Star Wars: Uprising may not contain the droids you’re looking for if you want a deep, desktop-style massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
But it does offer a near-perfect mobile experience for quick play on the go and remains true to the Star Wars movie universe — so much so that it’s entrusted with new pieces of the canon.
Star Wars: Uprising is available now, free to play (with in-game purchases), from Kabam and LucasFilm Ltd. on iOS and Android. I tested it on a Samsung Galaxy S6 with Android “Lollipop” version 5.1.1. Having the Samsung’s larger screen likely made it a little easier to hit the right spots for controls.
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What you’ll like
That Star Wars feeling
SWU doesn’t hold any ambitions of being a great big “Star Wars Game,” but it does a really nice job of conveying the feel of the universe on a small scale. The characters you chat with look and talk like authentic members of the films’ casts, and the gear you obtain has a definite Star Wars aesthetic.
You’ll be sent on a variety of missions to help those characters, and while all of them seem to boil down to “shoot everyone before you run out of health,” the reasons you’re given for being there are different enough to keep you entertained for the few minutes it takes to clear a quest.
The well-written story takes place during the 30 years after the original trilogy, but before December’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens film.
MMORPG elements that hold up on the small screen
Running an MMORPG on a mobile platform means giving up some of the depth, but SWU manages to include as much customization as some desktop games. You’ll choose your race and sex, customize your character in a few basic ways, pick from abilities for sale with points your earn from leveling up, choose gear and weapons that will alter your gameplay (melee versus ranged, for example), and upgrade gear and your own abilities to become more powerful.
The choices you’re offered depend on the class and gear you choose. SWU doesn’t offer too many hard-to-make choices, but its crafting systems still pop up with more detail than you’d expect for a mobile title.
You can level up a weapon or piece of armor with parts you find or obtain by breaking down items you don’t need. Once you’ve maxed out a piece, you can upgrade it with more expensive parts to begin leveling it up again.
You and your friends can adventure together in SWU, and the game’s simple run-and-gun missions lend themselves to characters dropping in or out as you have someone around to play with. You can also choose new people online to cooperate with, though sometimes finding people at the appropriate level to tackle your missions can be a challenge.
Sector battles open up new content for everyone, but completing them felt fairly random. They begin when the battle-readiness gauge fills up for a planet (see image below), which is driven by all the players completing assault missions there. Once underway, sector battles are won by players completing battle missions. The outcomes depend on so many people that it’s hard to feel like you make much of a difference.
I mostly ended up gaming alone, with other players providing flavor in chat channels and public gathering spaces, which was fine with me.
Enlist the help of your crew
In a mechanic instantly familiar to anyone who’s played the Star Wars: The Old Republic crew system or a World of Warcraft garrison, SWU allows you to collect followers — your crew — and send them out on missions while you’re taking care of business elsewhere (or in real life.) They’ll tackle enemies, gather materials, and do other simple quests, bringing back rewards for the next time you return to the game or their mission screen.
It’s a clever mechanic to reward you each time you play, but it’s also a fun bonus mode for the game. Assembling crew members and the gear they obtain adds an interesting collection aspect to the title.
I can’t speak for the iOS version, but Uprising behaved perfectly on my Android phone. Graphics and action in the game’s top-down, isometric view drew crisp and clear with no stuttering, controls activated sensitively and generally behaved themselves at all times, and the game never crashed, froze, or otherwise caused technical issues.
Leave it for too long and it’ll dump you back at a save point when you return, but each mission is short enough that you’re likely not going to care much.
What you won’t like
Difficulty? What difficulty?
Star Wars: Uprising is clearly in it for the fun. I played the hardest missions available at each stage, though I didn’t cap out my character’s level during the review. (Quests to raise experience are limited, and you’ll run out after a few hours of gameplay a day, with no way to buy more.) Still, I didn’t run into a single contest that wasn’t easy to complete with a tiny bit of run-and-gun strategy.
As long as you’re willing to break your enemies’ line of sight and use power-ups judiciously, you shouldn’t have any problems beating anything the game throws at you. Considering the platform, that’s fine with me; if this were a desktop game, I’d be deeply disappointed, but on the phone, I’m in it to clear a level before my next appointment.
Controls are sometimes odd
This game was designed for mobile, so the controls are simple (touch to move, double-tap to roll, tap on a target to fire on it, talk with it, or pick it up, etc.). But some choices were just odd. One of the special moves requires a tap and drag … away from the target you’re trying to hit. That’s just weird. Another requires tapping on the character, which at least for me, was easy to accidentally turn into a double-tap (roll) or tap-drag (special).
Controls behaved as expected when I triggered them, but that tap-and-drag special troubled me throughout my gameplay. I always wanted to drag toward what I was hitting, not away.
Steady, but not dramatic, gameplay
Kabam clearly designed SWU to be played in bits and pieces. Each mission offers a bite-sized morsel of mostly shooting, interspersed with some basic dialogue from the questgivers in town. Most of that dialogue is in print; only a few words are voice acted from each character, giving a sense of their mood at the time. Given that you’re playing on your phone, you probably wouldn’t want much more chatter.
The settings and missions, while individually rewarding, can be a little repetitive. And overall, you’re not going to find those terrific high points that you would in a desktop RPG; it’s just too difficult to build drama when your audience is likely playing in three-minute spurts.
OK, enough with the reminders, already
This game really wants you to keep playing. Notifications will continuously ping you throughout the day if you don’t turn them off, reminding you of crew missions that complete or become available, daily sector battles and outcomes, and other reasons why you might want to return. “The sector is in a shambles without you,” the game plaintively informed me after a day without play.
A little is amusing, but after a while, the constant pings just get annoying. Additional in-game purchase reminders included occasional pop-ups and a tiny sparkly icon on screen outside of missions.
My review score is based entirely on this game as a truly phone-friendly, MMORPG-style phone app. If you want an in-depth gaming experience, this isn’t the title for you. But if you’re looking for a quick taste of the Star Wars universe on the small screen, this is an easy to play, surprisingly engaging little game.
Star Wars: Uprising is available now from Kabam for iOS and Android as a free-to-play title with in-game purchases.
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