It’s hard to pass up a good Star Wars game, especially because it’s one of the most popular ongoing science fiction franchises ever to hit popular Western media (see also how there’s a supposed clan war between Star Wars and Star Trek.) Clone Wars Adventures has been around for a little while and is published by Sony Online Entertainment with the expected backing of LucasArts. Looking at the game, it’s a nicely done 3D rendered universe very similar to the Clone Wars animated series.

Upon entering the game I was bombarded with Clone Wars characters—twi’lek, zabrak, clone troopers, and a myriad of other races I’m not totally familiar with—as well as characters from the Clone Wars series itself such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, even an R2 unit (potentially R2-D2.) I noticed that many of them were fully voiced during the tutorial phase as well.

Also: Is George Takei voicing one of the Trade Federation? Just give it a listen, that’s Sulu from Star Trek playing the voice of Lok Durd—who just happens to throw droids at you during a tower defense minigame.

Before we get too far into this review and discussion, keep in mind that Clone Wars Adventures is a game designed with children in mind. It’s a largely simplistic social space with a lot of minigames and is wrapped around an animated series aimed at pre-teens, and tweens. As a result, many of the design decisions keep in mind that the average age of the players is going to be very low…this may change your decisions on how and why to play.

The game proposes to be browser-launched, but it is not browser-based. There’s a download of about 100 MB to start, which is extremely small even for a plugin for a game, and after that the game downloads assets on the fly. So you may need a very strong Internet connexion to start the game and get through  the various minigames that make up the SW:CWA game.

Graphics and Sound: Duuh-duuh dee-da-dee-daaah, doo-da-dee-doo…!

The graphics in this game are deceptively simplistic but extremely well done. The game is designed to mimic the animated series Clone Wars and that’s a sort of cartoon 3D CG, which MMORPG games do extremely well—they’re already computer graphics, and cartoony graphics use fewer polygons than anything that attempts photorealism. Of course, only parts of the game take place in 3D environments and there’s such a huge mixture of game types that there are multiple rendering engines involved.

On the battlefields against the droid armies of the Trade Federation, the game looks a lot like a standard MMORPG—enemies lining up in groups, shooting (poorly) with you hitting buttons. Blaster bolts flying across the screen, lightsabers sizzling through armor—all cartoony but good enough to evoke the sense of a Star Wars game.

Include here the voices of the droids crying out in pain or quipping about their destruction. Like the animated series, the MMO borrows liberally from the newest three Star Wars movies. As they fall under a hail of blaster fire or force powers, they cry out asking for mercy or with silly commentary about their mechanical lives. Fortunately, Star Wars comes along with a great deal of iconic sounds, this means that you’re going to hear a lot of things that you already recognize.

I didn’t notice the music very much, but it’s still quite present. In fact, in SW games, the music simply becomes part of the background because everyone has heard the intro music, and the orchestral scores make up the rest. As a result, it is literally Star Wars atmospheric in musical score.

Gameplay: There’s a lot to do in this game, not your usual MMORPG

Many games built around a specific franchise and marketed towards children have a tendency to spread out the type of games and activities that they present. As player of Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures you can expect to have any number of games at your disposal from a tower defense game, ground war MMORPG-style third person shooters, and even an on-rails flight simulator, and a large variety of puzzle games as well.

SW:CWA has literally something for everyone—although to access all of it, you’d better be a premium member (see the Freemium section for more.)

In the social areas, the game works a lot like an MMORPG with third person shooter controls. I moved my character with the standard WASD and the mouse to look around as well as a click-to-move interface. The maps are small-ish but they link together into campaigns (moving through mini games) and social spaces. There’s also player housing in the game with a wide variety of furniture options capable of being bought and traded for via the minigames.

Since no Star Wars game is good without piloting a fighter, there’s a fly-by-rails shooter that involves flying a Republic fighter to stop droid ships from landing. The game is extremely simple, press the right mouse button to fire blasters, left mouse button to launch torpedoes, and there’s even barrel rolling left and right with Z and X. It’s extremely simplistic, but to an extent quite fun. Most of the campaign involving rolling, launching, and twirling amidst a lot of fighters and baster fire.

Then there’s an interesting tower defense game that involves the Trade Federation general Durd—who is hilarious to listen to by the way. Like any tower defense, it involves setting up turrets—blasters, plasma cannons, thermal detonator launchers, etc.—that are designed to stop the flow of droids from a drop ship, through a maze of hard points, to a shielded settlement.

Finally there’s a whole set of other games that involve cards, lightsaber duels (more like Dance Dance Revolution for the arrow keys), and a puzzle game that involved catching dropping colored circles.

Freemium: This game leans heavily into getting people to play for playing

Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures seems to follow the principal of a trial game that runs with only the bare minimum and everything else is required to advance. This is the same model that other child-centric games such as Wizard 101 and Pirate 101 use—give the players the first three levels for free and then get them on the hook to buy into the rest of the game.

This is in fact most prominent because the game is constantly attempting to hawk the for-pay currency as well as pointing out that much of the game is locked away under the premium (or Jedi) membership. All hidden beneath a subscription—in fact, more often than not I discovered myself playing a minigame for three or four levels only to be greeted by a giant billboard explaining that I couldn’t continue onto the next one without a membership.

While most games would function well by offering benefits for membership, it feels like much of the game is under financial lock-and-key.

The game has a subscription cost of approximately $5.99/mo (with 3, 6, and 12 month lengths.) Having the premium membership on board opens up almost 70% of the game to the player and gives a great deal of benefit over free players—while free players can access a tiny segment of the game, to an extent, there’s also the social spaces.

Conclusion: It’s a cute game, with a lot of things to do, but without membership it’s going to be very dull

If you’re a fan of Star Wars you’ll probably want to get into games such as this, alongside something like Star Wars: The Old Republic it’s the only MMO out there with strong ties to the franchise. It’s just another way to get that fix. It’s also a very nice looking game—even in that it looks very similar to the animated series.

There’s definitely a thriving population as with any game like this. Just walking around will net you friend requests, calls to join guilds, and the like. There’s also no small number of people talking in the social areas. As a result, I got a chance to talk to quite a few people. The only problem is that there’s very little to do with other people. Almost none of the minigames are group oriented and there’s very few things to do with other people involved.

However, that’s not to say there aren’t reasons to get together and do things.

As a game, SWCWA has a lot running for it. It’s a good game full of interesting things to do, all tied together with social spaces and the ability to speak with other people. It’s also a Star Wars game. The graphics are keen and the company could be nice. Just go in with friends or use it as a casual reason to spend some time playing different puzzles (over and over) to play house and just look good.

I’d say, weigh your options before spending too much time in SWCWA. It’s a nice game, fair population, and a lot of stuff to do—but it comes down to the amount of money needed to sustain certain types of play vs. the free-to-play aspects of the game.