Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures Impressions
Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures is a free-to-play browser-based MMO based off the popular Star Wars: The Clone Wars cartoon series. The game launched today, and I decided to check it out. Is this microtransaction-heavy minigame-fest going to tide Star Wars fanatics over until BioWare's The Old Republic launches? Or is it a travesty to the Star Wars franchise?
Well, neither really.
The most important thing to know before you try Clone Wars Adventures is that, like I mentioned above, the game is at its heart a Star Wars-themed minigame collection. That's not necessarily a bad thing; the minigames here are pretty and interesting, and several are of particularly high quality. But this isn't your average MMO. Don't go in expecting to cut down hordes of enemies, level up, and improve your gear.
You can buy new weapons, armor, and other accessories, but as far as I've been able to discern, it is 100 percent cosmetic. It's to help you look like a bad-ass as you walk around the lobby areas between minigames. New gear (as well as new emoticons and other bonuses) can be purchased in two ways: credits earned by playing the various mini-games or Station Cash, Sony Online Entertainment's special form of currency that will cost you real money to purchase.
Nearly twenty different mini-games are available as of the game's launch. Of this initial batch, six are only for "Jedi Members."
Members? Oh, yes, although this is technically a free-to-play game, there are subscription options available. To unlock access to every game and every piece of gear, players will need to pony up a minimum of $5.99 for a month-long Jedi membership. If you're really interested, $49.99 will buy a lifetime membership.
Personally, I'm not really sold on paying for this one, so I'm just going to pass on impressions for some of the free minigames. Keep in mind, though, that even the free games have higher difficulties or later levels closed off to non-paying members. Basically, SOE would really appreciate if you actually give them some money at some point. I'll note what's unavailable to free players in my write-ups.
This is a straight-up, no-movement shooter that has you taking down droid holograms. Blue droids drop in one hit, while purple droids require two unless you hit them directly on the head (which counts as a critical hit and raises your score multiplier). Only the Easy difficulty option is available for non-paying members, but it features ten increasingly complicated rounds.
Dramatic lightsaber battles are a primary reason for any Star Wars game to exist, and Clone Wars Adventures doesn't disappoint. Except that it kind of does. The match-ups here are performed through a Simon Says-esque button-matching mini-game that requires no skill beyond knowing where the arrow buttons on your keyboard are placed. Furthermore, since you're just dueling with other Jedi, don't expect fights to get too crazy or deadly. On the positive side, Lightsaber Duel is one of the only mini-games at launch that has full multiplayer versus other live players, and that mode is even open to non-subscribers.
Hey, it's a tower defense game! From the bit I played of Republic Defender, this seems like a totally capable tower defense clone. Then again, only four of the sixteen levels are playable for free; I'm sure you can find some excellent Flash tower defense games with just as many or more free levels elsewhere.
Speeder Bike Racing
If nothing else, Speeder Bike Racing shows off the incredible technology behind Clone Wars Adventures. It's a rather nice-looking, relatively fast-paced racing game that's loading and running completely out of a browser, but I didn't experience any lag or technical problems at all. Since it's controlled with just the arrow buttons on the keyboard, it's far from the most precise racing you'll ever do, but it's also far from terrible. Unfortunately, the content is a bit lacking here, probably due to this being one of the most resource-intensive games in Clone Wars Adventures. There are only two races open for non-subscribers, with a total of six for Jedi willing to pay.
This on-rails space shooter is the most impressive of the bunch. Enemies flood the screen, objectives changes as you progress, and although the mechanics are simple, they're also satisfying. The mouse-based ship and aiming controls can lead to weird problems with you crashing into other ships, but this mode is still the best Clone Wars Adventures has to offer. Missions are based off events from the cartoon series, though only four of twelve are available unless you're a subscriber.
The rest of the mini-games currently active in Clone Wars Adventures run the gamut of free-to-play mainstays. Droid Programming is a colored block-matching affair similar to Bejeweled. Force Perception is a "find the difference between these two pictures" challenge along the lines of something you'd find in Highlights for Children. Star Typer (pictured above) tests your keyboarding skills as a way of taking down incoming enemy fighters.
These are all fine distractions, but they don't feel nearly as fleshed out or interesting as the handful of minigames I mentioned on the first page. Even worse, they don't get you as many credits, so it's unlikely these will feel worth the time they take to load up.
Your reaction to Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures is largely going to depend on what you're looking for from the game. If you want a massive, in-depth MMO with a fully-realized world and community, don't bother. SOE clearly isn't interested in providing that, and I'm sure BioWare will have it covered next year with The Old Republic.
As a tech demo, though, I found some aspects of Clone Wars Adventures to be totally incredible. The speed and visual quality of the Speeder Bike Racing and Starfighter games are astounding given the platform.
One thing Clone Wars Adventures deserves credit for on the gameplay front is the balanced pace at which credits are gained. After messing around for just a few hours, I found myself with 3,500 credits, which is more than enough for some interesting purchases. Since many of the things you can buy require Station Cash or are closed off to non-subscribers, it's kind of a moot point, but if you stick with the meatier mini-games, you'll earn money pretty quickly.
Since it's based off the cartoon, it should come as no surprise that Clone Wars Adventures is targeted at the younger generation of Star Wars fans. Franchise veterans aren't going to find a lot of lore to love here. If you can handle the cartoon's lighter spin on things without freaking out, it may be worth wasting a couple of hours to enjoy the free Starfighter levels or take down a couple of rival Jedi in Lightsaber Duels. Beyond that, the wait for the Star Wars MMO of our dreams continues. (No, Galaxies doesn't count. At all.)