Lego Star Wars Battles is a new game out on Apple Arcade that combines the player-versus-player (PvP) combat of Clash Royale with the delightful bricks-and-blasters flavor of other Lego Star Wars games.
Lego Star Wars Battles sets player against player in short matches where a coin flip decides which is playing light side and which is dark side, with units and characters appropriate to each faction from the franchise. Each player sends lowly minions and stronger champions to destroy the enemy player’s base, while also setting up towers to defend their own HQ - but unlike other strategic games, the action is small enough scale to fit on a (vertical) phone screen.
Combat is automated once units are dropped on the field, leaving players to balance resources and drop in units at the pivotal moment to overwhelm the enemy. Matches end after five minutes, and the player with the most towers active wins a small reward - or a larger reward if they’ve destroyed the enemy base. Strategy within a game matters, but also which main champion, basic units, and towers players assemble into decks and take into matches.
So, yes, it feels a lot like the popular mobile game Clash Royale, but it has the same beloved look and humor that made Lego Star Wars games so successful. Classic championes like Luke and Darth Vader waddle around on stubby mini figure legs, defensive laser turret towers are built up brick by brick, and stages are ringed with ships and buildings based on real Star Wars Lego sets you can buy.
Simulating the tactile Lego experience is a big part of Lego Star Wars’ charm, reframing the galactic struggle with the childish wonder of the brick-based toy (and a lot of slapstick for good measure) – and now, it can carry young players into competitive multiplayer.
Lego Star Wars Battles: bringing cute to competitive PvP
While players can compete against bots, the game is meant to pit humans against each other. That can be intimidating, especially for Apple Arcade’s family-friendly audience, so it helps that younger players will have the familiar elements of the Star Wars universe, especially rendered cartoonishly with Lego bodies and antics, to get the hang of competing with other players online.
Lego fans may notice that the models within the matches are different sizes. Those ships and buildings in the background of playable stages are detailed full-size models, but everything else in the game is set to the micro scale of the ‘Lego Star Wars Mini’ set line, with ships and turrets looking more diminutive and silly.
Obviously, this likely makes the game more approachable to younger players, but older fans of the franchise may be just as tickled - and enjoy a less serious take on Star Wars that hides complexity in the game’s mechanics.
For starters, each champion is a tougher fighter with their own activtable power, so players will want to explore which suits their playstyle best. There are multiple unit types, from tanks like the venerable AT-AT to aerial Probe Droids to grouped units like swarms of Porgs, as well as strikes. Players have a slowly-replenishing resource, energy, to spend on units, the stronger the costlier.
Players get access to new units and champions by opening them (symbolized in cards) in the game’s version of loot boxes, called Scans, which are earned after playing and winning matches. If they find enough multiples of the same unit card, they’ll upgrade the unit to be more effective in matches; champions can likewise be upgraded.
Which makes the game sound perfect for microtransactions, but like every other Apple Arcade game, Lego Star Wars Battles is free to download for subscribers and doesn’t have in-game purchases. All extra content is earned through playing the game, and developers TT Games have promised more championes, units, and planets are coming in month-long ‘seasons’ filled with rewards – which will typically culminate in a popular character from the franchise.
Ultimately, the game feels like a great match of well-known franchises with Apple Arcade’s family-friendly appeal, and it seems like it will have enough complexity to keep fans coming back for more. While the cutesy Lego look might be a dealbreaker for some players, there’s more hiding under the all-ages style - and perhaps a safer alternative to competitive mobile games that don’t have Apple Arcade’s no-microtransactions policy.
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David is now a mobile reporter at Cnet. Formerly Mobile Editor, US for TechRadar, he covered phones, tablets, and wearables. He still thinks the iPhone 4 is the best-looking smartphone ever made. He's most interested in technology, gaming and culture – and where they overlap and change our lives. His current beat explores how our on-the-go existence is affected by new gadgets, carrier coverage expansions, and corporate strategy shifts.