Monday, September 26, 2011

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures - One Year On

I first played Clone Wars Adventures about a year ago, maybe a bit before then when it was still in beta. It was, and still is, a Star Wars-themed online game which revolves around the player doing a number of minigames for credits, which they can used to buy costumes, gear, housing items and a lot of other arguably cosmetic stuff. It's free-to-play and aimed at the younger end of the market, so it's hardly complex... Or is it?

When I played it for the first time, I found CWA to have a lot of potential but for a free-to-play game, there wasn't a lot of content. A number of games only had a handful of levels for free players, and even then the player could only access about a third of the games available. As for gear, you were given two ways to buy it - Credits or Station Cash. Credits are the in-game currency earned from games and a couple of other activities whereas Station Cash is the form of moon money Sony Online Entertainment uses in their online titles. Very little, if any, is able to be gained from gameplay so if you want certain gear items, pets or whatever, you need to stump up money.

I decided this afternoon to give it another go, to see what has changed over the past year or so and if I would be able to kill an evening by playing it. As I'm writing this about two/three hours after first going onto the site, I think the answer is obvious. I found the registration painless and simple, although the game still lacks any real character customisation. You have two races (I believe) per gender, and three variations per race. There's no customisation beyond that, so if you want a brunette Human female, she'll look like every other brunette Human female. I opted for a female green Twi'lek. The game then generates a name for you, but you can type in your own or randomise it. I cycled through them and ended up with Shaela Farslasher - Not inspiring in any way, but it would do. The next step was to choose my country and age, not my date of birth, and I was in! A short download and plug-in install later, I was ready to go.

The game plonks you in a starting area, after an introductory cutscene, where you're surrounded by new players, NPCs and vendors. You're given 250 Station Cash points, some credits and a couple of pieces of gear that depend on your character selection choice. I instantly dove into the store, and was greeted with a lot of new sets. Some looked amazing, some were overpriced, some weren't to my taste, but I flicked through. Many of the sets were locked down as Jedi Only, which means only those who are subscribing to the game can buy them. I found one I liked, the Ahsoka Tano set, and I bought it - minus the lightsabers - for 200 SC. This image gives you an idea of what Shaela looks like at this point:
Not exactly uncute, is she? After a little more browsing, I discovered that very few items are purchaseable for credits, and most of those that are require Jedi membership. I shrugged it off for the moment and went to my house. Yes, the game gives you a free house and a free trophy room! I bought a bed, which used up most of my credits, and that was it as most sets were, you guessed it, Station Cash and/or Jedi only. After getting bored of that within seconds, I went back to the main game world and went exploring. In CWA, you have a very small number of rooms to explore. I think free members get access to about six or seven rooms, with a couple more being Jedi-only. If you want to save time in selecting games, you have a game browser with all the games you can and can't play. There's a Daily Spin game to get free credits, and you truly to see - at this point - just how little is actually free. I opted for a game I loved from the first time I played, Stunt Gungan, in which you fling Jar-Jar and try to achieve the maximum distance. If you've ever played the Yeti games, you'll know what I'm talking about. I achieved a pittance of credits from that, and decided to run around a bit more.

Whilst I ran around, I was spammed with friend and group requests, found two adverts in my mailbox and was greeted by another advert as I explored. That didn't sit well with me, considering that the Jedi membership was flung in my face every two seconds. One of the disadvantages of running to the different hubs where the games are is that you don't find out they're members-only until you're there. I remember from my brief subscription period in my first time that there was a blaster game. I went to it, but I couldn't play it as I wasn't a subscriber. I looked at one game I could play, one called Starfighter, and free members had access to a grand total of two levels, out of something like 15. I think I'm going to stop there.

Clone Wars Adventures could be something really fun, even if it's aimed at the younger end of the market, but there's just absolutely no content to it. Kids will become frustrated by what little there is to do on a free account without putting money into it, and subscribing - whilst it offers a lot - just doesn't offer enough. There is absolutely no content to this game beyond being a paper doll simulator and a collection of minigames which vary in quality. By the time a child is able to play this without the parent's help, although I do suggest supervision, they will be able to take part in the much more accessible and much nicer Free Realms. CWA has an overly complex user interface that is sluggish and useless, it has nothing to engage you as a player, and your character is barely your own as you can't really customise them to any meaningful degree. You could spend, easily, a lot of money on costumes but to what effect? You can't communicate well with other players, and the chances are they just don't care about your costume.

I would suggest to give this game a wide berth. It's just not worth the time nor effort.

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