Monday, January 11, 2016

Crappy Video Game Corner: STAR WARS Galaxy of Heroes


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I got a new smart phone a month ago, finally retiring my iPhone 4S not because it broke but because Apple didn't want me to keep using it. They tricked me into upgrading from iOS 7 to iOS 9 telling me I could roll it back if I didn't like it. Unfortunately, the new OS was terrible as it was barely compatible with my 4-year-old phone, glitching and lagging all over the place. I then discovered that I couldn't actually roll-back to iOS 7, but only version 8, which runs even WORSE on a 4S, which is why I never installed it in the first place.

Anyway, my point is I bought an LG Android phone (which so far has been great), which has opened me up to a whole new world of apps and games. I don't play a lot of app games, mostly because I don't have a lot of time to waste on them and they tend to be boring and repetitive. But since it was the middle of Star Wars mania I went for it and checked out a few Star Wars-themed apps.

The first couple were terrible. Star Wars Commander is a copy of all those other "build a city/base and an army and attack other players" games which drive me absolutely bonkers. You know, the kind of game where you get a pass for the first couple of days, then as soon as your grace period expires the next time you log in you find your base and army has been destroyed by other players? It's IMPOSSIBLE to play those games without sinking ungodly amounts of time and money into them, constantly building up, protecting and re-building your resources. The annoying thing is, I actually love games were you get to build up cities and conquer other territories, I just despise multi-player versions. I deleted Star Wars Commander about 10 minutes after I installed it.

Not only is a stupid game, but it's also really dumb-looking.
I also tried LEGO Star Wars Microfighters, which was actually a pretty neat little "vertical scrolling" shooting game (think the old 1941 arcade game). You get to fly classic Star Wars ships and blast recognizable baddies, all in cute little min-LEGO format. It's good for a lark, but it doesn't have much replay value. You just play the same levels over and over again trying to get slightly better scores and hidden items (that are completely random and very hard to find).

Then I found Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes, which is not a great game but its in the perfect sweet spot for what I look for in app games.

Ignore the text, the game is actually in English.
1. Collectible-card game-like mechanics.
I spent way too much money on Magic: The Gathering and especially the Star Wars card game as a kid. I know I have a weakness for collecting imaginary little characters, weapons and items. And Galaxy of Heroes is all about collecting this crap. The point of the game is to build a party of iconic Star Wars characters (and not-so iconic characters - who the hell is Cad Bane?) (actually I looked it up, he's a character in the Clone Wars cartoon) and play through battles to earn items to improve your characters and earn in-game money to buy more characters. This is like crack to a guy like me, who actually spent a good chunk of December playing Pokemon The Card Game Online (and I only stopped because it's not available on mobile devices).

2. Character building and improvement
There are so many ways to improve and upgrade your characters, it's ridiculous. First you have to collect "shards" of the character's avatar to unlock them in game (the characters are actually supposed to be holographic game pieces on a board, you're not "collecting" real people). Then you have to collect more shards to make them more powerful. You can also collect training items to make them stronger. And you can collect (and upgrade) gear to make them stronger. AND you can collect other items to unlock (and improve) special attacks. Of course I recognize that all this junk is just there to keep you busy doing pointless tasks, but I appreciate their dedication to diversification.

3. No direct player-vs-player combat
No one can steal or destroy your stuff when you're not online. You have no idea how happy that makes me. There is a player "arena" where your squads can do battle, but you don't actually damage or hurt the player. You can lower their ranking if you beat them,but the rewards based on rankings is so minimal it's not really a big deal.

I can't find a screen grab of it, but my favourite moment in the game is when Chewbacca shoots
Ewoks in the face with his bowcaster and they go flying off the screen.
I've seen it dozens of times and I still laugh every time.
4. It requires little effort
There is some strategy involved in the game, but mercifully it requires no super reflexes, timing or similar skills. I was never super great at games that required precise hand-eye-coordination, and I certainly haven't improved in age. The battles are turn based, so you have lots of time to decide your moves between actions (especially helpful if I'm falling asleep on the bus). You can even turn the AI on and let the computer battle for you, which is fine for easy fights. If you've already beaten a level and need to play it again (which you will do A LOT, because you need to play those levels again and again to get all those collectible items), you can use special items to just skip the battle and get the rewards.

For those of your who are saying "but that's not even a game," remember that Heroes is not actually about the battles, its about collecting crap. The battles are there to get in your way to collect more crap, so you have to get through or around them any way possible.

Also, you're right, it's not really a game. It's more like some weird kind of database that you have to jump through hoops to update.

I wish Excel looked more like this. I would probably enjoy my job more.
 5. You don't have to spend money to play
I haven't spent a cent yet, and I don't plan to. You can collect more cards and items faster by spending a few dollars of real money for extra in-game currency, but it's expensive. And there's not always a guarantee of exactly what items or characters you'll get, just that you'll get them faster than if you have to slog through the battles.

If you want the REALLY good characters, guaranteed, you have to spend really big bucks. A Jedi Knight "starter bundle," which is 2 decent characters and two more you probably already have, costs $45.99 US. A "Heroine" starter bundle for those of you who want some cool lady warriors cost $57.99. And the big kahuna, the Force Awakens pack, which is one of the only ways to get Kylo Ren (who is inexplicably one of the most powerful characters in the game), costs a whopping $119.99 US. That's the cost of at least two brand new full length top-of-line video games for a few bonus characters in a crappy cell phone game.


Seriously, who would pay 120 bucks for this guy?

Again, you don't really compete against other players, so you don't need to have the most powerful items to compete with anyone but yourself. And the only "reward" in the game is grinding away to unlock these cool characters. If you buy the cool characters, then all you have left to do is grind away to unlock the crappy characters. Or do you buy those, too? In which case, what is the point? The whole point of the game is collecting stuff. That's the end goal. If you just spend money to buy everything, you're not spending money to buy the game, or to play the game better; you are literally just buying "winning the game."

Anyway, the more I write about this the more trouble I'm having justifying the fact that I play it, so I'm going to stop. For now it's just a diversion that I will probably grow bored of in another week or two. But I'm not ashamed of it. It scratches an itch and I haven't spent any money so I think I'm in the clear. I've been trying for a week to unlock Rey, though, and I'm only about 15% of the way there. If I get fed up and spend $30 to buy her, then I will admit it's a problem.

Hundreds of Stormtroopers have died while I've tried to find her.
Seriously, it's easier to get her into a Monopoly game.
How about you? Do you or have you ever played any terrible, time-wasting (and potentially money-sinking) games? I'm looking for horrible World of Warcraft, Candy Crush and Maple Story type of anecdotes. You know what I'm talking about.
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