Star Wars Galaxies: Champions of the Force Review

By Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
By Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

The fate of the universe literally lies in your hands. Whether you decide to be good or evil, the choice remains yours. Intergalactic power can be at your fingertips with a simple click of a mouse, and you can destroy your enemies without even getting out of your Staples-brand desk chair. All you need to do is download a simple client and hit “play”.

All this and more is waiting for you in SOE-Denver’s Champions of the Force, a Star Wars Galaxies Trading Card Game that acts as another online iteration of the characters and events players have learned to love (and hate) in SOE’s oft-discussed MMORPG. Recently, I was given the opportunity to play through the SWG TCG (say that five times fast) with all of the bells and whistles. Although most players are required to purchase all the cards on their own terms, I was given a nice chunk of “starting” cards in which to craft my decks and determine the value of Champions of the Force.

Champions of the Force looks and plays almost exactly like Legends of Norrath.

Didn’t I Just Play This?

If you’re at all familiar with SOE-Denver’s other IP-based online TCG, Legends of Norrath, you’ll immediately feel comfortable diving into Champions of the Force. In fact, the two games are almost identical when it comes to gameplay mechanics. Player decks are comprised of an avatar and four quests along with multiple abilities, tactics, items, and units. During each turn, players can choose to deploy units, equip items, play abilities, or engage in combat on one of the two questing areas on the virtual table (if you’d like a more detailed play-by-play account, check out my initial review of Legends of Norrath). The social, deck creation, tournament, and play session areas are all labeled and located exactly where they were on the original Legends of Norrath GUI, so players should easily be able to jump right in and create there own decks to play with.

Another element that functions exactly like the Legends of Norrath gameplay is the idea of the four archetype system being used to build decks. Rather than allowing players to use all the cards that they’re given, the SOE-Denver designers created four distinct character archetypes, each of which has their own specific cards. There are “generic” cards that can be used in every archetype, but many players focus on their own particular archetype with the exclusive of most other cards. Again, the same sort of system was used in Legends of Norrath, and it’s echoed in Champions of the Force.

While this may sound like a drawback to Champions of the Force, it really isn’t. In fact, I’ve enjoyed every single expansion of Legends of Norrath, and I feel the same way about Champions of the Force. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any differences in Champions of the Force. In fact, there are several notable changes that have occurred to the play mechanics within CotF that could really change the play experience for many gamers.

The New Metas on the Block

Though the game may be newly released to the SWG crowd, many gamers will have already grown accustomed to much of the play styles associated with the Legends of Norrath TCG. With that in mind, there are a few notable exceptions to the Legends of Norrath playstyle that should be mentioned in any review of Champions of the Force.

To start, the developers at SOE-Denver have created a set of cards in Champions of the Force that plays much, much faster than anything players previously experienced in Legends of Norrath. With the vast majority of the CotF cards costing over two points to play, the early rounds of the game seem to flash by. Players will be dumping a card a turn, and therefore avatar-based combatants have a bit more time to set up a powerful strategy against their opponents.

Champions of the Force includes some very handy deck-building tools.

From what I’ve seen, unit rush has been almost negated in Champions of the Force. Since many units in Legends of Norrath only cost a point to play, unit rush was a viable option for many deck creators. Not so in Champions. Only four units out of several dozens are in the single point range, with one of them actually taking health points away from the avatar when you deploy him. The vast majority of units are in the 2-4 range, which has really forced players to rethink their strategies.

While I had previously always focused on unit decks in LoN, particularly on my necromantic undead army, my Sith deck just wasn’t going to cut it in unit combat. Instead, I opted to create an incredibly risky Avatar versus Avatar (AvA) deck that focused on extreme damage at the cost of my own health points. To me, this really exemplified what the Sith Code is all about, and I felt like the SOE-Denver developers did a tremendous job pinning down each archetype. While the Imperials and the Sith really focus on heavy combat and damage cards, the Rebels and Jedi are all about defense and healing.

Along with the archetypes, a variety of new cards have been added to really take advantage of a few new strategies that players have devised. Rather than always trying to balance their offense and defense, players can now truly focus on one end of the spectrum or the other to take out opposing players, even while sacrificing their own safety. Cards like the “Sith Lightsaber” really bring a whole new element to the online trading card game circuit.

What Does Champions of the Force Needs?

For all intents and purposes, Champions of the Force continues to showcase the excellent work that the developers at SOE-Denver put into their online trading card games. However, I was a bit disappointed with a number of things that I felt the SOE-Denver developers could have included in their game.

Although a number of the unique characters from the Star Wars universe made their way into Champions of the Force, I was a bit surprised that SOE-Denver didn’t focus on getting more of the “big” names into the first deck. For instance, Maximillian Veers made it into the game on the Empire side of things, but other notable names like Grand Moff Tarkin and Admiral Piett weren’t included. The Rebel side of the coin was equally as devoid of big names. Where are Wedge Antilles and Han Solo? I anticipate that these cards will be included in further sets, but having only one “big name” per set is a bit lacking, in my opinion.

Initial avatar creation is a little limiting in Champions of the Force.

Also, I’m a bit concerned at the new speed with which the SOE-Denver’s game now plays compared to its Legends of Norrath predecessor, while a game used to take my 20-30 minutes before, now games with friends are taking anywhere between 10-15 minutes. This may not seem like much, but strategy gamers often look forward to longer battles with their rivals. I’d like to see the next set add in a few cards that enhances the length and breadth of the game.

May the Force Be With You

All of the complaints aside, I still feel like SOE-Denver has created some of the best online card gaming available. Few companies can claim to have created so many popular online card games in so little time and covering so many different IPs. The art – as always – looks fantastic, and the card meta-game is thriving. Congratulations, SOE-Denver, you have another online card game winner.

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