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Like the complicated father-son relationship between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, the marriage between the Star Wars franchise and card battling games has been a tumultuous one at best. Last year's Star Wars Force Collection was a hands-off snooze affair bogged down by heavy micromanagement. The latest attempt at shoehorning a galaxy far, far away into a collectible card game format, however, is a vast improvement over what we’ve seen before. Star Wars: Assault Team packs all the polish, accessibility, and strategy that were sorely missing in Force Collection, even if it's not an entirely fresh spin on collectible card combat.
Assault Team's campaign weaves an interesting journey through the Star Wars universe. From the innermost depths of an Imperial Star Destroyer to the Wookiee home world and beyond, the settings and story elements are varied and thoughtfully presented. Missions send your party of rebels through elaborate animated 3D locations, with frequent pit stops to battle an expanding medley of foes.
Rather than just an exercise in repetitive tapping, the turn-based combat is strategically engaging. The longer, gauntlet-style levels require careful thought about which foes to attack in which order, along with which special hero powers to use and who to bring into battle. The parade of stormtroopers, Imperial droids, and beastly aliens keeps you switching things up too, since they each bring special powers and strengths to the battles. It's a well-designed combat system that's intuitive, and since you won't struggle to figure out how everything works, you can focus more on tactical considerations.
Your four-person group is fleshed out early on with a few familiar faces, like Han Solo and his hairy cohort Chewbacca, and it quickly grows and changes as you amass hero cards to slot in. The character card artwork is authentic and beautifully designed, contrasting against some of the more plainly detailed backgrounds you’ll battle across. The strengths and abilities of each unique character also lend a lot of flexibility in battle.
Earning items in battle and spending in-game credits let you train your crew through an RPG-style progression system, which is as satisfying as it is necessary. Past the first tier of missions, your foes grow much stronger, and as such it gets a lot harder to progress without backtracking to grind a bit or spending premium currency to revive your fallen party mid-stage. This isn't a big issue, since credits, gems, cards, and items are added to your pile the more you play. Spending cash is only necessary if you die a lot or are extremely impatient, however buying hero crates does kick up your power steadily. The more you spend, the more higher-powered gear and heroes you’ll have access to before they'd naturally appear through the normal course of play.
The bottom line. Star Wars: Assault Team is an engaging, strategy-minded card battler quest that's a blast for series fans. However, its steep challenge might push you to spend more than you originally intended to once you get sucked in.
iPad running iOS 6.0 or later.
Excellent art style that stays true to the Star Wars franchise. Combat is highly strategic and engrossing. Card collecting and RPG progression systems are satisfying.
Foes’ toughness spikes early on. Reviving a fallen party mid-level requires spending premium gems.