I like to fancy myself as something of a hypocrite. While I’m the first person to cry foul when I see the App Store littered with clones and copycats, I’m also the first person to rush head first into something like Star Wars Commander: a blatant Clash of Clones rip-off with a lightsaber license glued on top.

What can I say? It doesn’t take much to turn me to the dark side.

Like the twin suns of Tatooine, maybe there is enough room in the App Store for two Clash of Clans games. A blatant ripoff it may be, but Star Wars Commander knows what makes Clash of Clans work. Not only does it manage to avoid the pitfalls that most imitators fall prey to, but it delivers an experience that has no trouble satiating my inner-Star Wars nerd.

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As the game begins, players are asked to choose between two factions: the Rebel Alliance or the Galactic Empire. Essentially you’re looking at a pallette swap here – the two factions play similar enough that the gameplay won’t see much of an impact. That said, in terms of tone, narrative, and presentation, your choice of side will really help to shape your overall experience.

commander4The Rebels can call up heroes – in the tutorial you’ll get to try out Mr. Han Solo – while the Empire focuses on building big, bad, soul-crushing machines.

I went Empire, because hey – speeder bikes and AT-ST’s.

If you think you’re missing out, don’t worry – once you upgrade your headquarters to level 4, you’ll gain access to the heroes (or vehicles) specific to your side that your faction choice had previously rendered inaccessible.

commander5The early tutorial is pretty great in that it lets you experiences missions from both sides before you settle on your faction, giving you a feel for the style of each. From there, the single player campaign (which serves as sort of a “long game” tutorial) really goes above and beyond what you’ll find in games like this, creating a narrative that managed to hold my interest surprisingly well, while at the same time walking players new to the genre through the basics at just the right pace.

Pushing beyond the narrative and great use of the Star Wars license, though? It’s Clash of Clans, through and through. The game looks fantastic – nothing feels quite as good as watching a swarm of Stormtroopers and an AT-ST book it across the sandy dunes of Arrakis Tatooine – but that doesn’t make it any less the sword-and-sandals game of base-building that we all know and love, right down to the gold/credit stealing goblins/scout troopers.

Depending on how you look at it, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’ve got to take points off for originality, for sure, but Star Wars Commander has enough tricks up its sleeve to make this a worthy competitor to the product it’s imitating. My early days with Star Wars Commander seemed to open up more unit types to play with, and more reason to enjoy the single player portion, than Clash of Clans did at the start.

Also, it has the best “rate this app” screen ever.

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Multiplayer – aka the place where games like this live and die – works as well as can be expected. You’ll attack the bases of others while they’re AFK and the same will happen to you. It’s a great way to pillage for credits and alloy (two of the game’s most crucial currencies), and you can jump into a Squad (ie clan) if you want to start taking things really seriously.

Star Wars Clash of Clans is Star Wars Clash of Clans. If that sounds appealing to you, you’re going to really dig what Star Wars Commander has to offer. If you didn’t like Clash of Clans, this probably isn’t going to turn you around. Having said that, as a former Clash of Clans player, I was convinced I’d exhausted myself on the genre. Star Wars Commander has gleefully convinced me otherwise.

Want help getting started, young Padawan?  Check out Gamezebo’s Star Wars: Commander – Tips, Cheats and Strategy Guide.