After a thousand years, the mysterious spirits known as the Guardians have returned. You may fear such creatures. You may wonder at them. Or you may grab your enchanted rifle, capture them, and set them to fighting each other.
When you think about it, it’s not such a great deal for the mysterious and wonderful spirits, but it’s as good an excuse for a Pokemon-style card battling game as any.
Guardian Cross follows the usual plot threads for a Japanese RPG. You’re in charge of two newly minted Guardian Masters, said to be exceptionally skilled in the training and management of Guardians. It’s not clear what’s exceptional about you, since everyone you meet also has a squad of the little beasties ready to fight. But the writing is light and good-humored, so it’s easy to suspend your disbelief.
Intense automated battles!
You explore the lands of the Northern Cross on a series of missions from your Empress, mostly following the trail of a mysterious figure who is tricking leaders and inventors into evil deeds. You’re also trying to rise up through the ranks of an ongoing tournament (the player-versus-player part of the game). Both the missions and the tournament require you to capture Guardians, improve their stats by feeding them to each other, then choose the most powerful creatures for your squad.
If you’re the type of player who’s ‘gotta catch’em all,’ the game has a lot to offer. There are over 180 creatures to capture, with each Guardian represented by a lavishly-illustrated trading card. You’ll get most of your creatures from a simple fast-paced hunting game, but you’re also rewarded with special cards for recruiting friends and other activities. You get bonus goodies for collecting subsets, and it’s fun to level your creatures up and optimize your squad.
Too bad the battles aren’t nearly as much fun as the cards. Guardian Cross uses a ‘line up the cards and add up the numbers’ approach to combat that kills any notion of strategy in the game. Some cards have special abilities or strengths against certain enemies, but there’s no interaction between the cards in your squad and no interesting combinations to take advantage of. All you do is level up your creatures and hope for the best.
The game content is ferociously padded, too. The missions are built around an energy system, and you’ll usually get through two to four dungeon levels per session. Most of the time, those levels will be functionally identical. The scene will vary, but the routine won’t. You’ll fight four or five almost identical sets of ‘Wild Guardians,’ fight one slightly harder set, then go down the stairs and fight the exact same lineup of foes on the next dungeon level.
You get most of your hunting licenses and PvP tournament entries from loot drops in missions, so you’ll have to brave the tedium of the missions if you want to play the rest of the game. It’s a good thing there’s a ‘fast forward’ button during the battles, because seeing the same fight over and over again at normal speed would be excruciating.
Guardian Cross handles the social aspects of its game well. There are plenty of rewards for befriending other players and trading, which are essential to building a healthy community around the game. You can also play through the game completely on your own with no in-app purchases, if you have a mind to do so. The trouble with Guardian Cross is that unless you love the rest of the game, the repetitive battles are likely to drive you away.