Unless you're into spending money, don't ever buy data packs (except the first Chromium--it guarantees you a character; you buy it with crystals).
Once in a great while you'll get a character from a daily pack, or shards, but 45% of the characters you get will be from the various stores in the game. You can only see 1-2 when you start (Cantina and Squad Arena), but eventually you'll see another 3 or so, and they'll keep you busy grabbing character shards. The other 45% of the characters you get will be from doing hard battles...one shard at a time.
At the start, you really just need to keep plugging away at what you know to do. The game is great at opening up new areas when you're about ready for them. Don't even be that concerned about which characters are the "right ones." For instance, you'll probably continue to use Clone Wars Chewbacca for a while...but you'll likely abandon him by level 60 or so in favor of other characters.
I do highly recommend doing nothing in the Cantina except getting GS shards (Battle 1-A). Just do it over and over again until he's 7*. I camped there until he was done and then started doing more cantina battles. You'll use him way into the end game. Do one Cantina refresh every day (100 crystals).
In the Squad Arena (PvP), ST Han and Leia are both great choices. Again, I'd just keep farming them until they were maxed, then move on.
Other than that, keep doing the Light and Dark side battles. (Refresh twice each day (50 crystals each)). Right now you can just try to get through the levels, but eventually you'll want each one three stars because you'll go back to them countless times to get specific character shards so you can get a character, or to get equipment parts to make them stronger. By the way, equipment (those green pluses) make a HUGE difference--more than anything!
Be sure to get through your Dailies every day. That maxes your growth.
It's a bit frustrating early on because you want to get a bunch of characters, but if you really focus on building a strong team, they'll open the game for you.
Don't hesitate to use ALL your energy every single day. And if you fight a battle a second time, use a SIM if you have it. I was so concerned early on with burning through my credits and SIMs that I hoarded them. No need to do that. They all refill the following day, and by using them you grow faster.
These are generally considered some of the best characters in each store, in order of general preference. If you're not sure who to get, get them in this order. But don't let the idea of getting the "best" characters rule your gameplay. It's fun to play with whoever you want and sometimes unique combinations do surprisingly well:
Guild Shipments: Rey, Ewok Elder
Arena Shipments: ST Han, Princess Leia, Admiral Ackbar
Galactic War Shipments: Luminara, Captain Phasma, Teebo, Poggle the Lesser, IG-86 (Note: Luminara is best up to about level 75, then Phasma seems to shine more. Ultimately, you'll want both.)
Cantina Shipments: Qui-Gon Jinn, Daka, Fives, Ahsoka
Cantina Battles: Geonosian Soldier, Barriss, Count Dooku, Old Ben, Royal Guard, Jedi Consular, Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian
Hearing the the GW Retreat option has been neutralized because it resets the enemy team completely. Maybe this was intentional, maybe not. It definitely removes strategy and means you'll need a full roster to compete.
This update sucks. They've made it much harder to farm shards by only allowing 3 battles at a time in campaign mode on a given battle. Considering the shit drop rates anyway, it will now take literally forever without crystals to level up. The cash grab begins (or worsens).
What the fuck. So do they gradually go up to 16? Just when I was trying to think positive at how at least I'll have a (slightly) higher energy capacity so I'll be able to farm more.
I think this game is really moving away hard from F2P. I'm seriously deciding whether to continue at this point. I doubt I'll ever be anything more than a low-average player without investing serious coin. I tried to join a guild and they said there was a $100/wk spend requirement. No thanks.
Developer commented on the surprise GW retreat change:
I'm REALLY sorry that the GW Retreat change went live without any announcement.
The explanation for how that happened is embarrassing - we assembled patch notes from a list of data changes, but the GW Retreat change was a server change. Server releases are always handled separately from data releases from a technical perspective, but sometimes they happen to occur on the same day. We are going to have a meeting to discuss how we can GUARANTEE that important server change with player-facing consequences are not released without accompanying patch notes again.
I wrote something to add to the patch notes, but I'm going to let Jesse edit his own post in a few minutes, so until then here's the explanation:
The functionality of Retreat has been changed so that it behaves the same as force-quitting the app. While we understand that many players relied on Retreating as part of their strategy, ultimately there were two different ways to leave a battle that didn’t behave the same way (Retreating, and force-quitting the app). We decided that in order to keep the experience fair and consistent, we would change the behavior of Retreat to work the same as force-quitting.
It just shows that the game hooks you early and then compels you to spend money or get crushed by similar L60s-70s that are spending money on the game. I think I may get out before that happens.
I think you're being overly-dramatic here. I've been playing for a month. I've spent $0. I was about to hit the 60 cap myself. I have a few 5* characters with purple gear.
I'm currently ranked #349 in my PvP and that's because I haven't really been trying to rank up until lately. I've been fine coasting to stay in the top 1000.
In fact, I'd be doing a lot better if I didn't save 2500 crystals for the 8x pack but would have just done energy refreshes. That's been pretty lucrative in the last few days. It's all about purple gear farming.