In the wake of Disney’s purchase of Star Wars, and their closure of Lucasfilm, there was hope in the wind that we’d get a lot of new, quality Star Wars games. And we have, just not the games you might have expected. While the only AAA title, Battlefront, has been somewhat of a disappointment, Lucasfilm has loaned the Star Wars license to a number of competent mobile game studios that have produced some solid titles. Galaxy of Heroes lets you play Pokemon with your favorite Star Wars characters, and before its unfortunate demise, Uprising told an interesting (and canon!) story of the underbelly of the Star Wars universe.
This week, the newest entry in that series arrived on iOS and Android. Force Arena is a free to play game that combines the lanes and minions of a Moba with the random hands and energy of Hearthstone. You build decks of cards centered around a Star Wars hero from the Original Trilogy, Rogue One or Rebels. The rest of the cards in your deck are minion groups like Wookie Warriors, Stormtroopers, and X-wings and Tie Fighters. You must move your hero up one of two lanes (three if you’re playing two on two), using their special abilities and your summoned minions to destroy enemy turrets, and eventually their shield generator. (I’m told that it plays almost exactly like Clash Royale, another free to play mobile game.) You can also find unique cards that only work for one leader, boosting their power. For example, if you have a deck led by Luke Skywalker, you might find Obi-wan Kenobi as a summonable minion, but you couldn’t use Obi-wan with, say, Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Like the best designed Free to Play games, the gameplay is incredibly repetitive and yet, somehow, incredibly addictive. There are only two game types, one on one fights and two on two fights. If you win fights, you gain points that raise your rank and unlock the opportunity to get better cards. If you lose, you lose those same points and can eventually drop in rank. Every fight you win gives you a new pack of cards, but those cards take time to open – usually around an hour and a half to four hours. Of course, you can spend gems to open them instantly, and the game starts you with a very healthy supply of gems. After that, the gems are granted in a slow drip…unless you want to pay.
Force Arena does not seem to be pay to win. The only way to get better cards, paid or not, is to advance in rank, which means the only way to get the best cards is to get better at the game. That said, the more common cards can be upgraded more easily by buying lots of packs, and upgrading those cards gives you XP to upgrade your player level. The higher your player level, the more health your shield generators and turrets have. In lower tiers, it’s certainly possible you could find someone who wasn’t very good, but had very high level defenses. There’s also some balancing issues with certain heroes. Cassian Andor is very difficult to deal with right now, and the Force Arena subreddit is full of threads on how to deal with him.
All of these details aside, the fact remains that I’ve run out the battery on my phone twice now playing this game. If you’re looking for a fun, online game on your phone that has a Star Wars skin and won’t take up too much of your data, Force Arena is a good, solid choice. The amount of different leaders with different playstyles gives the game a good sense of strategy, and there will obviously be expansions coming. I can’t see myself playing this game for years on end, but for the next couple of months it will definitely accompany me wherever I go.