App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Mafia III: Rivals is a companion game to Mafia III on consoles, and feels like as much of an afterthought as a mobile tie-in game can be. In fact, it's so uncreative as to basically be Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes but filled with generic mobsters instead of Storm Troopers and Wookies (and kind of busted to boot). In short, Mafia III: Rivals a hard sell on basically all fronts.
Pro-deck your turf
In Mafia III: Rivals, you are the leader of a gang that's trying to establish and protect areas of New Bordeaux, a sort of fictional New Orleans, in order to set up a mob operation. Primarily, this is done by taking your crew to the streets and dishing out pain to any sort of riff-raff that tries to stand in your way.
The way combat works isn't anything like the console release of Mafia III though. Instead, each of your characters is represented by a card, which details their abilities and their particular strengths and weaknesses. To fall in line with the whole gangster motif, your characters, as cards, are sorted into different suits like clubs, aces, etc. all of which grant bonuses and penalties against specific other suits. In combat, you take turns dealing out damage by tapping a target and then choosing which of your gangsters should attack which enemies, and deciding when to unleash any special abilities your crew might have.
If this sounds familiar, it's probably because you've played Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes or some other mobile game that also uses this kind of gameplay. In general, it's not always bad for games to lift gameplay systems from others, but in this case, it definitely is.
For the most part, the act of collecting characters in games like this hinges on acquiring interesting or memorable characters, like Boba Fett or Darth Vader. As far as I'm concerned, collecting generic gangsters like "Willy Jovino" really dampens the effectiveness of a game like this.
Further, Mafia: III Rivals has some issues when it comes to its interface and playability. The menus are all pretty confusing, there's no easy way to back out of equipping a gangster, and there are some bugs that crop up frequently that prevent you from selecting characters. Overall, both the game and its interface feel poorly conceived.
The bottom line
Mafia III: Rivals feels exactly like a game that was designed to capitalize on the excitement surrounding the release of Mafia III, and absolutely nothing more. If you see potential in Rivals's gameplay, I suggest checking out Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. There's really painfully little here to enjoy.