The pitch for Star Wars: Commander must have been simple—it’s Clash of Clans set in the Star Wars universe.
And, to be fair, why not? Clash of Clans has been a cash cow for Supercell, generating more than half a million dollars a day in revenues from in-app purchases, leading the developer to close to a billion dollars of revenue in the last financial year.
In adding Star Wars to the mix, Disney cannot possibly lose.
It’s a completely logical fit, too. Those who were not especially engaged with the fantasy world of Clans will lap up the chance to build an army of stormtroopers in AT-ATs, or rebels in X-Wings., and to fight against sand people and Jabba the Hut, and so many other familiar faces from the original trilogy.
The game launched on iOS in August, and has now made its timely arrival on Android.
Clash of Clans strikes back
Star Wars: Commander gives you the chance to pick sides—rebel alliance or the Empire—and the single player mode tells a vaguely Star Warsy story as you progress. Beyond that, it barely deviates from the Clans template.
The gameplay mechanics are essentially identical. Instead of the elixir, coins and gems of Clans, you get alloy, credit and crystals. You build barracks and research labs, and protect them with walls and turrets. You amass an army to progress through the single player mode, or to attack and loot other players. You can join a squad.
Naturally, building stuff takes time, and the higher the level each item is at the longer it takes to build. It’s not long before upgrading your HQ or various defences takes a day, two days, four days, unless you use your crystals to speed up the process.
And crystals are scarce, unless you choose to buy them.
No New Hope
The in-app purchase model is every bit as cynical as that seen in Clash of Clans. More, in fact, since the most expensive purchases are listed first, and you have to scroll to find the cheaper ones. Not that there are any that are especially cheap—IAPs in Commander range from £3.05 to £61.17 (up to $99). The highest figure is about 20% more than you’ll pay for a game like Destiny on the PS4, and doesn’t even unlock everything.
It wouldn’t be so objectionable if it were at least possible to play without paying, but it isn’t. Your ability to progress through the game becomes very slow very quickly. Paying isn’t optional, it’s a necessity, and that makes the game feel deceitful.
Star Wars: Commander isn’t alone in this, of course, and it isn’t even the worst offender.
Still, it means we’ll never see the end of the story, and millions of others won’t either. Which is a shame, because up until that point where we hit the brick wall, spending more time waiting than playing, Star Wars: Commander was actually rather good fun.
Star Wars: Commander
This is a Star Wars fan's dream game, but if you're not willing to pay—and to keep paying—then it becomes very slow going.