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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Game Review: Star Wars: Force Collection (CCTG)

I grew up in the Eighties.  I was born in 1981 and as far back as I can remember, I have always enjoyed science fiction.  My interests revolved mainly around movies TV, video games and comic books until after high school.  I then began getting really deep into novels and other written works.  

When I was young though, one franchise really struck home and was a major part of my life (and still is) , George Lucas' Star Wars saga.  I remember watching old VHS tapes recorded from one of the pay stations.  They were of terrible quality due to age and use, but I would watch A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi repeatedly.  I can remember watching Episodes III-IV in a big loop in one or two days.  I venture to guess that my parents thought there was something wrong with me.  Probably still do.  While I was completely enamored with the original trilogy, like many others, I was very disappointed with the prequel (Episodes I-III).  I still watch them today, but it just left me wanting.  Having seen the original masterpiece, the newer movies just didn't compare. 

If you are interested in Star Wars, I would suggest reading the follow up novels.  Here is a WIKI to a list of them.  I have read a fare share, but that was back in the late Nineties and early 2000's.  I am sure there is a shit-ton more I haven't read.  I highly recommend any of the books by Kevin J Andersen (Young Jedi Knights series among many others).   These novels span many of the time lines, from the Old Republic era, between the Clone Wars and Episode III and all sorts of other time lines.  Including the rebuilding of the New Republic after Episode IV.  You can also read books about the Mandelorians, Sith and other races.  Its worth putting in the time.  They are well written and stay within the canon of Lucas' original works.

There are many others that deserve a write up, but unfortunately, most of them are very old and are not supported on newer hardware.  I think you can still get X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter from Amazon.  If you do, make sure it has the expansion.  It was shit without it.  I will probably throw up a list of games that are worth checking out if you can even find them.  Maybe on good old games or something.

My new time-wasting addiction is Star Wars: Force Collection (SWFC).  It is a Collectible Card Trading Game (CCTG) by Konomi & Lucas Arts.  Like most electronic CCTG's, you are able to level up, improve and merge your cards to make a stronger card.  You then battle players and take on quests.  SWFC has an open player trading system that allows for easy trades.  I feel the draw rates are not very high compared to other CCTG's like Hellfire: Summoner, but they are adequate.   Cards are tiered by stars.  A 1* is the lowest/least valuable/most common card and 5* is the rare super-powered cards.  You don't use low tier cards as "feeder" cards, but you can sell them for credits or trade them.  There is an energy bar (EP) for questing and a points bar for PVP Battles (BP).  The EP bar can be increased by leveling up with experience points.  The BP bar stays at 10, but there are awards where you can increase that but you need to be top dog in rankings to get it.

You start the game helping out Leah on the ISD Devastator (the one that captures Tantive IV at the beginning of A New Hope), and no she isn't in her Jabba bikini - but there is a card where she is.  The game follows the entire Star Wars canon pretty well.  The artwork on the cards is mostly stills from the live action movies or concept art.  They aren't overly impressive.  Some might argue that it takes away from the game, but they do their job admirably.  Most other CCTGs that I play have fantastic artwork (Hellfire is one of them).  Han Solo cards feature Harrison Ford and the Luke Skywalker and Leah cards feature Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher respectively.  The game engine is very easy to use.  You can use credits to "enhance" your cards.  If you have two of the same cards, you can "evolve" them into one more powerful card.  There are rules you should follow to get the most bang for your buck.  

As with the majority of free to play games, there is a premium currency called crystals (in reference to Force Crystals that the Jedi & Sith use to make lightsabers).  Crystal rewards are not very frequent and when they are, they are not in large quantities.  They cost a lot of cash if you buy them in a Real Money Transaction.  You use a large percentage of crystals compared to what you get from using them.  They  should be viewed upon cautiously.  I have spent around $100+ on crystals (I love SW that much) and still don't have a 5* card.  The good thing is that you can get lucky and draw them without using cash.   There is also a one-time crystal reward for using a player code.  They get crystals as well.  If you do sign up for SWFC, please use my Player ID: 862-673-851

Every day you can get ally points (AP) which can be used to draw cards.  You also get one free AP draw per day.  You get more AP the more allies you have.  You also early AP for being used as a helper by other allies in their battles and you get AP for using allies (1 time/ally).  You also get AP by congratulating up to 10 people per day for pulling 5* cards (it's under the card tab).  

There is a forum that will help you get over the hump and also where you can silicate your trades: AppInvasion. You can get this game on Android and iOS.  It does require an Internet/data connection to play.






The Stats:
Developer: Konomi / Lucas Arts
Genre: Collectible Card Trading Game
Lore: Star Wars Universe
Platform(s): iOS 5.0+ (if on iPOD Touch, must be 3rd Gen or newer) & Android - Cross Platform
Internet/Data Connection: Yes, required
Cost: F2P, premium currency (crystals)
Space Required: around 125MB (Android)
Age: I would say E for everyone.  There isn't anything to racy about it.
Multiplayer: Yes, PVP indirect (pick target - against static deck)

My Review
Aesthetics / Visuals: 2.5/5 
 - Nothing really good or bad about this.  Its vanilla.  Stills and CG from movies.  

Gameplay: 4/5
 - On par with similar CCTG games on iOS and Android

Card Mechanics: 4/5
 - Simple to do.  Some strategy, but its not a difficult system to master once you know the basics

Accessibility: 3/5
 - good cards are a pain to get out of the box, trading is required to get an above average deck.  Could scare off the more casual players

Lore Usage: 4.5/5
- not just because I love Star Wars, but they use the lore correctly and the card descriptions are decent.  Lots of characters with a bunch of variant cards.  Luke Skywalker, Luke Death Star, Luke on Tauntaun, etc.

Retention: 3/5
- it does take a fair amount of dedication.  It is easy for the more casual player to not get as much as they could out of this game

Value: 2/5
 - if you don't want to use the RMT for crystals, this game could get frustrating, and the cost and required amount of crystals needed is skewed heavily in favor of the developer.  In fact, its too much so.  This coupled with the lack luster draws and low elite % could drive off all but the most faithful of players.

Verdict: 3.5/5
Games with popular settings like Star Wars tend to draw the faithful who will defend it to no end.  I honestly think it is a great game, but if it wasn't based on the SW universe, I probably would have moved on.  If you like CCTG, I would suggest games like HellFire: The Summoning.  If you have deep roots in the Star Wars Universe, I think you would get more value out of it.  My feeling is that if the crystal requirement and/or reward quantities were more balanced and the 3*-5* draws were a little better, this game would be a better value for the average player.