Two years ago, Disney Interactive launched Star Wars Commander, a base-building strategy game set in the Star Wars universe. Players could choose to enlist with the Rebellion or the Empire in an effort to either save or control the galaxy. Since Commander's start, Disney has been updating the mobile game with new content to keep the adventures feeling fresh, but this past week, Star Wars Commander got a major update that would finally give players the feeling of taking part in a massive battle.

With Squad Wars, players and their squads can now take on other squads in huge engagements, fighting over control of Sullust. The update features the same asynchronous combat you might be used to, but since the battles take place over 24 hours, you can coordinate with the other members of your squad to work out effective strategies for the best results. We chatted with Andrew Fazekas, executive producer on Star Wars Commander, Joe Canose, Star Wars Commander's lead designer, and Dave Feder, Commander's product manager, to learn more about the mode and what it does to separate Star Wars Commander from the competition.

Squads aren't something new to Star Wars Commander, as the team-up feature has been part of the game for some time. However, working with your squad wasn't a very social experience in the past. With Squad Wars, Disney Interactive hopes to add a lot more interactivity between you and the other members of your Star Wars team. "This is our first really big bet into making social engagement more meaningful and important in our game," Andrew Fazekas said. "It's one of our key pillars this year is to really drive social engagement. This is the first in what will be many features that are catered towards that."

With Squad Wars, an exact copy of your existing base in the standard game is copied over to the planet Sullust. You and your squad will have 24 hours to plan your strategies out for the upcoming encounter, and then the following 24 hours to execute that plan. You won't be locked in, but the developers are giving you a chance to really hone in on how you want to proceed by giving you the necessary time to organize your attack before the Squad War actually begins.

Disney Interactive

"It's something out players have been clamoring for, and this is probably the single-most requested feature we've had from our players," Fazekas added. "A lot of players are already part of squads but their activity is limited to donating troops to one another, but this is going to be the first big feature to allow them to play and strategize together to compete with other squads."

Joe Canose walked us through a brief demo, showing the new Sullust map, which includes all the lava and sulfur pits you might expect from the planet, and how Squad Wars would work. In addition to battling enemy bases to takeover uplinks (which are the mode's way of assigning Victory Stars you've earned), you can also fight for neutral planets (Tatooine, Hoth, etc.) and their Factory Outposts, which will endow your entire squad with boosts... as long as you're in control. "Tatooine has an experimental weapons factory, if you use one of your turns to capture it, you can get that buff for your squad," Canose explained. "This where the strategy comes in where players will have to make tough choices in how to use their turns."

That added layer of depth is part of what makes the planning so important. You may have to adjust your strategy on the fly when you notice the opposing squad is hoarding all the Factory Outposts, but if you've got the turns and firepower to spare, you could just forego these optional planetary excursions entirely. "Theoretically you could just battle for the outposts for entire 24 hours, but then you wouldn't be earning points by taking those uplinks," Dave Feder elaborated. "You could see wars where very few uplinks are captured, and there's some interesting divergence in the strategy that should make it fun."

Disney Interactive

It's worth noting though that every time one of those neutral outposts gets captured, the difficulty increases for the next time you attempt to sway it to your favor. The boost planets have five stages of difficulty, and any attempts to capture them once they've reached their peaks will remain at the highest challenge. You may really need those shield boosts or infantry health boosts late in the game, so managing everyone in the squads turns is going to play a big role. Lone wolfing it just won't fly when so much in-game loot is on the line.

"We'll be enhancing these as we go, introducing more planets with different advantages to the feature so the rotation will be different pretty often," Canose added. "There will still just be three per war, but it will make each squad war feel unique."

The Squad Wars update has been a major focus for the dev team since December's The Force Awakens inclusions. Back in December, the player base greatly expanded, making it the perfect time to start focusing on more social engagement aspects like Squad Wars. How will your squad do when actually put up against the rest of the world? You'll just have to get your gang together to find out.

 

Star Wars Commander is available now for free on mobile devices, and the Squad Wars update is available for anyone with a rating of HQ5 and above.