If you’re thirsting for an adventure in a galaxy far, far away while waiting for LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga to come out, LEGO Star Wars Battles can be an acceptable way to pass the time. Given where I live, I was able to play the soft-launch version of the game even if it’s not exactly officially released just yet, but essentially, it’s a card strategy-slash-tower defense game hybrid. You build Lego towers to defend your base against enemy forces and hold out for as long as you can under a time limit, all while aiming to destroy your opponent’s base at the same time.
While it’s awesome fun to be able to use characters, droids, and ships from all eras of the Star Wars universe, you don’t really have control over which side you can play as. Picking the Light or the Dark side is random, at least, for this beta version. It might have actually been okay to join the rebel forces or aid Darth Vader randomly, but the thing is that you have to level up your cards equally now because you never know which side you’ll get to play as - and beefing up your cards and characters costs in-game currencies, which is the biggest drawback of the game. I’ll get to that later.
As for the gameplay, each battle matches you up with a random player online. You get these sort-of move charges that regenerate every few seconds, and each character card costs charges before you can deploy them onto the battlefield. For example, Darth Vader costs five charges, so you have the choice of either waiting for your move gauge to fill up to five and use him, or deploy other units and vehicles that cost less charges instead. During the last few seconds of the match, you enter into a “no building” phase with your energy gauge filling up twice as fast. Here, you simply have to keep deploying units in a final attempt to destroy your opponent’s base or defend yours. Whoever has more bases by the end of the match wins, unless you destroy all of your enemy’s bases first.
When you both have equal numbers of towers left standing, you enter into a “sudden death” round, and it speeds up the game and heightens the tension. All the tension really takes out the fun of a Lego game, to be honest, so for me, I just didn’t feel like I should be panicking this much for a Lego game.
Winning rewards you with medals while losing makes you lose them (I also had a few matches where the outcome was a “Draw”). The more medals you have, the faster you can unlock other regions of the game (you start in Jakku and will need 200 medals to unlock Endor, and so on). Winning also grants you studs and crystals, which is where the huge paywall comes in.
Crystals help you unlock new character cards after every match via “scans”, while studs help you upgrade your units to increase their health and attack power. Obviously, someone who pays for these studs and crystals can immediately buff their character cards way more than a free-to-play player can (upgrading Luke Skywalker costs 4000 studs, which is just ridiculous). You can also participate in events, which, again, costs crystals. There are free daily rewards, but still, the game doesn’t stop reminding you that you can purchase these things to speed up scans, boost cooldowns, and unlock more stuff every chance it gets.
The matches also get tedious over time, as there’s not too much strategy involved when it comes to winning battles. Sure, certain units are weaker or stronger against other units and buildings, so you need to plan the cards you deploy wisely. You can also choose which deck you’ll be using before each battle, but because the cards within your deck are deployed randomly at a time (and your side is also random), it takes away any strategy you might have, say, if you’re planning to use Porgs or AT-ATs against certain things. I also wasn’t able to choose my username until I unlocked the leaderboards, which is pretty weird.
It’s fun to see all these beloved characters come to life Lego-style as always, and there’s still a little bit of that Lego humour in there. For instance, in the “Tips and Tricks” loading screen while you wait to get matched up, there are sometimes random things that aren’t really “tips” per se but rather Easter eggs for fans (e.g. “It’s a trap”, “These are not the droids you’re looking for”, etc.). But the fun stops there, really, as the gameplay doesn’t have a lot going for it at the moment.
LEGO Star Wars Battles does its best to keep the Star Wars fandom alive on mobile with a unique hybrid game, but ultimately falls flat on the delivery. I personally think that a Lego game doesn’t work too well in a PVP tower defense genre - if you’re into that, then you’ll get a kick out of it, but it’s just not for me. Plus, paywalls are huge and frequent, so here’s hoping that’ll get better when the full game is officially released.