The Future of Star Wars Destiny
I start this article with some sad news. This will be my final article for Flip Side Gaming. I have really enjoyed sitting down every other week and spending some serious time thinking and writing about the game I love. Unfortunately, I have a new job that is taking a huge chunk of my time. I hope to resume to article writing in the future. But for now this is good bye.
Since this is my final article it seems fitting to examine the future of Star Wars Destiny. Especially after the new spoilers from late last week, there is a lot to be excited about. Looking into my crystal ball, I see a game that is headed in a good direction. With Empire at War we are getting a look into the design direction, and it seems rather promising. Unlike Spirit of Rebellion which had a lot of overly powerful cards, there are a lot of interesting designs and not a lot of over tuned aggressive cards in EaW. While Sabine is certainly strong, she costs a lot and three dice starts are always difficult. What we don’t see in EaW are a lot of cheap, but really strong characters.
I’m going to start with the positives because I think Destiny is going in a positive direction. Yes there are some issues which I will address below. But overall, it looks like the game is back on track after the disaster that was Spirit of Rebellion.
Plots – Woah, my prediction has come true already?!? From the beginning, I predicted that there would be cards similar to those in X-Wing and Imperial Assault that start on the board for a point cost. With Legacies, we now have this interesting subset of cards. We have already seen two of these cards and both are interesting, without being overly powerful. Profitable Connection allows you to start the game with three resources, instead of two. This opens up the possibility to play a powerful weapon turn 1. It costs three points, but there are several decks that could use a card like this to accelerate their start. 10 cost FN certainly comes to mind as a possibility. It is a tradeoff though. Is one resource worth FN’s second die? While neither of the spoiled plots are exciting, this mechanic has a lot of room for exploration. I would like to see some cheap plots that add one health or start the game with a shield. Both would have a low impact, but they would help fill in gaps created by certain pairings of characters or even Elite Palpatine. There are also exciting opportunities that become possible. For instance I would be excited about a five point cost plot that allowed you to start the game with a weapon or support already in play. In other words, plots open up the possibility for a ton of flexibility. They also relieve that terrible feeling of making a 28 point deck.
Weaker Cards in Empire at War – While I am not playing many Empire at War cards in my decks, I am excited that they are weaker than previous sets. Normally games go the other way. Cards have to be more and more powerful, or no one will use them. With Destiny, the card pool is small enough where cards can fill different roles to see play without being overpowered. A good example of this is the push to make support decks viable. Many cards were realized that help this archetype without being useable by other, already powerful, archetypes Also, if this trend continues, it will enable longer games after rotation happens. It is an interesting situation though. It seems to me that the set is so weak that buying singles rather than packs is the way to go.
Interesting Design Choices/Innovation – Empire at War has demonstrated that new cards can have interesting design choices and not just be a more powerful version of a previous card. Thrawn exemplifies this approach. He has no damage sides, and yet he is strong enough to make an impact. Other cards like Magnaguard and Ahsoka bend the rules of the game. Quinlan Vos, Servant of the Dark Side, and General Rieekan also have interesting effects. This set has really showed off how innovative the design team can be. Already Legacies is proving to continue this innovation with indirect damage and plots. I am really excited to see how far they will push the game.
A New Player Experience – An important element to the success of any game is the new player experience. I’ll never forget opening packs of the Star Wars CCG and getting some rares. They were all ineffectual members of the cantina band. I gave up soon after. With the release of a new player box that has enough cards for people to jump right in with games against their friend, we have the opportunity to expand the player base. Additionally, the box has some powerful tools, especially if you are villain. Buy two boxes and you have a somewhat competitive Kylo/Phasma deck. With a few singles purchases, you are ready to compete at a local tournament. While we may lament the power level of these characters, it does make the new player experience much more manageable, which is good for the health of the game.
Limited Format – Rumors continue to swirl that FFG is working on a limited format. These rumors ring true because all games need a viable limited format. It is critical to give people options for how they want to play destiny. I find inefficient Destiny to be a fun format. Sometimes the grind of seeing the same decks in competitive play can be too grueling for even the most grizzled tournament player. Having another option will be great. I just hope it is released sooner rather than later. The new player box has brought in some new players, this is a great opportunity to retain them with a limited format.
Heroes Might be Less Bad – It looks like, with our sneak peek into Legacies, heroes are going to get more lower costed options that do damage. Villains has this covered with Phasma. Luke at 11/14 looks to be filling a similar role. He has three damage sides, and a cool ability. This puts him in the position of being able to close out a game when his more expensive partner dies. Unfortunately, Luke at 14 still removes many possible strong four dice / two character pairings that would exist if he were to cost 13. However, he can pair with elite Chewbacca, Leia, or Finn. There is also new Han Solo costing 11/14. If this is a trend, Legacies might go a long way towards diminishing the giant gulf that currently exists between hero and villains. I am hopeful that with the release of good 14 cost elite characters, we will also be given some good 16 cost elite heroes. Heroes could finally have their day!
Rotation – For me, rotation cannot arrive too soon. I know this will be a traumatic day for everyone. Some of their collection will either be worthless or worth much less. I too will feel that pain. But, if Empire at War is an indication of the direction of the game, we could be seeing a more restrained card pool. Once Spirit of Rebellion rotates out, a lot of over the top cards will go with it. This is something I will be watching closely. Nothing firm has been announced, but my gut says it will happen at the three year mark. That is two years from now, but this is a look at the future of the game.
Short Games – It feels like, with every set, games get shorter and shorter. This is a trend that bothers me a lot. To me, the shorter the game the less skill is required during the game. I prefer games that last 4-6 rounds and require intense planning ahead. The way the game often plays out now is, plan for turn two and no more. There are a number of ways to fix this, and it seems like FFG is moving in this direction with Empire at War. However, the 2 player starter set feels like a big step back. If you are following the competitive side of the game, you will notice that the decks winning major tournaments are agro decks. Elite New Kylo/ Elite FN has become the most dominant deck, but the other top decks tend to be variants of this theme. Anakin/Phasma and New Kylo/ Phasma have both been popular. If you are noticing a theme here, you are not alone, the 2 player starter deck has some powerful, aggressive, characters in it. If Legacies is designed like Empire at War, then eventually the game will slow down. In the meantime, hopefully FFG can come up with some nerfs for these overly aggressive decks. We have been, and still are expecting, a nerf to FN any day now. However, I would like to see Phasma nerfed as well. Specifically, I think she should cost 11/14. She is still better than Legacies Luke. If unchanged, Phasma and the aggressive environment will continue to be strong for quite some time.
Value of Cards Dropping Fast – We knew this was coming, and I’ve been predicting this for a long time. But Destiny collections just aren’t worth that much anymore. With packs easily accessible, there is an opportunity for anyone to get into the game. But this also means, buying packs of cards is going to be a huge loss of money. Gone are the absurd, but amazing, days when you could open a box of Destiny and make a profit. Destiny has now become a real CCG. Every pack is the lottery. You might get lucky once in a while, but in the long run you will lose a lot of money. This is a sad day for those of us who love opening packs, but realize that it’s probably just better to buy a handful of singles from each new set.
More Cards – One of the great challenges of game design is making new cards with a big card pool. Once a pool gets big enough, it becomes almost impossible to find new avenues to explore. At that point either power creep sets in (the gradual increase in power overall) or new cards just don’t see play. In Empire at War the latter is the case. While you can certainly build around new characters like Cad Bane and Sabine, you could probably get away with buying only a handful of rares and legendaries from the set. I have three decks built using Empire at War cards that are all very strong: Elite Thrawn/ Elite Unkar, Elite New Kylo / Elite FN, and Elite Anakin/ Elite New Phasma. Between the three decks, they use only use five new legendaries: 2 Thrawn, Hounds Tooth, 2 Ancient Lightsaber. Additionally, they only use 4 rares: 2 Dark Counsel and 2 Detention Center. This is a bit alarming. However, I am happy this is the route chosen instead of power creep. But how long will they be able to keep up this approach? If only a few cards have a large impact, people will stop buying packs. This is where rotation comes in, and I will say it again, rotation cannot come soon enough for me.
Lukas Gone – Bye lead designer Lukas Litzsinger, you will be missed. This should be a big concern for everyone who plays Destiny. What will happen to our beloved game? What direction will it take? Will the new design team take our game in a new direction? Will the new team take our game in a direction that makes us cry? While this is certainly a scary time for Destiny players, I think it will work out well. The new lead designer, Jeremy, has worked closely with Lukas for a while now. He seems to have a great handle on the game and from interviews I have heard with him, he is a competitive card game player. This is important, because it means that balance will most likely be a primary concern. This is great news for both the casual and competitive player. Even for a casual player, there is nothing more annoying than a deck that is way over the curve.
This is good bye for now. But I long for the day when I make my triumphant return. Until next time, you can find me at www.patreon.com/TinyGrimes creating regular content and on Itunes/Youtube with the Smugglers Den and other videos.