Which Star Wars duo truly has the greatest “combined strength,” to quote Darth Vader? Thanks to Star Wars: Force Arena, we’ll find out.
Releasing today, Force Arena is a new mobile game (available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and on Google Play for Android devices) in which you build your own squad of iconic Star Wars characters and vehicles and take on opponents in real-time PvP battles. The roster of heroes and villains — at more than 60 deep — is large enough to fill a few space cruisers, and in addition to saga legends like the Emperor and Luke Skywalker, features new faces from Rogue One, Marvel’s in-continuity comics, and more.
The game comes courtesy of developer Netmarble Games and Lucasfilm, and promises a rewarding, ongoing experience; you’ll collect and upgrade characters, try out different pairs (Darth Vader and Doctor Aphra is kind of a dream come true for comic book fans), and earn rewards through special events. StarWars.com caught up over e-mail with Lucasfilm’s lead games producer, Kristoffer Bergqvist, to discuss the genesis of Force Arena, why the real-time gameplay element is so important, and how we can beat him at his own game.
StarWars.com: What was the goal in creating Star Wars: Force Arena?
Kristoffer Bergqvist: The very first talks we had about the game were regarding player versus player combat, and how we wanted a real-time combat experience on handheld devices. We wanted plenty of Star Wars characters on screen, but also for the game to be quick and action-focused, so that’s how we decided on the squad-versus-squad scale. We also realized, early, that building and customizing your squad was a lot of fun. Working with Netmarble during this first phase was such a great experience — we had great long talks about game design and they were always swift with getting the ideas into software so we could test, play, and fine-tune.
StarWars.com: The character roster is impressively deep. Was the idea, “Let’s include as many as we can?”
Kristoffer Bergqvist: One thing that got us excited early on was the opportunity to let all these Star Wars characters we’ve seen during the time of the Rebellion come together and fight side by side. We started picking our top rebels and Imperials from the era, beginning with the early days of the Rebellion, as seen in Star Wars Rebels, and ending some time just after the Battle of Endor. Luckily for us, Rogue One is set in that time period, and that movie obviously came with a whole new line-up of great characters to chose from. We also worked hard to get a good mix of gameplay and abilities, and we wanted to make sure there was something for everyone, whether you want to be a fast lightsaber-wielding character like Ezra or a calculating and strategic commander like Tarkin.
There are some surprises in there, as well. We hope players will love the Unstable Gnk Droid and enjoy seeing the old [Kenner] MLC-3 tank in action again. And even though we are incredibly happy with the lineup of heroes in Force Arena, there’s a long wishlist of characters we hope to add in the future. Let us know if you have requests!
StarWars.com: On that note, you even have Doctor Aphra — the fan-favorite, kind of shady archaeologist introduced in Marvel’s Darth Vader series — in there, which is just very cool to see. How did that come about?
Kristoffer Bergqvist: We were discussing potential sidekicks to Vader, and as he’s quite a formidable one-man-show, we knew we needed someone who had the skills and the wits to stand out. Someone who would not just disappear in Vader’s figurative and literal shadow. Matt [Martin from the Lucasfilm Story Group] suggested Aphra and we never looked back. She was such a perfect fit. It was also a lot of fun to explore what these comic characters looked like when portrayed in a realistic art style.
StarWars.com: In terms of gameplay, what are you most proud of?
Kristoffer Bergqvist: There are two things that stand out. First, the variety in the rock-paper-scissors gameplay is close to endless. In every match, you might learn something that makes you want to adjust your tactics and call for a rematch. The search for that perfect deck of troops is extremely addictive.
Second, it’s great that I can play my opponents in real-time. Seeing them react and finding counters to my moves within that short, intense battle makes it an awesome and very tactical experience. It’s something that I, as a gamer, really love coming back to over and over again.
StarWars.com: Finally, what’s your ideal mix of characters and units and vehicles — and how can we beat them?
Kristoffer Bergqvist: Haha, no way, man. I’m going for the top of the leaderboards here. But I can recommend not being afraid to mix characters that we typically don’t see together — Leia with her speed buff and her ability to summon Alderaanian Honor Guards works incredibly well with a small army of Talz if you want to overwhelm your opponent with large numbers of fighters. Someone like Thrawn — who gets more powerful the longer he’s on the battlefield — benefits greatly from having something like an AT-ST to take cover behind as he’s directing his troops.
Once you have a team you feel confident could take mine on, let me know. I’ll be waiting in the arena!
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.