You may not have noticed, but we're very much in the strategy era of mobile gaming, and Rival Kingdoms is the latest title to fancy a piece of the Clash of Clans pie.
If you've not switched on your TV, your phone, or eye-things in the last three years and need to be told what the basic formula is, then here's a quick summary: you build and control a fort, which allows you to control an army that attacks other people's forts. Players can also congregate together in-game and form groups that can collectively declare war on yet other players and set out to tag-team their bases. Ergo the name: Rival Kingdoms (we suggested a name change to Rival Forts That Can Attack Other Forts but have yet to recieve a response).
The besieging of forts, which happens in real time, has to be meticulously thought out. Once a player's offensive units are placed they attack enemy structures automatically and can't be controlled directly, requiring players to rigorously plan where and when to drop in each one to achieve victory. It sounds deceptively simple but when you take into account the range of units, the range of defensive structures and the gazillion and one configurations they can be arranged in, you've got yourself a complex strategy game.
Clash of Clans fans might think that this all sounds familiar, but Rival Kingdoms does distinguish itself from the competition. Placing its vibe somewhere between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, RK is visually tight high fantasy. The cartoon-like friendliness of its rivals is cast aside in favour of people with regularly sized heads and an environment less reminiscent of Teletubbyland. Even better, its world is penned by Rhianna Pratchett, who headed up the gritty revival of Lara Croft in the recent Tomb Raider.
The sheer number of upgrades and building tools available to players is impressive, but I think that it's the sprawling social element that will keep you coming back for more. You can easily join a Kingdom comprised of other players, organise raids on your rivals and then gloat with one another as you rise up the leaderboards, allowing for the maximum amount of useful interaction with minmum faff.
Rival Kingdoms is free to download on iOS and Android but features in-app purchases - and herein lies our only gripe.
It's entirely possible to play without spending any real-world coin, but if you do you'll stumble upon one unavoidable obstacle: battle runes. One of these runes is consumed each time a player attacks another fort, but free runes don't spawn fast enough for continouous play, so if you want to keep playing for any significant period of time, you gotta cough up the green stuff. It's not a dealbreaker, but it's something you need to be wary of.
Microtransactionary niggles aside, we've had a blast decimating the carefully constructed creations of our foes, and think that the levels of polish on offer here are genuinely impressive. Give it a go, you might find yourself in a Troy-like embrace from which you never want to return.