An MMORPG set in the Clone Wars era of the Star Wars universe sounds like something that makes a lot of sense right? And what if it also had the graphical style of the animated TV show so it could look great even on older systems? Oh, and what if it was targeted at kids as a gateway MMO?
It’s for that final reason that most Star Wars/MMO fans won’t have ever played Clone Wars Adventures (or maybe haven’t even heard of it at all). Developed by Sony Online Entertainment and released in 2010, the game was the second title in the company’s effort to corner the growing market for children’s MMOs. Among CWA’s competition were SOE’s Free Realms, which had launched to a wide playerbase a year prior, as had KingIsle Entertainment’s Wizard101, while Three Rings Design’s Puzzle Pirates had been going strong since 2003.
Elsewhere in the Star Wars MMO-verse, SOE’s own Star Wars Galaxies was plodding along with regular updates and a steady playerbase following years of controversy, while Bioware’s Star Wars: The Old Republic loomed on the horizon as the next World of Warcraft-killer.
At the time of the game’s launch, the general reception to The Clone Wars television series was still marred by the weak 2008 theatrical film which kicked off the multimedia project. The general indifference that the Star Wars fan base had towards the show back then, combined with the game’s targeted demographic, and the generally overcrowded state of the MMO genre meant that I (and I’m sure scores of others) never really paid much attention to Clone Wars Adventures first time round.
Still, as the stature of the series grew in the proceeding years (seemingly coinciding with a steady growth in player numbers) I always felt rather annoyed with myself that I’d never bothered to duck my head in and check the game out before it shuttered in 2014.
Thankfully, like many other dead MMOs, Clone Wars Adventures is one of many to have been subject to a fan revival. The team at CWAEmu were kind enough to offer me access to their closed alpha server so after all these years I could finally spend a couple of hours checking out the game.
As I never played the live version of the game I can’t comment too much on how it compares to that, but my immediate impression of CWAEmu was just how well-functioning everything felt considering its alpha status. A measure of this can be owed to the game being rebuilt in the Unity engine rather than attempting to build a new engine which mimics SOE’s proprietary ForgeLight engine, but that isn’t to take away from just how much the small team have been able to accomplish in bringing CWA back to life.
There isn’t anything like quests or open-world combat yet, but if what you’re looking for is a Clone Wars sandbox then there’s plenty to offer here even in this very early stage of the game’s resurrection. Better still, everything presently in the game looks very pretty and is more or less bug-free.
What’s absolutely imperative to remember when playing the game is that it’s designed first and foremost for children. Of course, as a thirty-something-year-old, I’m not likely to have as much fun or feel as invested in the game as I would a ‘proper’ MMO, but I can very well imagine that early-teen me would have been able to spend hours of fun in CWAEmu.
The initial character creation allows for a decent selection of customisation (although you should choose carefully as there is no way to create a new/second character at present), and when you’re in-game there are heaps of different cosmetic options available in the various shops which dot the main hub on Coruscant. Beyond the city planet, players can visit fan-favourite locations from the show, including Umbara and Ryloth among others. For now, they’re just empty environments, but they do make for some nice screenshot opportunities.
Each player also has their own housing area which can be filled with furniture and decorations that, like player cosmetics, emotes, and pets, are purchased with credits. With no ranking or levelling implemented, acquiring the in-game currency (there’s no cash shop here as in the live version of the game), is the player’s primary goal in CWAEmu‘s current state.
Credits can be acquired by finding tokens which appear at random in the game’s environment, or by completing mini-games. At present, eight mini-games have been re-implemented. These include tower defence style games, typing games, and rhythm games, among simpler chance games such as a daily spin-the-wheel. There’s no great measure of depth to any of these, but I know that the use of the Star Wars license alone would’ve been enough to keep younger me engaged, and those looking to make CWAEmu their new home can enjoy jostling it out to top the leaderboards.
It is ultimately the use of the Star Wars IP which will do much of the heavy lifting in drawing people to the game. I had a decent selection of consoles and contemporary classics growing up, but it’s fair to say that I spent just as much time playing some throwaway browser game because it had an IP attached to it as I did Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time. Were I born only a few years later, I’m sure that a game like Clone Wars Adventures, which tied all that together with a shared overworld and a customisable player character would’ve been absolute catnip to me when it was first released.
Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox have gone on to capture the child audience in a way that CWA could only ever dream to have done, but I’m inclined to think that any young Star Wars fan would still get a kick out of CWAEmu even in its incomplete state.
Adults may not get quite so much mileage out of the experience, but if the enthusiastic conversation on CWAEmu‘s Discord is anything to go by, those who played the game during its live operation won’t be disappointed by what the team at CWAEmu have accomplished in bringing this virtual world back to life.
As a big fan of the Star Wars animated shows, I had a great time just soaking in the virtual world, and I’m interested to see where the team can take the game when it goes public. With a bit of content behind it and regularly scheduled events (both of which are in the CWAEmu roadmap), this could become a super enjoyable casual sandbox for Jedi and Sith of all ages.