Developer: Disney Interactive Publisher: Disney Interactive Platforms: iOS, Android
You’re not imaging things. There already was a mobile card battle game based on Star Wars, and it didn’t come out that long ago. It was called Star Wars: Force Collection, and it wasn’t that bad. But even though there wasn’t a real pressing need for Star Wars: Assault Team, its arrival is still welcome, because it improves upon Force Collection in just about every way.
The game gets off to a good start by giving you Han Solo as your first character, teaching you the basics while helping everyone’s favorite scoundrel free Chewbacca and escape an Imperial Star Destroyer. Events unfold from a first-person perspective, with occasional bursts of dialogue and various things you need to tap on to advance the narrative.
You’ll have to fight multiple battles to beat each level, but you won’t mind because the combat is so much better than in other similar games. Instead of just watching fights play out between cards, you actually step in and control the actions of the characters whose cards are in your squad in turn-based scraps versus one or more enemies. Each character has a basic attack plus a special ability that needs multiple turns to recharge after use.
It’s a pretty basic set-up, but there’s a surprising amount of strategy because the game randomizes which character acts first, and you know the order in which everyone will act. That places a lot of importance on figuring out where you should focus your attacks and abilities, and the difficulty is sufficiently high that you can’t just blaze your way without thinking — especially when playing through the levels the second or third time, when both the challenge and the rewards increase.
Speaking of rewards, those mostly come in the form of cards that can be used to either train or promote character cards with the correct affinity. For example, Solo has both Smuggler and Weapon affinities, so either type can be sacrificed to help him level up (for the cost of some of the game’s regular currency). Promotion items bump up characters from one tier to the next once you’ve promoted them all the way to level 10; you’ll need to either find several of the correct items or spend Gems, the game’s premium currency, to skip that step. Experience points help level up your personal profile, granting you extra character or item card slots in your inventory.
There doesn’t seem to be a lack of content, as there are multiple quest lines on different planets unlocked as you go, along with special missions that are useful for hunting down specific training or promotion items. There’s also a PvP arena you can access after your profile reaches rank 3, which isn’t true heads-up play but does allow you to pit your squad against other human-constructed teams. Both solo missions and PvP battles draw from the same pool of energy, which isn’t implemented in this game in nearly as annoying a fashion as in so many others.
Part of that is because you can earn Gems by ranking up or as random drops. They’re also available for purchase, obviously, but as far as monetization schemes go, the one in Star Wars: Assault Team is as fair as you’ll find, and it’s extremely passive about hitting you up for purchases. You can also use Gems to purchase crates that include one hero card and two items, and while the best crates are only sold for premium currency, the promotion system makes this easier to swallow. It really is possible to get a Tier 5 Han Solo just by playing a lot, and that’s simply not true of many other mobile card battle games.
The other very noticeable thing this game has going for it is unusually high production values for its genre. Enemy characters are incredibly well rendered and animated — the Stormtroopers look like they stepped right out of a Star Wars movie on a retina or other true HD display — and the card art is nice even though the pictures are a bit small. The sound effects are ones we all know by heart, and the music is on point as well.
Put simply, Force Collection was good, but Assault Team is better. It’s still not for everyone because hardcore gamers are going to ask for more from the gameplay, but for people who are big Star Wars fans and looking for something more casual to play on the go, this is as good as it gets right now. I’d say the Force is with it, but that’s been done about a billion times before. Let’s just say I haven’t got a bad feeling about this game. That’s slightly less clichéd, right?
+ Non-automated battles require strategy
+ Gorgeous character models and animation
+ Plenty of content, including special missions and PvP arena
+ Fair F2P monetization compared to many other games
- Still relies on some standard F2P trappings