Star Wars makes its return to the RPG genre with this latest canon entry into the all-new Disney approved timeline, but is Uprising worth your time?
The Star Wars brand is no stranger to being plastered across existing genres and game models. We’ve already had a Star Wars themed take on the humble platformer this year inspired by the new Rebels show as well as ‘Clash of Clans’ inspired strategy game ‘Star Wars: Commander’. Uprising is essentially a re-skinned version of Action RPG, ‘Spirit Lords’ which is also a product of developer Kabam, adding Star Wars to their list of IPs that already includes cinematic themes such as the Godfather, Mavel Comics.
Graphically the game packs a lot of clout for such a small title, although the art style is highly reminiscent of Rebels and the Clone Wars animated shows which stylise the characters to a certain degree. Players have a certain amount of control over the design of their main player character, selecting from a variety of races and face models as well as a class and sex choice. Equipment also shows up on your character in-game, which is a feature often missed out of this kind of Action RPG arrangement and adds a little more polish. Menus look like they were modelled directly on the design seen in ‘Knights of the Old Republic’ and keep that specific Star Wars feel nicely. Background environments are repeated a little often at the games outset, with assets being frequently recycled in order to structure new locations in what amounts to the same environment, but they are well rendered and again very much in keeping with what you’ve seen in the films or shows to date.
Sound is the games strongest feature, because aside from John William’s iconic Star Wars film score the game also has a wealth of easily recognisable sound effects to call upon, all of which pitch the game perfectly into the realm of the movies. Specifically recorded voice samples are acted well enough as well, although what they’re saying doesn’t always get translated into the dialogue in quite the same style, so you will want to play with the sound turned on. In fact the game strongly encourages this kind of play, with sessions dedicated to sitting with it and giving it your full attention, sound turned high and no distractions.
The setup for the story in Uprising is intriguing. Set directly between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, it’s set on the previously unseen planet of Burnin Konn (as well as later visiting Hoth and Hutt ruled world Mataou) the concept behind the game is that the Imperial fleet is trying to prevent word of the Rebels victory and destruction of the second Death Star from spreading. Keeping the concept that the Emperor is still alive and in control at the fore. This masquerade sees blockades erected throughout inhabited systems and even tighter imperial control than ever seen before. Your character and his/her sister are almost caught smuggling explosive crystals and end up working off the debt to a Smuggler before choosing which side of the conflict to support. The Rebel Alliance, Ivax Syndicate, Trade Spine League or Galactic Empire. The events told in this game are canon to the new timeline Disney has been putting into place and help to set the feel for the new film when episode seven finally arrives.
On paper the gameplay sounds like a dream come true. Essentially ‘Diablo’ set in the Star Wars universe that people can play on the go. For those who have already played Spirit Lords however the game will feel extremely familure with almost no original systems in place and some directly re-skinned levels thrown into the mix. Each class receives a set of skills based on player input. One for tapping the character, one for drawing a finger back from him, one which is a static buff and so on. Levels involve running through a gauntlet of enemies within an environment that unlocks as these enemies fall, allowing you to progress in a semi-linear fashion toward the end goal (which normally features a boss encounter of some kind). Tapping a location moves the player character to that spot and double tapping causes him or her to roll, avoiding damage for a small window. Tapping an enemy will target that specific unit and switching between attacks and dodging while your skills run on a cool down is essential to survival. Loot you grab is only acquired after the mission has successfully been completed and the game rewards you by allowing you to level that loot with more loot, all of which stacks bonus stats onto your basic character. Weapons and armour are handy, but some is better than others and (this being a Freemium title) premium currency will bag you the best rewards when they come around. You’re also limited in how far you can grind in a session, which feels at odds against the way the game should be encouraged to work, with special events and story missions being your only source of experience points. It is all stitched together with love however, and the polish shines throughout, but pretty soon you’ll hit a wall and either dedicate some serious time to the grind, pay out or give up entirely. The game also suffers from occasional crashes and requires an internet connection in order to play at all, making it a less than ‘mobile’ title.
Overall this is a game that could have used a little more originality. It’s also a concept that would have better lent itself to consoles than it does mobile devices, where an internet connection can be better stabilised, the sound can be cranked right up and a controller put to good use. A freemium game of this kind would also stand out better in that less crowded market and draw less obvious parallels to Spirit Lords. As it is the game is fun to play in short bursts but as game time draws out the flaws of the freemium environment begin to become more obvious. Sadly this isn’t going to topple Knights of the Old Republic off of its RPG pedestal any time soon.