign initially. Your goal in the game is to destroy your opponent’s castle and this is done by gathering up resources, creating and upgrading troop-buildings, and sending your soldiers on their merry way either up, right, or diagonally. Each of these options have their own benefits other than just trying to flank enemy troops. Idle mines, towers, lumber mills, and more lay on some paths which will help you earn resources faster or defend your castle more easily.

While there are those similarities, you can definitely see some differences in the gameplay. There are no hero troops nor any mobs to kill on the battlefield, but even so, it’s a game that works and offers up a good variety of strategy and troop-types. You also don’t have to upgrade any buildings other than the bastion or stronghold to unlock the bigger and better buildings, like the ones to allow you to build siege weapons. This means that you could save all your resources up at the start and begin by throwing out mounted units and wizards while avoiding footmen or archers entirely.

There are only two races in the game which means there’s not a whole lot of options there. Orcs are your traditional ‘big, dumb, angry, green people’. Rather than archers, they’ve got slingers and their wizards are more of the dark-arts variety. The humans are the other race and are the more industrialized and technical folk, eventually upgrading into giant cannons for siege weapons while the orcs get rock-throwing trolls. Pretty much all these troops are equal in skill so what this game comes down to is advanced troops, strategy, and your numbers.

Maps are another feature that are important in the game. There are three different ones, each with their own distinct features. The Deep Woods map keeps it standard with a neutral gold mine up top and a lumber mill down bottom. Dry Steppes throws in a gold mine on each side and a tower in the middle which will shoot enemy troops. First one to take control gets it permanently until the other side destroys it, so it’s going to be everyone’s first priority. Ancient Swamp is the final map and gives a long, winding path in the middle with two gold mines, a lumber mill up top, and a magical stone on the bottom which will give units a speed boost.

The controls are great and I couldn’t be happier with them. Press and hold is pretty much your go-to for almost everything. You use it to build barracks, stables, and everything else as well as upgrade all your buildings, but it’ll also be used for mining resources faster, capturing neutral buildings, or even healing or damaging troops on the battlefield. Any time you’re not actively upgrading something, you should be using it to mine for your resources quicker. The screen is also a drag and drop or you can click the minimap to view an exact spot at any given time. My only complaint here is that I wish I could zoom out and see the whole map, but that’s really just nitpicking.

There’s also a single player mode mostly just used for tutorial, practice, or late nights where no one’s on multiplayer. It contains four different difficulty modes which range from “You win. Period” to “Oh, dear God. I’m being attacked by every side! Maybe I can… nope, I’m dead.” In other words, if you’re looking for a real challenge or just to practice some different strategies, single player has it.

Matches in Red Reign will vary greatly depending largely on your and your opponent’s strategy. It can take anywhere from three minutes to thirty with things coming to a head in glorious, bloody fashion. It’s a game with pretty basic music and it doesn’t seem to take up many resources either, so that’s a pretty good deal.

In the end, Red Reign does a great job of creating a real-time strategy game that looks simple on the outside but has many different layers on the inside, especially if you play multiplayer. My only hitch is that I want more, and if this game added some customization options like flags or armor/skin tattoos and perhaps a multiplayer with friend option or even rankings, it would reach an even higher level of recommendation. Until that point, it’s a solid game that only really wavers if nobody is online to play it.

 

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NOTE: Red Reign is available exclusively as part of Apple Arcade, a premium gaming subscription service from Apple. Without being a subscriber to Apple Arcade you cannot download and play this game. Apple Arcade is $4.99 per month and does come with a free one month trial, you can learn more about it on Apple’s official website or by visiting our dedicated Apple Arcade forum.



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