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You P(l)ay to Win the Game

Here’s the thing about most video games…

Even a sandbox game like Minecraft has objectives and an “end” goal.  Sure, the best games have nearly limitless replay value, but most have some sort of story arc or list of objectives, culminating in a final boss or challenge.

A trend that has become increasingly popular in game design is “pay to win.”  Such games are usually free to download and play.  The catch is, certain in-game upgrades are available only by paying real-world $.  Sometimes these things are obtainable by completing objectives in the game, but often they are much harder, dare I say impossible to collect without shelling out bucks IRL.

I’m generally against pay-to-win games, but I recently stumbled upon one that I can’t put down… Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.  It’s produced by an oligarchic trio of entertainment, headed by the gaming giant, EA Games, in partnership with Disney and Lucas Arts.

The main goal of this game seems to be collection.  Maybe my childhood affinity for “catching em all” has something to do with why I like this game so much…  There are tons of characters to collect and deploy in Final Fantasy style, turn-by-turn battles in a single player story mode (including special events with restrictions on squad composition and that offer special rewards) that takes you to battlefields across the Star Wars galaxy, and vs other players in a battle arena.  To stretch out the collection process, you don’t receive characters all at once, rather, you collect “shards” of each character until you assemble them piece by piece.  The higher the number of shards required for assembly, the more rare and OP that character, it seems.  Also, when you finally assemble a character, you aren’t done yet.  Each character has a star rating, from 1 to 7, that can be upgraded by collecting more shards of an already assembled character.  In this way, the replay value of the game is expanded.

There are elements of many other RPG style games present in Galaxy of Heroes including XP, leveling up, in-game currency, gear that upgrades the power of your characters, and squad composition strategy (i.e. using a balanced team including a healer, attackers, and defenders).

The main single player battle mode is broken down into Light side and Dark side battles, allowing Jedi and Sith alike to join the fray with their favorite heroes and villains, provided they do the work (or pay the $$$) to assemble the shards save up their credits and training droids to level up and continue the fight.  I have to admit, it feels a little weird to “kill” Han Solo as an Imperial Guard or Snow Trooper (two of my first dark side characters).

When you have completed enough Light and Dark side battles and reach the requisite levels, you can unlock other special challenges and battle arenas that I’ll outline here:

a) Squad Arena– Here you can battle against other players’ squads.  In theory, these battles are supposed to be against other real players, but I have a strong suspicion that you’re either matched up against bots, or other players’ actual squads being operated on some sort of auto-pilot.  My logic here is that you never receive a random request to face off in the lobby, and instead always must initiate the battle yourself.  The squad arena features some pretty nice rewards that players receive based on their overall rank.  Like most other areas in the game, the squad arena has it’s own currency and store.  I’ve found this is one of the best places to buy character shards (often sold in packs of 5), especially some of the more rare early game characters like Boba Fett and Luminara Unduli .

b) Cantina Battles– In this area, you can assemble mixed (Dark and Light) squads to complete a series of battles against other mixed squads.  This is another area with great rewards.  You can collect shards, ability mats (to upgrade the power of characters’ individual attacks/abilities), and Cantina-specific currency to purchase rare shards (again in packs of 5) like Poe Dameron and Old Daka (not to be confused with Mother Talzin), a powerful Dark side healer.

c) Challenges– At a table in the far corner of the cantina you’ll find Jedi Master Plo Koon sitting at a holotable.  He’s dusted off his texts and come up with special challenges for players.  These often have special themes linked with squad restrictions to make them more, err, challenging.  For example, I just completed a “healer only” event that would be impossible with a squad that isn’t able to recover health.  The rewards for completing these challenges are also consistent with their themes (i.e. the “bounty hunter” challenge pays out boku credits).

d) Events– These limited-time battles also center around a theme, character, or particular event from Star Wars cannon.  In addition to the usual rewards for battles, the Events section of the cantina is where players can collect shards from ultra-rare characters like Master Yoda, Han Solo, and Emperor Palpatine.  Events also seem to be the vehicle for the game developer to introduce new characters, most recently Rogue One newcomers the Shoretrooper and Bistan.

e) Guilds– This seems to be the weakest aspect of the game that I’ve encountered so far.  Guilds are meant to be organizations of players working together to collectively build power and complete challenges called Raids.  In addition, players can make requests for gear they need to upgrade their characters, and donate to other guild members who need gear that players have a surplus of.  Again, I’m not sure every player in my guild, “Non-stop,” is actually a real person.  If they aren’t bots, than they aren’t really contributing to the guild… I’m one of the lower level members, but have already made the greatest contribution to the guild bank (a place for shared currency used to pay for the Raids mentioned above), and have donated the most gear to other guild members.

f) Galactic War– This is starting to feel a little redundant… another area with battles, and it’s own currency that you can use to buy character shards.  The catch in the Galactic War area is that you battle across a map of opponents that becomes progressively more difficult but your health doesn’t reset when you win a battle.  So far, I haven’t been able to complete a campaign.  I’ve reached the final battle but either my opponent has been too strong, or I have been too weak from the previous battles by the time I reached the final stage.  I’ll update this section once I’m able to complete it.

g) Mod Battles– Well, the good news is, this area doesn’t feature another new currency.  It uses good old Cantina energy for battles and rewards you with Cantina credits, regular credits, XP, and… mods!  Mods are another way to make your characters more powerful by buffing certain stats.  The mod categories are:  health, defense, offense, critical chance, critical damage, tenacity, potency, and speed.  Each character (after reaching the minimum level requirement of 50) has 6 mod slots available.  Each mod is unique, and offer stat bonuses for pairing (and sometimes quad-ing) up on the same mod type.  As you start to reach the upper levels as a player, mods become essential to being a competitive player in the squad arena.

h) Mod Challenges– (coming soon)

i) A Hutt sitting in the back corner… ???

That’s all for now.  Before concluding, I’ll list my current squads for Light and Dark battles, including their *ranking:

1) Light Side


*******Luminara Unduli, ******Eeth Koth, *******Ahsoka Tano, ******Jedi Consular, ******Mace Windu


******Admiral Ackbar, ******Biggs Darklighter, ******Lando Calrissian, *****Luke Skywalker, *****K-2SO


2) Dark Side

*****Emperor Palpatine, *****Darth Vader, *****Royal Guard, ******Old Daka, ****** Boba Fett

That’s all for now-  I’ll do an update once I unlock more areas of the Cantina and inevitably hit the “pay to win” wall.

With love and agility,




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