LEGO Star Wars Battles is a mobile PvP arena battler based on characters and settings from across three eras of Star Wars canon, tied together with the absurdity and gentle wit of LEGO figurines fighting. Developed by TT Odyssey—a subsidiary within the same family responsible for all the other LEGO videogames—LEGO Star Wars Battles will bring its players to real-time-strategy battles with opponents on Jakku, Kamino, Kashyyk, Geonosis, Endor, Naboo, and more.
The look of the game will draw on specific LEGO styles. The battlefields are based on minifigure and micro figure scale, with system LEGO sets in the surrounding untouchable areas on a screen, and the pre-matchup planet selection screen is based on the LEGO advent calendars. The creative team, led by studio head Jason Aven, creative director Chris Bowles, and art director Steve Wilding, also took inspiration from the LEGO movies to texture the figure characters with damage and soot, and adapted triple-A console lighting techniques to make high-res 3D graphics. They even partnered with LucasFilm and the LEGO Group to design an all-new LEGO Star Wars figurine, adapting the Flametrooper from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
Built from the ground-up for mobile, and releasing exclusively to the iOS Apple Arcade today, Sept. 24, LEGO Star Wars Battles will step away from the action-adventure genre of its predecessors to be the first LEGO videogame focused on multiplayer, though bots will be available in the rare case that matchmaking comes up empty.
The game will include champion characters like Rey, Darth Vader, and Yoda, much like the Battlefront games from LucasArts and EA. While LEGO Star Wars Battles bears a genre resemblance to a game like Clash Royale, it’s deeper than a cut-and-paste job. There have been times when not much more could be expected from a licensed game, especially a licensed mobile game, than drawing some familiar skins and textures on rote gameplay. Times seem to have changed, though at the end of the day the most unique part of the mechanics is simply drawing from the LEGO Star Wars aesthetic. Atmosphere and name recognition are what will sell this game. From the gameplay video we were shown, that atmosphere includes samples if not full tracks from John Williams’s legendary scores. We’ll see if they’re varied enough not to bore.
Based on that same footage, the game will be sans-narrative. LEGO Star Wars Battles is every bit intended to invoke the experience of playing make believe with your LEGOs. If you’re familiar with the other LEGO Star Wars games you likely know this means familiar LEGO figurines running toward each other shooting laser blasts from guns that look like little megaphones until one or the other explodes in a shower of tiny pieces.
The battles are timed and each unit has a cool down period after deployment. Gratification will come from besting your matchmade foes. More wins means more in-game currency, which in turn leads to more rare character unit types and in turn more wins. To ensure there is variety in the character units players use, there is a randomized initial delivery of cards when players start the game. Planet scans (vaguely similar in concept if not form to the original Mass Effect) and rotating inventory in the card shop will help things stay fresh.
LEGO Star Wars Battles will, admirably, not have any in-game purchases; so, no monetization that way. However, the game is exclusive to Apple Arcade ($4.95/mo) and Apple One ($14.95-$29.95). Moreover, the game is still designed to keep players coming back, and the four-week-long Seasons Path reward ladder may help cultivate a community around the game. According to creative director Chris Bowles, these are “FREE FOREVER once [players] have completed the tutorial.” So just about every month a new competition will begin between the players in LEGO Star Wars Battles.
Overall, this seems like a lot of work has gone into a game with a relatively low barrier of entry. Hopefully the tutorials and the randomization of decks will give players a leg up on developing enough expertise to generate variety. In order for something with surface-level simplicity to have its subtle complexity revealed, the gameplay needs to not be too shallow or stale. Without the freemium, pay-to-win aspect of Supercell-style mobile games, one hopes that LEGO Star Wars Battles is fun enough to keep players intrigued without the gambling-adjacent mechanics of, say, a FIFA Ultimate Team. In any case, we all spend enough time looking at our phones; hopefully LEGO Star Wars Battles is worth spending a little while longer.
Kevin Fox, Jr. is a writer, historian, nonprofit worker, and Paste intern. He loves videogames, pop culture, sports, and human rights, and can be found on Twitter @kevinfoxjr.