Even though we've seen a lot of games that are very similar to Gang Nations (among them Clash of Clans and its army of copy-cats and clones) it feels surprisingly fresh.
It does actually have a major difference in its gameplay, which we'll come to, but everything else about its resource gathering, base building, and item upgrading gameplay is very familiar.
And yet, it somehow still feels unique.Be a menace to South Central
The premise is a lot more urban than we're used to in this type of game, which is a nice touch. Although it's hard not to cringe at the racial stereotyping going on in Gang Nations.
That's not to say it's deliberate, or intentionally offensive, but its characters are very much off-the-shelf. The kind of delinquents that a middle-to-upper class game designer might imagine the poor end of town is filled with, though he'd never actually go there to find out.
Stereotypes aside, Gang Nations gives you a small, dilapidated gangland territory, and charges you with its upkeep and expansion.
It isn't the authorities you're going up against here, but other gangs, and that makes for a pretty hostile environment. So your first task is to make your corner of the 'hood as defensible as possible.
This is where Gang Nations forges its own identity, by mixing in some excellent tower defence attributes. You can strategically blockade streets to shepherd attacking rival gangs past your sniper towers, taking them out before they can steal your juice, pilfer your cash, or wreck up your crib.Drinking your juice in the hood
And then the whole thing is reversed, with your gang members going on the offensive in rival territory. You can drop whichever urbanite troops you've unlocked anywhere around the enemy's perimeter, and they'll wander off on a rampage.
These guys are overly brainless, however, and just smash whatever's nearest. Some manner of control over their march of destruction would add a valuable layer of tactics to the tower defence elements, but it's no deal breaker.
All of this is fuelled by juice, cash, and gems, which are generated and stored back on your home turf. Keeping your generators healthy and up to spec allows you to bring in more of these essential resources.
Gems are the IAP currency, and they speed up building times, upgrades, and various other progressive elements. Gang Nations is pretty good about giving these gems away for free, although running out of them brings you dangerously close to a broken game.
You don't have to be into gang culture to choose Gang Nations as your next Clash of Clans replacement, and although it's a bit hackneyed on the surface, its gameplay is reasonably deep, and that's what matters in the end.