Star Wars: Commander Out Today; Dev Promises It's Not Pay-to-Win Or A Clash of Clans Clone

Free-to-play combat strategy game available now for iOS; dev explains what it does differently from Clash of Clans.

Disney Interactive may have canceled Star Wars: Attack Squadrons before it even left beta, but the company has bigger and bolder plans for Star Wars: Commander, a new free-to-play combat strategy game released today on the App Store for iOS devices. An Android version is coming in a couple of weeks.

The first thing you'll probably notice about Star Wars: Commander is how much it might remind you of Supercell's chart-topper Clash of Clans. But there are major differences between the two games, Disney Interactive says, the first of which is that you get to choose a side. You can either play as a member of the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire, and the items, story details, and worlds you'll experience will vary depending on your faction choice.

Join the Rebellion and you'll encounter iconic Star Wars heroes like Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Princess Leia. (The movie actors did not record voiceover for the game). Play on the dark side and you'll get to control AT-ATs, TIE fighters, and Stormtroopers in your effort to dominate the galaxy. "What we really did want to do was continue the line of innovation in the [free-to-play combat strategy game] space," Disney Interactive executive producer Nathan Etter says. "We could have just chosen to let people play one side [but] we really wanted to invest, and differentiate the two and really give people an authentic experience across both."

Another element that Etter believes sets Star Wars: Commander apart from the competition is its emphasis on story. "Often, in some of these games, I can't say in all of them, but in some of these games, story isn't really a prevalent piece of the game. But we know we're making a game for a broad audience of Star Wars fans, and story is absolutely essential to them."

Stories in Star Wars: Commander will involve characters that you already know (Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, etc), as well as new characters that you haven't seen before from the expanded Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Commander soft-launched earlier this summer in markets like Australia and New Zealand, and the response to the story has been positive, Etter says.

"That storyline has been something that a number of the players have remarked upon quite positively and have been excited to see," he said.

The main story for Star Wars: Commander takes place within the Galactic Civil War of Episodes IV-VI. You start the game on Tatooine, but that's only the beginning. Disney plans to support the game with plenty of post-release content (missions on Hoth are one example), as the company considers Star Wars: Commander very much a service--not an uncommon thing in games today.

Since we were already talking about story, I had to ask: is Star Wars: Commander going to be considered canon? After all, Disney and Lucasfilm said back in April that Star Wars games would be considered canonical going forward. The answer? Yes and no. While you'll encounter famous Star Wars icons like Han Solo and travel to places like Tatooine with its Tusken Raiders, those elements are of course canon, but the player-created situations are not.

"I think what we at Lucas....we have a story team that we work very closely here with," Lucasfilm executive producer Matt Fillbrandt says. "And I think games offer a unique opportunity for storytelling that you don't necessarily get of other, linear storytelling devices like books or TV shows or movies; which is exciting in that we have the opportunity have player choice like we have with this game. Am I going to be on the Rebel side or the Empire? So we don't really look at it from a canonical standpoint because the player is effectively making up their story and their experience."

One element of Star Wars: Commander that will no doubt be contentious is its business model: free-to-play. Etter says that Disney wanted to make the game free-to-play as opposed to paid so that it could reach as wide an audience as possible. Being a free-to-play game, Star Wars: Commander will allow you to spend real-money to buy virtual currency, but the developer promises everything in the game is available for free, and there are no elements of "pay-to-win."

"We don't want, and will not let this become, a pay-to-win game" -- Executive producer Nathan Etter

"You can install the game, you can play through all of the content that we produce for free," Etter said. "You get access to all the story content, you can play the PvP campaigns, you can play the time-limited campaigns and unlock the special rewards...all of that's free for our user."

You can also buy Crystals, a virtual currency that you can use to speed up gameplay. However, Etter assures fans, "We don't want, and will not let this become, a pay-to-win game." That's because the items you can buy with real world money do not affect your attributes; they only let you speed up gameplay. In addition, in Star Wars: Commander's PvP mode, the game will match you up with competitors based on skill. If you and another player install Star Wars: Commander on the same day, and you pay to speed things up and your friend doesn't, you won't continue to be matched up with that person. "A lot of our game design time is spent making sure that we do have a level playing field for players," Etter said.

The Star Wars franchise is one of the biggest across all media, and the chance to bring it to a new genre is not one that Etter and his team plan to squander. "We're all huge Star Wars fans," he says. "The opportunity to work on this title is something I am really proud of; I was honored to be a part of the team. So we're as excited as Lucasfilm to be able to put this out and really create a really authentic experience for all the fans."

Finally, if combat strategy games aren't your thing, Disney assures fans that it is constantly exploring opportunities for how it can expand the Star Wars gaming universe even further. "I think we're always looking at new opportunities to bring games to many different platforms," Fillibrandt says. "We have lots of different partners that we're working with...partnerships that we've had in place for a long time, and others are new. [There are] opportunities within the Disney studio structure as well. So there is a lot of opportunity to do other games, yeah."

Battlefield developer DICE is currently at work on Star Wars: Battlefront, which is scheduled to launch in 2015 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC. In addition, EA recently hired former Naughty Dog veteran Amy Hennig to work on another new Star Wars game, rumored to be an open-world title.

You can download Star Wars: Commander today on the App Store.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch

For all of GameSpot's news coverage, check out our hub. Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

Want the latest news about Star Wars: Commander?

Star Wars: Commander

Star Wars: Commander

Follow

Discussion

85 comments
hyncharas
hyncharas

I've started playing, though I can almost feel it being the opposite of Galactic Battlegrounds - free to play with the caveat that you cannot Opt-out of PvP; if that's the case, I won't be playing it for very long...

I don't mind RTS titles provided they are not an excuse to shove multiplayer in your face when you might not want it.

smilingrob
smilingrob

Unfortunately it is exactly pay-to-win.  Money can be converted into better buildings and units.  If Etter looks at the ARPU of the top 10 users in the leaderboard, he can prove it to himself.  But until then, he's lying to himself and deceiving some of the media (not Forbes).


If they had purchasable skins on the units or buildings that didn't affect the stats, that would be 'not pay-to-win'.  If they had a single-player DLC campaign with a base that is never tied to a multi-player base.  That would be 'not pay-to-win'.  If they had purchasable extra account login slots and they can't join the same guild to send resources (units), that would be 'not pay-to-win'.

Pewbert
Pewbert

So in other words it's a pay-to-win clash of the clans clone.

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

Our game isn't always a CoC clone, until it is.

kevred480
kevred480

I cannot believe they expected anyone to not spot this immediately as a CoC clone.  Of course it is!  Or at least it tries to be...  And yes, you have story line in the SW universe, which makes it interesting and fun.  But for me, the real thing that sets it apart from Clash is the truly pathetic game engine it uses to govern the actions of your troops.  I finally had to stop playing today, my blood pressure got too high from seeing these mindless troopers firing at walls while there was an opening right next to them!  Are they supposed to be blind?  Or just stupid?  Or seeing them firing at a wall or structure while they were getting hit by enemy fire.  (Like nobody would notice this?  "Hey, I'm getting hit by blaster fire.  Strange.  I guess I'll just keep shooting at this wall...  oh, I'm dead, never mind...")  Maybe they expect people to get 'hooked' on it until they raise enough cash to hire some real programmers to write a real game engine?...  You would have thought Disney would have enough money to do it right.  You'd be wrong, though...  Give this one a miss.  Its not worth your time.

Coolspot18
Coolspot18

Basically Clash of Clans regardless of what the devs say. Game is way too slow ...


I really hate these free to play games, when can we return to a premium model?!

unmasked1
unmasked1

If anyone with android wants to play this, make sure you download version 2. Previous editions will not connect to the servers.

unmasked1
unmasked1

This game is not exclusive to IOS. It has been out for some time, on Android. The .apk file size is roughly 27mb. The current version is 2.0.2. The game was pulled from the Google Play store so it could be launched as an Apple exclusive. Ive been playing it on Android all day. Search for it on the Internet and you can find it. So much for "new".

deathstream
deathstream

Pretty much a CoC clone with a bit of story thrown in.  Still under the initial shield, so don't know about MP yet.  Not very good looking.

EcksTheory
EcksTheory

Would have been better making a star wars FTL clone. If youre going to clone something at least make it something good.

deivis_sc
deivis_sc

I wish someone would make another PC game in Star Wars universe and not crappy F2P phone games. There is too many of those already. Atleast we will get Battlefront 3. But Im talking about real stuff, KotOR, Jedi Knights, hell maybe I would get some emotions like a smile or something if they would do Force Unleashed 3.

blackothh
blackothh

of course our game is better then any other game!

dani_i89
dani_i89

Star Wars fans and gamers want KOTOR...and they give us a mobile strategy game?


*facepalm*

AuronAXE
AuronAXE

I think an article of this size is unnecessary for a game like this. Disney's trying too hard to force our wallets, and if you need an article like this to make your game look different, there's clearly a large marketing failure going on or you don't want to be honest of the game, both bad signs in their own ways.

gamerboy100
gamerboy100

"Stories in Star Wars: Commander will involve characters that you already know (Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, etc), as well as new characters that you haven't seen before from the expanded Star Wars universe."


Didn't Disney say that the Expanded Universe wasn't going to be used because it wasn't canon? I'm a bit confused.

DsPsofLife
DsPsofLife

This looks like a clone of Star Wars Galactic Battleground.  I wonder if "simonsays" will still summon Simon the Killer Ewok.

Jew1
Jew1

Yeah sorry I don't buy Disney's bs that everything is no longer canonical because their writers are too lazy to catch up on the lore to write the next trilogy. I think gamespot are morons if they are willing to accept Disney's proclamation to what's canonical and what's not. It's a huge insult to fans and I can't even imagine what garbage the new movies will be

packtop
packtop

With how strong mobile can be nowaday, why are they still making shitty looking games like this ?

This game look barely better then a NES game...

metallinatus
metallinatus

Finally a good mobile Star Wars game!!

I only need to wait the Android release now....

Barighm
Barighm

Looks like the only way we're going to convince these devs dirty lies don't work on us is to walk into their offices and slap them in the face.

notsonegi
notsonegi

This looks awful. If it didn't have the Star Wars label, it wouldn't be getting any coverage and would just become another free-to-play 'strategy' game clogging up the app store

oldtobie
oldtobie

Looks like Clash of Clones Clan to me.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

George Lucas is probably so mad about this sell-out!!  Oh wait, he probably loves this since he's all about the cash from merchandise. 

Centurion95
Centurion95

Anyone else see the trailer elsewhere, saw the CGI beginning and think "Yes and new Star Wars RTS! (thinking of the great times with Empire at War, Galactic Battlegrounds, or yes even Force Commander)" only to feel horribly crushed when the gameplay shows just a Clash of Clans clone?

Khasym
Khasym

I find your lack of innovation disturbing.

Fursnake
Fursnake

This isn't the Star Wars game you are looking for. Move along, move long.

heretrix
heretrix

So it's a "pay or wait" game which is just as bad.

vadagar1
vadagar1

yah i dont play games on my phone

tomservo51
tomservo51

i just downloaded it. the sound doesn't even work. good job disney.

brxricano
brxricano

Innovation. Now tap the screen.

tommstarkey_
tommstarkey_

@smilingrob   The comments saying this game is "pay-to-win" are completely false. Defining "pay-to-win", the player pays for exclusive items, unobtainable by free-playing means, giving them an inevitable edge over other players, making it seem a more appetizing choice.


I've played Clash of Clans, and that's what THAT is. This is different. Sure, there's a virtual currency that allows players to speed things up, but, in no way, make them BETTER than free players. Look at it like this:

Pay to win:

Paying Player > Free Player

Star Wars: Commander:

Paying Player = Free Player (But the paying player makes stuff faster.)

There are no GEM ONLY units, no GEM ONLY buildings, and gems are perfectly obtainable through the game's questing system. I don't know where you've seen that "money can be converted into better buildings and units" but that is not the case.

Link3301
Link3301

They also that going forward, all Star Wars media will be canon, meaning that this character will be canon.

Weemanply109
Weemanply109

@gamerboy100 As far as I'm aware, I'm pretty sure they just simply declared the Expanded Universe "non-canon", but that doesn't mean they can't or probably won't hold off from using some characters/events/etc from it to maybe throw into the "canon" projects for whenever they feel like it.


I could be wrong. 

OldDirtyCR
OldDirtyCR

@Jew1 lol. Here's the thing. Lucasfilms themselves announced it. Also George is still a creative consultant with power of the direction of the series. George himself has always said that people shouldn't get too attached to the non movie stuff because it could be called non canon at any time.


The man that created Star Wars and the people that currently own Star Wars both say that EU is not canon, period. That's cool if you want to delude yourself into thinking that everyone involved with creating Star Wars is WRONG, but don't pretend to speak for every fan. The EU was a mess of plot holes and retcons and had absolutely no coherency. It's probably one of the worst put together expanded universes. Every time a new game would be released it would contradict an older game or movie. When 4 different pieces of media all reference a specific event differently there is a problem. EU has been flawed from the start because Lucas failed to lay down quality control to make sure everything meshed together.  I have watched all the TV series, read many of the comics, play tons of the games. I enjoy the EU they created but it's still a mess and they are doing the best thing possible for the series at this point.

You know dang well you will be lining up to watch Episode 7, stop pretending otherwise. At least go into it knowing that they will definitely pick and choose plotlines and characters from the EU to implement into Episode 7/8/9. Also, are you really trying to say that you'd prefer 7-9 simply rehash EU stories? I'll pass.

MaddenBowler10
MaddenBowler10

@packtop Developers want to make games that are cheap to make, small in file size, appeal to mass market, and can be played on nearly all smartphones(thus the less demanding graphics). Console-like graphic games are few and far between on Android and iPhone. That's saved for the systems PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS.

unmasked1
unmasked1

It has been out on android for many months. Look for the version 2.0.2 .apk

MaddenBowler10
MaddenBowler10

@daviddredd If you took the time to read the article itself, you'd see in the first paragraph it says "An Android version is coming in a couple of weeks.

EcksTheory
EcksTheory

@oldtobie Thats because is it is clash of clans. To say that its not is liking saying that grass isnt green.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

@heretrix  That's what astounds me.  After the travesty that was Dungeon Keeper, you'd think more developers would be moving away from this sort of thing.

gp3tron
gp3tron

@Nightelf123 A thousand times yes. All people please look for EAW instead of this.

spacecadet25
spacecadet25

@vadagar1  I hear many of the games on phones like to collect data on you as well, like your contacts and such.

smilingrob
smilingrob

@tommstarkey_ I disagree with your pay-to-win definition.  But now I understand why they think it is not "pay-to-win" and I do think it's pay-to-win.  Thank you for explaining your definition.

What term would you use to describe a game where paying players gain a non-cosmetic advantage over non-payers?  Maybe pay-to-win-quickly?
Star Wars Commander isn't nearly as bad as many games where the only way to get some items is to pay real money.  And certainly paying for exclusive non-cosmetic items are pay-to-win games.
Under the broader definition of "pay-to-win", if the amount of real money spent in a game gives players advancement or advantage over other players, then the paying players are winning, "pay-to-win".

hystavito
hystavito

@MaddenBowler10 @packtop Yup, mobile is all about volume, especially free-to-play with microtransactions.  You can't make big money unless your game runs on a lot of devices.


Remember that the mobile crowd is quite casual, lots of average non-geek people so to speak :), the kind of people that can stay satisfied with the same device for a lot longer than other types :).