Why I Play: Clone Wars Adventures

Clone Wars Adventures - Dueling Shaak Ti

I'm Jef, and I love Star Wars. This is the part where the rest of you addicts chime in with "hi Jef," before we go about trying to cure ourselves of a life-long obsession. Except we're not going to do that today, are we? In fact, I'm going to dangle another death stick that you may not have considered as of yet.

It's called Clone Wars Adventures.

Clone Wars Adventures - Clone troopers

Now, look here. Yes, CWA is a browser game. Depending on your definition and your tolerance for pervasive lobbies and instancing, it's probably not an MMO, and those quibbles put me off of it for going on two years now. Frankly, I'm sorry they did because however you label it, CWA is simply a fun game. Actually, it's more like 14 of them, give or take a minigame or two.

I guess I'll get what little bad there is out of the way up front. I don't much care for the Clone Wars era inside the larger Star Wars canon. When I was a wee lad, the Clone Wars were something mysterious, enticing, and largely left up to fertile imaginations thanks to that throw-away Alec Guinness line in A New Hope. Now, though, this particular period in Star Wars history is plastered all over your television, your computer screen, your bookshelf, your comic book reader, and probably your child's bedroom.

The Clone Wars period is rife with slapstick battle droids, tweenage Jedi, and plenty of eye-rolling Lucasian tripe that serves to remind adult SW fans how the franchise has largely refused to grow up with them. Amazingly enough, though, SOE's game embraces that kiddiepark ethos and manages to make it enjoyable, even if you're a jaded, late-30s gaming lifer who lacks the requisite children the title aims to please.

Clone Wars Adventures - Starfighter

CWA is basically a series of minigames connected by the primary Jedi Temple lobby hub. There are multiple zones accessible from here including a war room, a hangar bay, and various training centers and ground environments. Each of these acts as a starting point for one of CWA's minigames, though you can also queue up for anything from anywhere courtesy of the big button on your hotbar.

The game also boasts multiple personal housing environments, and true to SOE form, player housing is a substantial game-within-the-game. There are hundreds of items to unlock via gameplay (or the cash shop) including furniture, wall modules, decorations, and achievement trophies. There are also multiple floorplans available to suit just about any Star Wars-themed taste.

Gameplay proper might seem overwhelming at first due to all of the options, but you'll likely find your favs and settle into a fun routine after a couple hours of dabbling. My favorite thing to do is spend a few minutes on the daily trivia minigame before heading off to try and top my high score in Lightsaber Duel, which pits my avatar against a who's-who list of prequel-era Jedi masters in a slickly imagined dueling arena. I've tried the multiplayer options here on numerous occasions, but it's either too early in the day or the matchmaker sucks; I'm not sure which.

Clone Wars Adventures - Republic Defender

After that, I'll spend 15 mins playing Republic Defender, which is CWA's answer to traditional tower defense titles. I'll follow that up with a bit of Starfighter. This little ditty is a blast, literally, and for me it's basically a graphically updated homage to LucasArts' classic 1990s Rebel Assault rail shooter.

Stunt Gungan is lulzworthy, as are the various Jedi/Sith duels and speeder bike races that feature simple button-pressing exercises and pattern recognition but still manage to be strangely addicting. All of these activities earn in-game credits, which can be used on a neverending string of itemization unlocks. You can also spend Station Cash on some of these trinkets, and you'll occasionally get a lockbox (ugh) as a reward that requires Station Cash to open.

All of the games are tied together via a bit of MMO-style character progression. This comes courtesy of battle classes (Jedi, Trooper, etc.) that allow you to rank up and unlock ever-spiffier outfits, gear, and the like. Several of the minigames also feature a series of campaigns based on the Clone Wars canon and featuring brief narratives and expository window dressing.

In terms of production quality, the best thing I can say about CWA is that it looks and sounds exactly like the Cartoon Network Clone Wars CG series from whence it came. In many cases, the voice actors are the same, and the love-it-or-hate-it animations and overall aesthetic bring the TV show to life. As per usual with Star Wars video games, the sound suite is a mixture of classic Lucasfilm effects, John Williams themes, and various derivatives thereof. In short, CWA's presentation is top-notch despite the relative lack of fidelity built into browser titles by default.

Clone Wars Adventures - Action game menu

Finally, it's worth mentioning that while Clone Wars Adventures is free-to-play and extremely accessible due to its web base and super-quick install process, a good portion of the minigames are behind the paywall. As you can see in the image above, exactly half of the title's action vignettes are members-only (denoted by the gold Republic symbol). A monthly sub will open all these doors and set you back $5.99, and it will also unlock extensive avatar customization, additional housing options, dual-wielding, Zabrak avatars, etc. And yes, SOE Station Pass account holders are automatically granted full member access.

In summary, I really don't know what possessed me to fire up Clone Wars Adventures. It was probably a combination of boredom, nostalgia, and a desire to jump outside my comfort zone. I'm glad I did, though, because the title ultimately reminded me what it felt like to be a kid in love with Star Wars, and as a result, CWA has found a permanent place in my gaming rotation.

There's an MMO born every day, and every game is someone's favorite. Why I Play is a column in which the Massively staff members kick back and reminisce about all their favorite MMOs. Whether it's the new hotness or an old fan favorite loaded with nostalgia, each title we cover here tugs at our heartstrings and keeps us coming back for more.