Clash of Clans changed so much for mobile gamers. It paved the way for a wealth of free-to-play strategy games, each of which rarely added much to a formula that Clash of Clans had pretty much already nailed. Guardian Kingdoms aims to buck that trend by adding the presence of other players in real-time. Without the marketing budget of Supercell’s behemoth, it’ll probably never reach those lofty heights — but guess what? It deserves to.

Now, admittedly, if you’ve played Clash of Clans to death, you might need a breather before you give Guardian Kingdoms a whirl. It’s very similar at heart. On the one hand, you’re establishing a base. There, you’re building structures such as a barracks and research facility, all in a bid to have the strongest army. Alongside that, you need to establish defenses such as turrets and walls to keep your enemies out. It’s the kind of thing you’ve dealt with before, meaning certain strategies can be reapplied here.

Training, in particular, requires some focus from you as you want to make sure your army is tough enough to withstand where you’re about to send them. Remember though – this all involves timers and waiting it out, but it’s not too slow paced at least. The most satisfying part of the game is unleashing your troops on an unsuspecting enemy or joining in a huge quest along with your alliance mates.

You see, that’s where Guardian Kingdoms is at its strongest – when you’re playing alongside others. While other strategy games might have you going it alone with the thinly veiled idea of being able to chat with your alliance mates but not actually interacting much more, Guardian Kingdoms actually has you working together. During any battle, your allies can jump in and back you up. Predictably, that often turns the tide of battle significantly in your favor. It’s great to watch too as simple spars turn into sprawling battles as you overwhelm enemy forces en masse. Of course, the same can happen to you in reverse which is precisely why you need to keep your defenses up at all times.

It’s worth that sacrifice though. Guardian Kingdoms almost reminds you of the halcyon days of Age of Empires, with your huge armies going at it with great strength. Except, there’s a big catch. You can’t do much other than choose what troops to use. Interaction is actually fairly limited once you get going. It’s a common plight for the genre, but that doesn’t make it any less infuriating. Being so hands-off when so much is going on leaves you wanting more, and obviously that dampens the enjoyment you can glean from this.

Guardian Kingdoms still has more going for it than many strategy clones though. It’s colorful and vibrant, and there’s always something going on. Potentially, you can end up with battles with up to six players, at a time meaning there’s plenty happening and also your battery life is going to suffer a little, but it’s certainly special. Besides the PvP available, you can participate in huge raids against AI dragons and more, giving you even more potential for leveling up, and ensuring you’ll be busy for a while to come.