Every once in a while, it’s best not to think about the theme of a game and to simply try to enjoy it on its merits. Playdemic’s Gang Nations is like that, because it asks players to stake out their own turf in an imaginary city with the goal of building the most powerful street gang possible. Though its cartoony graphics make it clear it’s not to be taken all that seriously, I’m sure there are people out there who would not find this kind of thing amusing.
Not everybody is frothing at the mouth for another Grand Theft Auto.
But if you can get past its theme (or simply enjoy it), there are definitely things to like about Gang Nations, because while the comparisons to Clash of Clans and its never-ending progeny are inevitable, there are some readily apparent differences in its build and battle gameplay.
The first and most welcome is that Gang Nations skips the sometimes tedious process of training troops before sending them into battle. Whether you’re taking on solo challenges or engaging in PvP warfare, you simply draw from one of your resources, Juice, to drop units outside the area you’d like to attack.
Defenses of your Boss Mansion have been similarly spruced up thanks to the ability to reshape the streets leading to your base in any way you see fit. This really makes a difference in the way you can funnel enemies towards your sniper towers, land mines and other unpleasant surprises, adding another layer of strategy to what is generally the less thoughtful side of games like this. It gets even better once you add more territory to your initial block, and since you can change roads around without spending any resources, there’s no reason for you not to experiment with different layouts.
The rest of the proceedings are more familiar, as you level up your base and other buildings so you can hoard larger amounts of Cash and Juice, as well as unlocking more unit types. In keeping with the game’s theme, these range from Hoodlums, Shooters and Thieves at the start to the most powerful unit at the current time, the Convict.
After a few days of PvP shielding it will pay to join a multiplayer Gang; the better to fend off incoming attacks from rival crews, or at least to get revenge once you do. The progression curve feels a little stiff even in the early going, and you’ll need to put some work in to have some decent-looking holdings.
If there’s such a thing as whimsical crime-infested urban blight (and there probably isn’t in real life), the developers have managed to create it, as there are a lot of pleasant touches to the visuals if you take the time to look around. Your turf is adjacent not only to the beach, but also to a swimming pool and an amusement park, and everything is bustling with activity: birds fly overhead, boats zoom by, and the palm trees even sway in the breeze.
All these goodies apparently come with a price, though, as staying idle for even a few minutes will cause Gang Nations to ask you to reload the game in order to continue playing.
The other issue in the game’s early days involves cheating, which Playdemic has mentioned in the app’s news section that people are doing, without going into specifics. There’s probably a joke to be made about the ethics of cheating in a game about street gangs, but again, I’m leaving that alone.
The big takeaway here is that Gang Nations resembles other games in its genre, but it does stretch out in some different directions, and that alone might be enough reason to give it a try – especially if you’re looking for one more base builder to add into your mobile rotation.