Champions of the Force Invades the TCG Space
Star Wars Galaxy's (SWG) Online Trading Card Game (OTCG), Champions of the Force (CotF), launched at the end of August. Developed by the Sony Online Entertainment's Denver studio, the game features quite a few similarities to the EverQuest franchise game, "Legends of Norrath", but the game play offered is quite different! Utilizing the same engines, both games take the user experience in different directions, offering different game play strategy and for players.
CotF utilizes systems much different in scope than its counterpart. Adjustments for playing cards and bonuses, arch type differences, quest and generic vs arch type and heroic encounters (raid) systems have been completely redone, offering a new and very different game. Mechanics, boosts, buffs, game play and art follow completion of the engine. Since the LoN engine is in use for its SWG counterpart, it vastly simplified the process.
A huge difference that should be pointed out is that Champions of the Force (CotF) requires a monthly subscription to the SWG game, but includes 5 booster packs a month, whereas Legends of Norrath (LoN) requires no game subscription.
The market for the game is the SWG player base, but SOE expects to see quite a few traditional trading card game players, as well as players from other MMOs in the genre. Those familiar with the Star Wars universe will feel very comfortable and instantly familiar with the OTCG universe depicted.
Often, many of the difficulties that go into the design of a new game start with the tutorial system. The CotF tutorial system seems much smoother than the LoN experience. The flow from one lesson to the next is more encompassing and complete, leading to a much more streamlined starting game. The tutorial also offers better single player practice experience giving new players more confidence once they enter games versus other players.
The collaborative effort between LucasArts and SOE can be easily seen. Everything about the game screams Star Wars Universe! The artwork and characters, storyline and avatars, it all fits perfectly into the world that many of us have played in at least once.
Of course for every one of the 250 cards many iterations were needed, to ensure the right fit. Adding even more to the work load are the promo and creature avatars and scenario art that don't count as playable, player controlled cards. Official sources estimate that there are almost 100 extra cards that have been worked on that players will never hold in their virtual decks! This was an amazing amount of work for the Denver office to produce.
Booster decks can be purchased and include 11 Commons, or if you get a foil card, 10 commons along with 1 rare and 3 uncommons. If you get a loot card you'll get only 2 uncommons.
The designers and developers are hoping that gamers will try the SWG version instead of the EverQuest version rather than taking their own players from one game to the other. They'd like to see the market open up a bit more with an appeal to players who have no desire to slay dragons but would rather be a Jedi, or battling the nearest rebel outpost.
As players choose their deck of playable cards they must keep in mind whether they want to play a light side or a dark side of the force deck. Bonuses based on which side you align with will come into play, making strategy and unique game play count for more.
Decks are the same as Legends of Norrath. Each player is represented by an avatar and your deck is filled with 52 cards that represent units, items, and abilities you can call out to battle your opponent. Arch types are Jedi, Rebel, Imperial and Sith, allowing decks themed towards classes similar to what we see in the SWG game.
The costs to play many of your cards are, in general, higher than they are in LoN. This makes the game move much faster when starting and allows for long term strategy while requiring immediate defense and attack plans. This means that your games can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, making it the perfect option for a quick Star Wars fix!
Loot cards are a huge boon to players of both the MMO and the TCG, and your options available right now include 28 cards! I'm sure that we can expect to see more in the future as the game matures, but right now no one at SOE Denver will say anything about the future expansions except that there are plans for them and they are working on them! They plan to follow the LoN model of a new themed expansion every 4 months.
There are ten single player scenarios, 25 raids and, while the OTCG will not necessarily follow SWG game canon, both SOE and LucasArts don't want Star Wars fans to be unfamiliar with or shocked by the world and storyline! Hopefully there's no mention of midichlorians!
Space battles are not an option in the game currently, but there are plans to look into it and possibly make a new game play mechanic featuring the ships we all know and love. Super Star Destroyers should always be in every Star Wars game!
So far the game has been received with excitement by TCG fans and some trepidation by the MMO crowd but, with lobbies full and gamers excitedly building decks, looking forward we can expect a full tournament schedule along with the leader boards we've come to expect with LoN.
Champions of the Force is another great addition to the Star Wars franchise, a fantastic break from the MMO game! move much faster when starting and allows for long term strategy while requiring immediate defense and attack plans. This means that your games can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, making it the perfect option for a quick Star Wars fix!
Becky "Tovin" Simpson
Senior Editor, ZAM Network