Star Wars: Rogue One debuts this week, and it will tell the story of how the Rebel Alliance stole the plans for the Empire’s Death Star superweapon. But it turns out that while Lucasfilm was making that flick, developer Netmarble held a heist of its own to steal the plans to one of the most powerful weapons in the mobile gaming universe.
Star Wars: Force Arena is a new head-to-head online strategy battler for iOS and Android, and it’s releasing soon. It’s fair to call it a Star Wars remix of Clash Royale. Netmarble does give it a few tweaks on developer Supercell’s formula, and the result is potentially the next big free-to-play Star Wars game in the $36.6 billion mobile-gaming industry. You can sign up to learn when the game goes live by visiting the official Star Wars: Force Arena website.
I played Force Arena and familiarized myself with its gameplay. In a match, you play against one other human opponent (or you partner with someone to take on an opposing duo in the 2-on-2 mode). In a Force Arena match, you have three defensive towers and a home base on your half of the map. You must protect these structures while attacking your opponents towers and base. For each tower you take out, you get one victory point. If you have more points when time runs out or you destroy your opponent’s base, you win. To accomplish all of this, you have a hero character — like Luke Skywalker — that you guide around the map by tapping or double tapping to sprint. To attack, you just click on an enemy. Over time, your hero will build up an ultimate that they can use to quickly dispatch multiple enemies at once.
But you don’t have to rely on your hero alone. At all times you have three cards in your hand randomly drawn from a deck that you build and maintain outside of the head-to-head matches. These decks contain cards like Stormtroopers or Rocket Stormtroopers, and they follow a paper-rock-scissors guideline of advantages and disadvantages compared to other units. As you spawn in those units, they will attack the opposing forces or the defensive structures. Each unit is different, and some are more powerful than others and they also cost more energy to play. You start with 5 energy points out of a possible 10, and your energy automatically respawns one point every three seconds. This means you’ll want a variety of cards in your deck that serve different purposes and have different costs so that you’re never in a situation where you can’t respond to an attack.
If it sounds like I just described Clash Royale, that’s because Force Arena is almost identical in structure to that Supercell game. Even outside of the matches, the metagame elements are all borrowed from that popular mobile hit. You can upgrade your units by collecting more of their cards. It takes time to unwrap booster packs, and once you have five in your hand, you can no longer collect more. It even has a post-game emote session where you can send a message to your opponent where, instead of a smug king, you can send an emoji of Lando Calrissian winking.
But the hero characters are the notable difference here. In Clash Royale, you battle solely by spawning cards from your deck in the playfield. In Force Arena, that’s still important, but you also control a main character like Princess Leia or Bossk, the bounty hunter. As one of these characters, you move around the battlefield as if you were a hero from a multiplayer online arena battler (MOBA) like Dota 2 or League of Legends. The game is also 3D, unlike the 2D Clash Royale, so moving your character around the environment is how you move the camera.
Your hero choice will also determine what cards you can use. If you play as Luke Skywalker, you can use Rebel-aligned units like Chewbacca and Rebel Guards. If you choose Emperor Palpatine, you’ll have a separate pool of cards that you’re building your deck from. To start the game, I have the option to maintain four different deck configurations — two for the Rebellion and two for the Empire.
The introduction of hero characters makes Force Arena feel a bit more involved and complicated than Clash Royale. It won’t be as easy to learn as Clash Royale’s game. I also think I’m going to have a rough time learning the type of each unit in the paper-rock-scissors alignment because the 3D graphics can take a few more seconds to process than a big, colorful sprite.
But I am having fun with Force Arena. Clash Royale is a brilliant game that I had to stop playing because I was thinking more about spending money than enjoying the game. I would imagine this game might get to a similar point, but I’ll enjoy it until I reach that breaking point.
And hell … I’m always down for more Star Wars.