Star Wars: Force Collection Review
by Jason Ward
In Star Wars: Force Collection, players collect and upgrade their digital character cards to enhance their battle formations. Once a solid collection of cards is amassed, the player can quest or take their army against other players on the battlefield. But things are not that simple, first each player must decide if they are going to serve the light side of the Force and become a Jedi, or the dark side of the Force and serve the evil Sith. When winning battles, players can loot blueprints to construct deadly vehicles found in the Star Wars universe to enhance their lethal armies.
Star Wars: Force Collection is Konami’s digital customizable card game utilizing the franchise’s insanely large cast of characters, giving players a seemingly unending amount of cards to play and collect. For nearly twenty years, Star Wars has had a good track record with CCGs, and while this is not their first digital representation of a Star Wars CCG, it is the first to hit iOS/Android devices and utilize a free to play model.
The results of the free to play model have been admittedly mixed. On one hand, the game does not have to cost a dime to play. On the other hand, to compete in top-tier of the game, it will require spending money. Upon the first day of release, it did not matter so much that no money had been spent to literally “stack the deck” in my favor. On the second day, there were tons of “five star” cards which I could not beat. However, by the first weekend of release, my consistent playing had given me a balanced deck and newer players could not beat me.
In order to get cards, you need to play daily at first. Each day you are given a free draw from a deck which has a chance to contain a rare and powerful card. After your free daily draw has been used, you can use Crystals or Ally Points. Ally Points can be obtained by adding allies via the social system and messaging.
The thinking behind the ally list is bizarre — if not frustrating and tedious. Adding allies gives you AP, which allows you to acquire more cards. As you level and progress you are able to add more allies. You cannot add an ally via their name or by a player code. Instead, they have to be online when you are.
This is where the social system gets weird. Allies are arranged by “Bond Strength,” “Recently Added,” “Previously Added,” and “Play Length.” You send them a prewritten message of “May the Force be with you” and your “Alliance Gauge” percentage goes up. When the gauge is full, a mystery box is sent to the player’s inbox and they either get free money to level up a card, Crystals to buy special cards, a special card, or more often than not, something arbitrary.
It can be tedious at level 21 to scan through a list of 20 players and send them a prewritten message. If one does not partake in this practice, their deck will suffer and they will lack funds, special cards and needed access to purchasing better cards. Even stranger is the fact the game has a trading feature which opens up at level 20, however both players must be level 20, and you must be allies with a player for two weeks before you can trade with them. It is completely separate from the social system. The only way to build a social system in a game like this would be to base it on trading. Both systems feel half baked and it is a puzzle as to why.
After playing the game for a week, the game system is still somewhat confusing on many levels. It does not make very much sense to have players click on the News tab, click on “player updates,” see their item and then have to go to the game’s Inbox to get the item. Several times, I assume I had the item, only to realize it was sitting in the Inbox. There is an added step in the process which offers no further immersion to the game and just adds tedium to one of the most exciting elements of the game — getting items.
The interface of the game is horribly ugly. It looks, feels, and even sounds like a Star Wars game from the late nineties. When playing on an iPhone, it is not as noticeable, but when playing on an iPad it is hard to look past. It can also be really annoying that tilting the iPad into landscape mode, the game still remains in portrait mode. When perusing cards, my hand became tired and it would have been nice to hold the tablet in a different way, but that is not an option here. It is not exactly game breaking, but it does contribute to a feeling of having had enough, a bit prematurely than might have otherwise been the case.
The Quest mode is important. You start on the desert world of Tatooine and a background image from one of the five Star Wars films, featuring the sand planet will appear. Stormtroopers then pop up — these are floating cutouts of Stormtroopers from the films — but every now and then, an overweight trooper with a non-movie quality costume will pop up. It was noticeable when it would happen, and a friend showed it to me too, so I know I was not the only one to see this.
The enemies zoom onto the background and you click-and-shoot each one. That sounds fun for a tablet based game or a phone game, right? Not so much. There is literally no time limit to click all the troopers. You can wait there all day and then tap and kill them. They never fight back. There are no stakes.
So why quest at all if the mechanics are so clearly half-baked? Because that is how you level. When you level, you get two points to put towards EP, allowing you to grow that pool and quest for longer — god knows why you would want to — or the most important thing, it allows you to increase your Cost number. When actually playing the Battle Mode, the max cost allows you to choose your best cards to put into your battle formation (higher levels and better quality cards, cost more to place on the board). This is where the actual customizable card game aspect comes into play. If you should have an Obi-Wan card that takes eleven “cost” you need to have a large cost pool in order to have that card on your battlefield, instead of using a bunch of lesser quality cards. My total cost right now at level 21 is 98, so I can play my Kenobi which costs 11, and my Captain Panaka card which costs 10, amounting to 21 points out of my total pool of 98. So questing is important because you can grow that pool. But it does not make questing fun.
The Battle Mode is actually a lot of fun and is what makes the game worth playing. You can attack opponents, customize your card layout on the battlefield and if you win, in the “Loot Pieces” mode you can steal opponents ship parts and build T-16 Skyhopper space ships and AT-ST walkers which shoot from very far on the board and give players a huge advantage in Battle Mode.
It is in Battle Mode that the game’s true charm is revealed. For instance, in my version of my deck, Han Solo and Princess Leia where being played. Before each round, the cards would bicker using their famous lines from the film. Or on the flip side, I had Watto and my enemy had Qui-Gon Jinn, when we met on the battlefield, our cards recited their movie dialog via text on the screen. For a Star Wars fan, this feature was endearing. It did become tedious eventually at seeing the same lines over and over, with no option to turn off the exchanges. Still, it is respectable that Konami attempted to delve into Star Wars lore instead of just ignoring it.
Questing levels your characters, but it can be irrelevant in Battle Mode. For instance, I was defeated by several lower level characters, in a row at one point. So I went after a really low level player, the Death Star popped up on the screen and blew up my planet for picking on the weak. It was funny and came out of nowhere, making me second guess going after a new player. That is one consequence of being higher level than other players, but for the most part it does not matter. One player can play for three or four days and another player can play for fifteen minutes, drop a few dollars and be significantly more powerful.
The game is free, or at least it can be. I spent no money on it. I had fun. I had tedium and frustration as well. As a Star Wars fan, it connected on several levels. A part of me just liked looking at the images on the cards. The music sourced from the film is also attractive and charming to a fan. But the nonsensical implementation of the questing, social system, and cumbersome interface make the game of questionable quality.
If you do not like digital games that ask you to spend money to achieve, the game will not be for you. If you appreciate the fact that the game is free, a fairly fun time waster, better than anything you will play on Facebook, the game has some merit. Most of all the game has potential. It is not there yet, but since it costs nothing to play, the risk is low and most players will know after an hour or so if it is a game they intend to keep on their tablet or phone. I am wary of the game but willing to wait and see how things play out in the next few updates.
The truth is the real worth of the game will not be known until players have more complex decks and balance between rare cards can be accessed. We still do not know how “rare” a rare card is. We can only hope they will add depth to the questing system and they can solidify the social system and give trading some worth and incentive beyond just getting cards you need. The truth is under the broken social system, trading is difficult, if not impossible to initiate. If updates come, it might be worth checking out. If no updates arrive, this game might be a fringe game for Star Wars fans to experience during the current Star Wars game dry spell we are in before the new film series begins.