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Are the recent free Star Wars games worth your time (and money)?

Andrew Hayward | Dec. 5, 2014
Disney and DeNA explore different styles of strategy gameplay with their latest licensed freemium games. We explore both.

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Until recently, the top Star Wars game available on the App Store was the cute and undeniably charming Tiny Death Star, an official spinoff of the immensely popular Tiny Tower that made a building management simulation feel light and breezy. But Disney suddenly pulled the game in October, leaving a potential void for Star Wars fans seeking a worthwhile free-to-play iPhone or iPad experience.

But a couple of contenders have emerged of late, and both tackle different kinds of familiar mobile strategy genres. Disney's own Star Wars: Commander uses Clash of Clans as a template to explore bit-by-bit base building and asynchronous online combat, while the newly released Star Wars: Galactic Defense from DeNA is a pretty straightforward tower defense experience set in the sci-fi universe. 

Both offer light and dark side options that alter the gameplay to some extent, and both are loaded with content. And unsurprisingly, both offer ample opportunities to spend money to either speed things along or ease the challenge. But do these attractive affairs really warrant playing over a long span of time, let alone pumping real cash into? I dug into both to find out.

You're the boss
We spent some time with Star Wars: Commander when it first launched in late August and came away impressed. It's easy to see why: this is a well-produced take on the Clash of Clans-style combat formula that's sweeping the App Store, and while not terribly original, it doesn't come off as a throwaway freebie. It's a simple, straightforward experience, but the license feels well integrated and everything looks and sounds like you'd expect--nay, demand--as a Star Wars fan. 

After a few quick introductory segments to teach you fundamentals, Commander gives you one big choice that affects the rest of your experience: will you align with the scrappy Rebels, or embrace the evil power of the Empire? While both sides rely on the same core game mechanics, that decision changes the narrative, scenery, and units you'll use in battle, so it's not one to be made hastily. Choose wisely. Or just pick the one that seems more fun, really.

One committed, the game settles into the familiar routine. You'll slowly build out your base with refineries and credit markets--to generate alloy and money, respectively--and then barracks and unit transports for manpower, as well as turrets and walls for defense, among other structures. From there, it's a process of expanding and enhancing as you spend resources to improve the stability of your fortress and amp up your attacking power, all while completing simple missions (destroy this base! build this thing!) and even attacking online players' bases.


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