I’m not quitting the game, but I am concerned about the future of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
The developers recently made a bombshell announcement, the gist of which is that the crystal payout is moving from Squad Arena to Grand Arena. To give you an indication of how significant that is, ever since the game launched in late 2015, Squad Arena has been a central feature – and in the minds of many, the central staple of the game. It is the most basic area where you can put up your best squad(s) against other players, and it is one of the core ways to earn crystals in the game.
Until now, that is.
After six years, the developers have decided that there’s a better way to do it – presumably, one that makes them more money. And though there have been other moves leading up to this, it nonetheless represents a turning point in the game’s history. Whether or not it’s a positive one remains to be seen.
But this move is the most significant change to ever come to this game, and so I thought now is an appropriate time for me to highlight my concerns with the game and with the game’s longevity. There are many things I could mention, but I’ll highlight four of my bigger overall concerns:
1. Squad Arena: The Game’s Central Mode
Since we’ve already mentioned Squad Arena, let’s start there. This has been the central mode of the game ever since its inception, but it won’t remain that way for long. It will be replaced by Grand Arena. These two modes are vastly different, and one of the biggest differences of them all is that whereas Squad Arena utilizes one squad, Grand Arena seeks to utilize your whole roster. In my opinion, this change could include both good and bad. It’s good to incentivize having a strong overall roster! But I am fearful for what kind of changes this might lead to. Consider this scenario: previously, if you had a very strong team with a Galactic Legend, you could compete with others – regardless of how many Galactic Legends you have. That will no longer be the case. It seems to me, then, that this will only serve to drive a divide even further amongst whales and non-whales – something I’m not sure is healthy for the game. Already they’ve admitted that they want Galactic Legends to not be beatable by non-Galactic Legends, creating a divide. This will accentuate it.
And there are aspects of Grand Arena itself that give me concern. For example, a common Grand Arena schedule will feature 3v3 instead of 5v5 – something that fundamentally alters battles and squads. Tying the main source of crystal income to this is problematic. Furthermore, will the amount of crystals earned be commensurate with a months-worth of Squad Arena rewards? I highly doubt it. Plus, given the matchmaking features, it seems like all players will reach a cap on how far they can climb, and this by design – even more so than in Squad Arena.
The foundations of this change have long been laid, as the developers have been trying to re-train players to consider other modes as equally as important as Squad Arena. And more or less, it’s worked. But doing that and removing the incentive behind Squad Arena are two different things. I am concerned about the competitiveness and the parity of this game moving forward, not to mention the level of fun.
2. Sandbox: The Game’s Biggest Need
This raises another important issue, however, and its one that players have been requesting for a while: a sandbox mode. Basically, what players want is an environment in which they can test their characters and squads, playing around with it to figure out the best teams and synergies. Thus far, I’ve been pretty skeptical about how much this is actually needed, and how much it would actually be used. So I’ll admit it: I haven’t really been a big proponent of this, thinking it would be nice but not a major need. I’m changing my tune now and saying that this is a huge need for the game. Let me explain why.
The developers have obviously identified the need for this game to span various game modes in order to survive, and that has never been more obvious than in the change with Squad Arena. But one other recent development highlights this as well, and it’s the brand new introduction of mode-specific abilities for characters. These abilities are unlocked using the rare Omicron materials, and they give boosts to certain characters that are meant to be able to rival Galactic Legends. Let me give an example: Qui-Gon Jinn recently received an update where, with the Omicron upgrade, he becomes a very powerful Jedi leader in Grand Arena. The ability doesn’t apply in any other game mode, but it is designed (I believe) to even out a disparity between Galactic Legends numbers (as even though Qui-Gon’s ability doesn’t work against Galactic Legends, if he’s on defense it may force the opponent to use a Galactic Legend to counter). Different characters are receiving different abilities in different modes. Overall, I think this could be a very promising change. But it highlights the desperate need for a sandbox mode.
Why? Well, to stick with my example, I recently gave Qui-Gon his omicron upgrade – and I haven’t been able to use it yet! In Grand Arena, I’ll probably get a handful of chances a month to try it out, and that’s it. You can imagine how difficult it will be to do any sort of testing or playing around to figure out which synergies are the best. It makes it virtually impossible, unless you want to wait several months and do slow, methodical testing and wondering. To me, the introduction of mode-specific abilities is the impetus that should drive a sandbox mode coming to the game, because there needs to be a way to use these characters and test them beyond a couple times a month in most cases.
3. Character Releases: The Game’s Biggest Draw
Still keeping the focus on the characters, but shifting gears a little bit, is the fact that the characters in this game are its biggest draw. That’s why you see a lot of the promotion for the game centered around who the new additions are, and I’ll be honest: it’s the main reason I play. My favorite part about the game is collecting the various characters. But that is also an area of concern, and it’s because the character releases have gotten worse and worse for the player base.
I’m not talking about which characters are coming (though you could argue that too, especially with the insane absence of any sort of focus on Leia, as I’ve noted before), but it’s more about how they are released. Some of this game’s best events and characters were through Legendary and Hero’s Journey events. But the last Legendary character was Padmé Amidala all the way back in March 2019, while the last Hero’s Journey character was The Mandalorian (Beskar Armor) in December 2020. So it’s been two and a half years since a single Legendary event, and a year since a single Hero’s Journey event. It seems like the game has moved away from these, and that’s a shame.
Instead, there are basically three types of character releases now: Galactic Legends, Marquee characters, and Conquest rewards. And to me, that’s a frightening thing about the state of this game. If there’s no space for Legendary-like releases anymore, I wonder how much longer there will be space for many of the players like me who love the character collection part of it. It seems to me that the character releases are more and more driven by greed, and there’s got to be a breaking point where the players say it’s not worth it. I worry that we’re quickly approaching it.
4. Conquest: The Game’s Best Mode
I’ve been pretty negative throughout this article, but it’s coming from a place of someone who loves the game, has been playing it almost since launch, and wants to see it thrive. And one of the very best things the game has ever done came earlier this year, with the release of Conquest. It almost immediately became my favorite game mode, and it was met with huge praise from the community.
Less than six months later, the developers had ruined it, rendering it a shell of its former self and crumbling under the weight of the studio’s greed.
And so to me, this is a fitting place to end the article with, because it highlights so much of these other concerns. The developers have identified the need to spread the game out across multiple modes, which is what has driven the move away from Squad Areana (1). The developers also recognized a need to give more opportunity to use a wide variety of characters and squads (2), which was met through the expansiveness and uniqueness of Conquest. And one of the new ways some very good characters are being released is through Conquest rewards (3). In many ways, then, it seems like Conquest could theoretically be an answer to a lot of these problems. When it was released, Conquest was a breath of fresh air to a fledgling game, and one that I hoped would bring new life and usher in a great new era of this game. But the more and more changes are made to Conquest, the less and less I’m confident that will actually happen.
If the developers wanted to start addressing some of these concerns, the best and most impactful thing they could do is re-do some of the changes they made to Conquest. But they won’t. And you and I both know why. And that is precisely why I’m so troubled about this game’s future.
As George Lucas once said, the prequel trilogy is all about greed, and that is what led to Anakin’s fall to the dark side. “So what all these movies are about is: greed,” Lucas said. “Greed is a source of pain and suffering for everybody.” And to that, SWGOH players certainly say, “Amen!”