The year 1995 was good for collectible card gaming fans. Magic: The Gathering was still going strong, but a new game came out that year: the Star Wars collectible card game. Almost overnight, thousands of players were able to battle their friends with Light or Dark side decks, using different iterations of their favorite characters and playing in countless locations from the movies. It was some of the most fun I’ve ever had and helped to create friendships that lasted for years.
Now Konami games is trying to bring some of that Star Wars card gaming magic to iOS with Star Wars Force Collection. And let me just say that if you had a bad feeling about this when you first heard about it, you should go with that feeling.
Star Wars Force Collection starts out promising enough. It features that iconic John Williams score, there’s lots of bright flashy lights to get you excited, the idea of collecting cards featuring the humongous Star Wars roster is almost too good to pass up, and just the idea of playing a Star Wars based card game on your iPhone or iPad is reason enough to crack a smile. But once you start playing the game, all of that goodwill and hope is washed away in a matter of minutes.
You start out by picking either the Light Side or Dark Side, then you’re randomly given a card (I got Yoda) to get you started. After a brief cut-scene you venture out on your quest, and this is where the whole house of cards comes crumbling down.
Quests are long and tedious, and involve next to no actual gameplay to speak of. You travel to different areas segmented into levels, with every level looking exactly the same as the one before it. The battles consist of identical enemies popping up on screen, you tapping on them to swing your lightsaber, and them disappearing. After you do this a few times (and after you wait for 10 to 20 seconds in the completely blank loading screen), you move on to next level and do it all over again.
Combat is occasionally broken up by tactical strategic battles that take place on a grid, with whatever cards you have in your arsenal lined up on the bottom and your enemies on top. You hit the Start button and then watch as the two forces duke it out. There is very little strategy involved here. Save for you deciding the formation of your cards if you want, you don’t do anything but watch the battle unfold– and you don’t even have to do that, because there’s a convenient Skip button at the top. The game just figures it out for you and lets you know the results.
There are also boss battles scattered throughout, but they’re equally pointless as all you do is wait for a power meter to fill up and then tap on the screen to strike.
One of the main reasons the quest levels are such a chore to wade through, besides that there are so many of them, is that you run out of EP points very, very quickly. These points are what allow you to actually fight your enemies, and every swing of the lightsaber uses them up. And as you level up, you actually use more EP for doing the same things you were doing at the lower levels. When you run out you have two choices: you can either wait for your meter to refill, which can be as long as nearly an hour, or you can buy Force Crystals to completely refill your meter. You do gain crystals as you play the game, but you don’t collect nearly enough to keep up with the constant drain of energy you’ll experience. So your only option is to keep buying crystals as you’ll burn through these at a pretty prodigious rate.
I did some rough math and at level 13, and without paying for anything, I spent approximately 46 minutes waiting for every 10 minutes of actual gameplay. That’s not a good ratio however you want to look at it. And this is without adding in the time spent in the dark limbo of the loading screens. Ten to 20 seconds might not seem like a lot, but when you hit a loading screen for everything you do in the game, including just going between menu screens, it starts to add up.
Force Crystals are also used to unlock the more rare cards in the game, so you have to budget them for that as well. And yes, you do unlock cards by just playing, but it takes so long and is so random that anticipation quickly turns into frustration.
The game makes some crude attempts at social interaction by allowing you to bring in allies to help you with your fight, sort of like how Bloodmasque does, but there’s pretty much no reason to do this. I had no problems getting through the normal battles (including the formation and boss battles) by myself. There are going to be special events, like the current “Attack on the Death Star” event that’s going on, where allies are used to fight against the Raid bosses, but other than that the social aspect is an afterthought at best. After spending several minutes searching for a way to invite friends, I gave up. It’s a nice try at a social system, but it largely misses the mark. It’s all a bit of a mess.
Force Collection also has some of the worst “graphics” I’ve seen in a videogame. The enemies and backgrounds are nothing more than crude screen captures from the movies, and they all look absolutely atrocious. Most of them are fuzzy and pixelated, almost out of focus, and on some of the enemies I swear I could see the matte lines from a lazy attempt to crop the image out. The backgrounds are especially awful looking.
Star Wars Force Collection is a crude, shameless attempt to get to your wallet. It preys on nostalgia to get by, and nothing else. It reminds me of the kind of game that would be sitting on a table in a dive-bar that you would use to as a distraction while you wait for your next shot. The gameplay is essentially nonexistent, the social structure is largely useless, and the paywalls are offensive. Star Wars fans deserve better than this.