Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, which launched November 2015 and is available on the App Store and Google Play, has been one of the great successes in modern Star Wars gaming. A collectible-card RPG for mobile, it has connected with fans thanks to its rewarding level-up and combat system, authenticity (in just one of many examples, see how Count Dooku holds his lightsaber in one hand at his side, and slices upward — just like in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and the movies), and its truly incredible lineup of characters from across the saga.
But someone has been missing from that lineup. A blue-and-white astromech droid who flew with Anakin Skywalker in the Battle of Naboo, delivered the Death Star plans to the Rebellion, and completed the map to find Luke Skywalker.
Today, in celebration of Star Wars Day, Galaxy of Heroes is launching “The Daring Droid”: a “Legendary Event” active from May 4 to May 10, in which players can finally unlock and battle with R2-D2. In The Daring Droid, gamers play as Imperial forces on a mission to capture Artoo before he can bring the Death Star schematics to Yavin 4 — a clever setup and nod to Star Wars: A New Hope for its 40th anniversary. StarWars.com caught up over e-mail with John Salera, general manager of Galaxy of Heroes and the head of the EA Capital Games studio to talk about how the game has grown, how it has incorporated our favorite overweight glob of grease, and why he’s excited for future updates.
StarWars.com: One of the most impressive aspects of Galaxy of Heroes has been watching its evolution — continually bringing in new features, modes, and characters. Creatively, how rewarding has working on the game been?
John Salera: Working on Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes has been one of the most incredible and rewarding experiences in my gaming career. It’s an honor to be working on a Star Wars game, and seeing how wonderfully the fans around the world have responded has been truly humbling.
The team has worked very hard over the past year and a half to continue to improve, deepen, and broaden the game. Our aim is to bring the entire scope of the Star Wars universe to players. While we’ve made good progress so far, the other exciting bit is there is still much more we plan to bring out in the months and years to come.
StarWars.com: Today marks a special release for Galaxy of Heroes: R2-D2 is now playable. What can you tell us about the decision to finally feature him in the game and how The Daring Droid event came to be?
John Salera: We’ve wanted to bring R2-D2 to the game for a long time. He’s one of my personal favorites when I was growing up. With May the 4th upon us, we wanted to do something special to celebrate and launching R2-D2 with his own Legendary Event seemed the right way to go.
In the event, you’ll fight against R2-D2 backed up by Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, and Old Ben Kenobi. Pairing him with original trilogy characters is a nod to the upcoming 40th anniversary of Star Wars: A New Hope coming later this month on May 25.
StarWars.com: In terms of his abilities, he packs a punch. How did you figure out what his strengths would be and balance him with existing characters?
John Salera: The team came up with quite an interesting set of abilities for R2-D2. The key to our game is to deliver authenticity — it’s important to our players, to the team, and to our partners at Lucasfilm and Disney. The abilities are an important part of getting the spirit of the character accurately represented in the game systems.
R2-D2 has several interesting abilities, and I’ll describe one of them. Towards the beginning of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, you’ll remember R2-D2 taking out two super battle droids by first spraying oil on them, and then lighting the oil (and them) on fire with his side thrusters. That move is one of his special abilities (called “Improvise”) and the team has done a great job of bringing it into the game. It’s awesome!
Beyond the visceral elements, though, this move is also strategically relevant. There are a lot of squads built around using Evade to avoid taking damage. R2-D2 can help counter these types of teams because Improvise cannot be Evaded, and if R2-D2 is able to apply the Burning debuff, the affected enemy can’t Evade other attacks either. At the right time against the right enemies, this can be a huge game-changer.
StarWars.com: When you bring a major character like this into the game, what’s the collaboration like with Lucasfilm?
John Salera: I’ve said it before and I’ll said it again: the team we work with at Lucasfilm has been tremendous. They are great supporters of the game and have been a big help to our team and the game. For R2-D2, we started discussing the May the 4th event quite a while ago. We wanted to make sure that all involved would have time to do their best work. R2-D2 has been in the game for a while as an enemy, so making him playable in this celebratory timeframe was a great opportunity.
StarWars.com: If someone has yet to play Galaxy of Heroes, is this event a good place to jump onboard?
John Salera: I sincerely believe that if you are a fan of Star Wars, you owe it to yourself to give the game a try. It’s free and is available on both Apple and Google devices. It’s also the most successful Star Wars mobile game of all time, and one of the highest rated.
If you haven’t yet had a chance to give it a try, this is a great time to come play. The event will open for you at Level 20.
StarWars.com: I’m strangely excited to see R2-D2 fight alongside the Emperor and Darth Vader.
John Salera: Yeah! That’s one of the things I find most fun about the game: you can mix-and-match characters from across all eras and alignments. It’s really up to you what kind of party you want to assemble in most cases. R2-D2’s abilities, as well as the fact that he belongs to several different factions, means he can be a welcome member to many different party compositions.
StarWars.com: As you’re approaching the two-year anniversary of Galaxy of Heroes, what are you most proud of about it? And is there anything you want fans to know about what might be coming down the line?
John Salera: Our two-year anniversary will hit on November 24 of this year. While I can’t get into the details yet, I’m very excited about what the team is planning to bring out over the course of this year leading up to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
The game has evolved quite a bit over the past 18 months, and the next two releases are going to kick it into an even higher gear with brand new experiences. During last month’s Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, we even teased an upcoming new game mode that will utilize your entire collection of characters and ships. We’re certainly excited and will have a lot more to say about these releases in the months to come.
And as to what I’m proudest of so far, it is the stellar team we have working on this game. They care passionately about bringing the best, biggest, and most authentic Star Wars experience to millions of mobile players around the world. It is through their work, their talent, and their commitment to the players that we have the wonderful game we have today.
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.