I don’t often write about mobile games, but I make exceptions here and there. Given the dearth of new Star Wars and Marvel titles in the console/PC space, I do tend to keep an eye on games featuring either of these IPs in the mobile space. I’m a starved fanboy, what can I say? Unfortunately, most mobile games lack depth or simply play themselves, which just isn’t something I find compelling, so I end up dismissing them out of hand.
But then there’s Star Wars: Force Arena. Currently in international soft launch, Netmarble’s Star Wars: Force Arena is a Star Wars take on the popular real-time mobile multiplayer game, Clash Royale with a bit of a twist. Like Supercell’s Clash of Clans before it, Clash Royale is one of many mobile games that, again, basically plays itself. Force Arena, however, gives you a leader character to control, which is enough of a wrinkle to make the entire thing a whole lot more engaging.
Each leader character has a unique passive trait and a single special ability. For example, Boba Fett’s trait gives him 12% more damage when attacking other enemy leaders. He can also fly over obstacles with his jetpack and will unleash a torrent of flame from his flamethrower after a couple of consecutive shots. His special ability is Missile Strike, which fires off a single missile that deals massive area of effect damage. Leaders also have “unique” cards, which are cards that can only be used in decks with their respective leaders. Obi-Wan can only roll with Luke Skywalker, Kanan Jarrus with Ezra Bridge, the Slave I with Boba Fett, and so on. These special units or call ins (in Slave I’s case) go a long way to add flavor to your particular leader and many of them are particularly impactful in their own right. It’s awesome seeing Emperor Palpatine on the field with his Imperial Royal Guard units, master and apprentice in Kanan and Ezra, or even Bossk with IG-88.
Force Arena is also a 3D game, which is another way it sets itself apart from Clash Royale. You tap or double tap the screen to move (or sprint) your leader around the map. There’s also a minimap you can use to pan around. The game features a 2v2 mode, which is something Clash Royale lacks, and it changes up the dynamic up a little bit. From what I can tell by watching some of the higher ranked players, 2v2s tend to focus on a lead and a backup character. If you’re playing Luke Skywalker and you end up on a team with Princess Leia, you’re going to want Luke leading the charge, since he’s a far more capable offense character, while Leia hangs back and supports you by defending the lanes while you press on the attack.
Other than what we’ve covered so far, Force Arena is identical to Clash Royale. You build decks of units that cost varying amounts of energy (accumulated over time in each match) to play, and these units follow a rock-paper-scissors sort of balance against one another. The goal is to overcome your enemy’s defenses and take out their base (or score more points in the time limit). Proper in-match planning of resource use and out of match deck building are what set players apart in Clash Royale. So if you have a ton of experience in that game, you’ll come into things here with a leg up on the competition. But don’t neglect your leader units, as skillful use of these characters is just as critical in a match of Force Arena.
Out of match progression works the same as Clash Royale as well. You open up packs to gain new cards and level up existing cards by acquiring enough duplicates. Packs also take a certain amount of time to open and this time can be reduced by purchasing a sort of VIP status called a Premium Booster. This reduces the pack unlock times by 50% and allows you to store an additional pack.
If you weren’t interested in Clash Royale before and the notion of controlling a single lead unit isn’t enough to push you over, Force Arena probably won’t dig its hooks into you. But for me, real time PvP, even if it is on mobile, with Star Wars characters and something to actually control may be just what I’m looking for. First impressions have been positive, but it remains to be seen if I’ll run into any sort of paywall or other similarly discouraging monetization issues. For now, I’ll give Netmarble the benefit of the doubt, as the studio was fairly generous in their monetization of Marvel Future Fight.
Aside from the gameplay, one aspect of Force Arena that I greatly appreciate is the inclusion of the new canon characters who have appeared in other Star Wars media. We’ve already noted the inclusion of Ezra and Kanan from the Star Wars: Rebels TV show, but it’s also awesome to see Star Wars comic book characters such as Doctor Aphra (Darth Vader, Doctor Aphra) and Evaan Verlaine (Leia). The inclusion of these characters in newer games (or even the films) helps to really solidify that these peripheral forms of Star Wars media are canon and makes them worth reading (or watching) to fully appreciate the increasing breadth of the Star Wars mythos.
No word on when Star Wars: Force Arena launches worldwide just yet, but you can pre-register on Android or iOS at the game’s official website.