Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think some new Star Wars talkie comes out this week in theaters. The Force Awakens or something like that. Personally, I’m excited for it, as I love all things space opera, but am going to hold back and wait until the crowds and madness fade, though hopefully I can remain relatively spoiler-free during those dark, lonely days. Perhaps I’ll fill that void with my massive collection of Star Wars-related videogames, of which I actually don’t have many. There’s Star Wars: Tiny Death Star on my phone, which is stellar, but mostly an elevator simulator, LEGO Star Wars, and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, which I’ve played the opening tutorial bits twice and never gone any further than that.
Well, let’s see what Star Wars: Commander is all about. It’s from Disney Interactive and available on a bunch of different devices. For this impressions piece, I’m hanging out with my boys Han Solo and Chewbacca on my ASUS laptop that now rocks Windows 10. In hindsight, this is not the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’ll get to why in just a bit. It’s a free-to-play strategy game in the slight veins of Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 and Age of Empires, a genre I’ve had some reservations over for years, but you’ll notice I didn’t say “real-time” there, as you’ll do a whole lot more waiting around if you wanted to play it just like those games.
Here’s the gist, story-wise. In Star Wars: Commander, you must first to decide to fight for the Rebellion or Empire, train your troops, build up a bunch of units and vehicles, defend your base, and complete story-tinted missions. As you do this, you’ll level up your heroes and vehicles, battle on different worlds, and team up with friends to take on larger, more difficult scenarios. For what it’s worth, I went with the good guys, which most certainly means I’m on Darth Vader’s naughty list this year for Christmas. I can’t help rooting for the good-natured guys and girls in this universe that don’t want to see entire planets vaporized. I’ve also killed a bunch of womp rats on Tatooine already.
Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, which is from around an hour or so with the game, Star Wars: Commander is not great. It might be good, but probably falls more around the middling category. It holds your hand for far too long in the beginning, is too corny with its ads for rating the app and buying extra goodies with hard-earned cash, and doesn’t seem all that engaging from the get-go. This is certainly not helped by the fact that I’m playing it on a laptop, when it is clearly better suited for mobile, where one can easily check in on their base, tap the things that need tapping, and close out to get back to dreary life tasks, like blocking people on Facebook you know are foaming at the mouth to reveal Mark Hamill’s role in Episode VII.
Immediately after the game stopped holding my hand and actually allowed me to click around and spend coins/ore as I pleased, I began to explore the user interface. There’s a bunch of icons, and one should ideally know what each does before getting into the thick of things. The second icon I clicked on, which brought up a menu for purchasing resources with my precious diamond currency, nearly froze the game. I say nearly because I could continue to click the “back” and “X” buttons, but they didn’t do anything. I didn’t try actually buying any resources, though the cynical side of me suspects those buttons would have worked just fine. Eventually, I just tabbed out and shut the whole thing down, but I’m forever tainted by this experience, afraid to even open up the settings menu.
I’ll probably check in on Star Wars: Commander a few more times this week, though I don’t expect to stick with it. I was surprised by just how little you can actually do while building your base and prepping for the next mission, and so maybe I need to give Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic a third chance and start exploring the galaxy, no cooldown timer needed. Also, if you’re checking out Star Wars: The Force Awakens this week, enjoy–but keep the details to yourself. Sincerely, everyone not seeing it immediately.