Although I’ll be a little late to the game by internet standards, I’ll soon be posting my thoughts on the Force Awakens. First, however, I’d like to give a nod to a mobile game that has pleasantly surprised me.
Years ago I denied that mobile devices would ever really provide a legitimate, alternative gaming platform. I was wrong. Consequently, I’ve tried to be a little more open-minded than some of my peers when it comes to FTP. Still, that “Get” button in the App Store raises flags. Even more so when the game in question looks premo, like Galaxy of Heroes. I mean you can tell it was made by a big publisher, and they’re generally not in for the smiles.
In my experience, there are generally four kinds of FTP games:
1. Games that try to get you hooked, and then ram you in the butt with timers so that you have to either pay them or do a lot of waiting to play.
2. Games that try to get you hooked, and then try to entice you to buy card packs or prize barrels or whatever the hell so that you can win more easily. Pay-to-win, they call these.
3. Games that stick banner ads in some part of the screen or throw in some video ads. Level of obtrusiveness can vary, and often IAP will disable ads.
4. Games that use some combination of 1,2, and 3. Again, the obnoxiousness of these implementations varies.
Star Wars: GoH is a Category 4 FTP game. It utilizes timers and energy, and it offers premium currency (cyrstals) and card packs that you can use to unlock things like characters, shards, and items. Thus far, however, I’ve found that going pure free mode (that is, not buying jack) doesn’t seem to be a huge handicap. You progress a bit slower that the P2Wers, and you may not have as many characters, but you can still put together a solid team.
One downside is that there are some characters that can only be unlocked from premium cards. Although you don’t have to spend money to buy these, they do take up a lot of premium currency, which can take a while to save up. So while you can unlock and advance these characters without paying, it can be difficult and time consuming. This definitely encourages people to sink some dollars into the game.
On the character front, there is a good variety so far, and my understanding is that they’re incrementally adding more and more. They even have characters from the latest Star Wars film (if that’s your cup of tea). EA is drawing the game’s cast from all of the films, plus some of the ancillary “canon” media, such as the Clone Wars cartoon. I think this is a good move, but it also makes part of me a little sad by reminding me of how many interesting, quality characters from the expanded universe we’ve now lost. Granted this is just one geek’s humble opinion, but characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn would have been a lot cooler to see than Rey and Poe.
Speaking of the characters, the game has a number of interesting mechanics. Characters are unlocked by collecting their respective shards, which are dropped in battles and can also be purchased from various in-game stores with various in-game currencies. Shard costs can vary, and higher-costing characters are more powerful when they’re unlocked. Once unlocked, characters can be promoted by collecting more shards. Promotions increase star rating, which influences stat gain when a character is leveled up. There really are a lot of layered mechanics going on in this game, but they play well together.
One interesting thing is that they have drawn upon certain versions of popular characters. For example, currently we have Clone Wars Chewbacca and Stormtrooper Han. And for some strange reason, there’s pre-Jedi Luke Skywalker, sporting the American Revolution-era laser rifle that he never fires in a New Hope. I imagine they plan to add variants of these characters in future updates. I hope they will, at least. But before then I suppose there’s still a lot of material to draw from. There’s no Yoda yet; on the other side there’s also (thankfully) no Jar-Jar yet. Take what you can get, I suppose.
There are a lot of other interesting features that I won’t expound upon in-depth here, but it’s worth mentioning that each character has two or three activatable abilities that are cooldown based, a passive ability, and sometimes a leader ability that activates if you put them at the head of your squad. I find this adds a lot of depth to the game as you try to synergize your teams, and the cooldown mechanic adds a pleasant alternative to games like Final Fantasy Record Keeper, which makes you regularly grind out materials to add charges to your abilities. I also like that each character has unique abilities, which adds to their flavor and emphasizes their strengths. To compare this once more with Record Keeper (which in all fairness has some things that it does better than Star Wars: GoH), characters could sometimes feel a little generic. Sure, you’ve got unique record breaks and stat variances, but when I was playing, you’d generally want two or three attackers, a healer, and a mage or two. Who you chose didn’t always make a big difference, and the main incentive to level people and change it up came from the synergies that came from matching characters with appropriate equipment and dungeons (kind of a cool idea, actually, but I found it a little tiresome sometimes).
In GoH, the emphasis is more on building a squad that works well together, and in some cases on countering the strengths of the foes that you’ll be facing. I suppose it’s a matter of taste.
So far there’s a lot to do, and I like that the pacing is such that I rarely feel like I “need to play” so as to maximize my play efficiency. In FFRK, I sometimes felt like I needed to be careful about when I leveled up, so as not to waste energy. And I had to make sure I played every few hours so I wouldn’t hit the cap and miss potential energy. In GoH, not every play mode requires energy (though there are still some play limits in place). And if you level up, you don’t just lose energy that surpasses your max – you’re allowed to go past the cap and just don’t gain more until you’re back under it again.
All in all, I’m pleasantly surprised and impressed with GoH. Not only is it good for a FTP game, but it’s a pretty solid mobile game, period. There are times when I rage; you do come across some pretty cheese squad compositions sometimes, especially in PvP. But if you like Star Wars and turn-based RPG combat, you’ll most likely like this game. And there’s unexpected joy to be had in killing imperials with jawas and ewoks. I guess that’ll be the upside of Jar Jar coming out one day – the pure troll squad.