In seconds, my ragtag army of troops brought down an AT-AT and a handful of Storm Troopers. Of course, had I chosen the other side, I'd probably wanted to extinguish the Rebel base and stomp out Han Solo before he had a chance to recharge and attack again.
That's what makes Star Wars: Commander so interesting. The latest collaboration between Disney Interactive and Lucasfilm, which hit the iOS App Store on Thursday, presents two parallel games within one: You can choose weather you'd like to play for the Empire, or for the Rebel Alliance.
"The heart and soul of Star Wars is to show both sides," said Nathan Etter, Disney Interactive's Executive Producer and Vice President of Operations, adding that the game was an ambitious project and required lots of teamwork.
This free-to-play combat strategy game is set within the Star Wars universe and introduces a new storyline within the Galactic Civil War of Episodes IV through VI. Star Wars: Commander was built to be a fan-pleaser, a balance of familiar characters and new story elements.
"We wanted to create an authentic experience that delivers on what fans will expect, while introducing new characters and nuggets of their backstories," said Matt Fillbrandt, executive producer at Lucasfilm.
I'm deep into the first chapter of Star Wars: Commander, and there's already a lot to explore. The game currently has eight chapters and 85 sub-chapters, and will continue to grow.
I'll be honest here--combat games are really not my bag. However, Star Wars: Commander makes it easy for even the most inexperienced players to get started. The game begins on Tatooine with a walk-through, which explains your currency (alloys, credits, and crystals), how to build up your base, and how to lead an attack.
You then get to play a couple of missions based on what you've learned, and the game holds your hand and to remind you of each step you need to take. During these intro missions, you'll complete one task for the Empire and one for the Rebel Alliance, to give you a taste of the different tactics involved in each side.
Pick a side
After the intro sessions, you're asked to pick a side, and your choice affects how the rest of the game will play out. (My name is probably a dead giveaway, but I'm a Princess Leia fan through and through--naturally, I shied away from the Dark Side and joined the Rebels.) You can't switch sides once you've committed, and if you want to see what the game is like from the other side, you have to actually delete the game and reinstall it. Fillbrandt and Etter both said that down the line they'd consider allowing a secondary mode, so players can check out both parts of the game.
Each side has access to various materials, keeping things parallel to the Star Wars story. If you represent the Empire, you start out with access to more advanced vehicles and machinery, and if you chose to fight with the Rebels, you're joined by more notable characters like Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Chewbacca. Though it might seem unbalanced--the Empire has the might, while the Rebels are more on the scrappy side--this doesn't seem unfair during gameplay. Each side has its own strengths.
Stay on target
No matter which side you choose, you act as commander of your army, and you're responsible for deploying troops, building up your weapons, and strengthening your base. In between missions, you'll want to replenish supplies before you begin again, which brings us to the currency system.
Star Wars: Commander is a free-to-play game with in-app purchases, which are mostly there to speed things along. You can earn all three in-game currencies as you complete missions, but you use each currency for different tasks--mostly credits, which you use to upgrade and invest in your troops. Training new troops takes time--actual time--and you can't complete missions until training is complete. That means you'll often have to wait a couple of minutes until you can play again. However, paying a couple of crystals speeds that along, and you can play again instantly. You can, of course, spend real-world money to purchase more resources, but Star Wars: Commander gives you plenty of opportunity to earn currency on your own...if you have enough patience.
As for gameplay, you can either play through the game's storyline--the chapters and missions--or attack a rival. If you attack a rival, Star Wars: Commander pairs you up against a player on the opposite team, and you can battle each other in real time. (That's why it's a good idea to keep your own base protected and up to date.) Another cool feature is the ability to join a squad, which is a group of players on the same side. Squad members can link up within the game to chat, trade troops, and visit each other's bases.
Whatever side you pick, Star Wars: Commander has a lot to like. It's easy for beginners to pick up, has enough depth to keep experienced gamers immersed, and is rich in story detail. The goal was to provide something for fans of all parts of the Star Wars universe, and I think it delivers spectacularly.
Star Wars: Commander is available in the App Store for the iPhone and iPad. The developers plan to bring it to Android eventually, too.