While console players have been longing for another experience in a galaxy far, far away, mobile users are drowning in a glut of Star Wars games. While not every mobile game can be a winner, Star Wars: Force Arena shows serious promise.
Force Arena is the latest release from mobile veteran netmarble. Created in partnership with Lucasfilm and Disney it offers an incredibly satisfying mix of a lane based brawler like League of Legends with the deck building strategies of card games like Hearthstone. The gameplay is divided into two factions: the Rebellion and the Empire (shocking, right?). For now, Force Arena features player characters from Star Wars Rebels, Rogue One and the original trilogy.
As with most MOBAs, each map is divided into lanes, with each side of the lane ending in a turret protecting a shield generator. In 1v1 there are two lanes, and in the 2v2 mode there are three. As a mobile game the developers wisely implemented a 3 minute limit on matches, with the victor being declared based on who has eliminated the most turrets at the end of the match, or who has destroyed the shield generator. Every once in awhile you will have a tie on turrets, at which point the game enters sudden death for a minute and who ever destroys a turret first wins.
The best part about Force Arena is that it doesn’t have computer generated units mindlessly thrown into each lane a la Heroes of the Storm. Instead each leader can build a small 7 card deck to supplement their specific abilities. These cards can spawn units, use grenades or call in an X-Wing air strike, and how you build this deck is where Force Arena shines.
Even though the game has only been out less than a week, I have already seen various deck strategies played out in game, comprising low cost Stormtrooper rush decks, or equipment based decks that give your leader character more options like stun grenades or damage over time abilities. Building your small 7 card deck may seem like a simple task, but there is a lot of variety possible in the game based on how this tiny deck is built. Do I switch my regular troops out for snipers, who have longer range, but chance a swift defeat? Should I stack vehicles that do well against turrets, but fall to units easily?
Playing cards requires energy, and energy refills at 1 energy a second for the first two minutes of the match, and then doubles for the last minute. You can only have three cards in your hand at a time too, so you might want to sit on that X-Wing until you need to take out a large swath of encroaching forces. Because energy is capped at 10, it isn’t really beneficial to sit on cards for too long, and after using the cards they instantly get shuffled back into your deck. If your tank push fails, you will get another chance to play that card again soon.
In addition to the standard deck fair, each leader has special abilities to bring to the battlefield too. For example, the Sith Inquisitor from Rebels has a pretty devastating melee area of effect attack, and
Princess General Leia can summon additional rebel soldiers. In the 2v2 mode there is no doubling up on leaders, and each match is always Rebellion versus Empire, so don’t expect four Darth Vaders on the field at once. All in all there are 10 leaders on each side, and 30 additional cards for your deck, including a unique ally card that can only be paired with a specific leader, like Doctor Aphra from Kieron Gillen’s Darth Vader comic series.
Of course, as a free to play game Force Arena has monetization built into parts of it’s DNA. While each win will net you a standard booster, you can use cash (turned into crystals) to purchase additional boosters beyond what is awarded. Sadly, you can’t use crystals to purchase that exact card you need to make your deck perfect. Each card can be leveled up after you gather multiples of the same card, so that makes the blind packs a little less forgiving when you pull the same cards over and over. Leaders seem to be rare though, so leveling them up will take some time.
Currently I am only level 7 and only have 8 leaders unlocked, but I am curious to see how this game and its strategies evolve over time. It’s quick to play nature means it will be on my phone for quite some time, especially once more cards and leaders come out. There are no leaders or cards from the prequels, Clone Wars or Episode VII yet, so there is more content to be added for sure. Like other MOBAs, the end goal of destroying a main base is still there, but it is the unique deck based approach to gameplay that makes Force Arena so special.