Guardians: The Last Day of the Citadel is a demonstration of how developers can take a well-trodden idea (in this case, the “run forever” breed of games that seem to multiply on the App Store) and beef it up until the subsequent game has the strength and charm to stand on its own. Indeed, Guardians is still about protecting a charge who can’t stop running (let’s just assume the starring characters in this genre take Pink Floyd’s “Run Like Hell” to heart), but it goes beyond simply trying to survive for as long as possible in the interest of racking up a big score.
Guardians is a medieval adventure starring a young warrior captain named Loreena Eysgaard. When Loreena is accused of a crime she didn’t commit, she is stripped of her armor, rank, and duty, and imprisoned with only her life, breeches, and ye olde leather tube top. When her kingdom falls under siege from a force called the Vash, Loreena breaks out of imprisonment, flees the citadel, and runs into the wilds to try and find help for herself and her kingdom. On the way, she finds swords, armor, and magic spells that she can cast through a gauntlet that is on loan to her from a wizard friend.
Hit it with your shoe.
As stated before, the action in Guardians is constantly moving. You must help Loreena leap over pits, slide under traps, and cut down enemies that stand in her way. Every so often, the action will pause long enough for Loreena to go sword-to-sword with an especially cunning enemy, including half-demons, wraiths, spiders, and swordsmen. Guardians’ sword fighting bits are interesting and intense: if you slash wildly without waiting for your enemy to give you an opening, you’ll get clobbered. Instead, you must parry attacks, counter them (which is performed via a quicktime event), and use spells to your advantage. The swordplay in Guardians is still far from delicate, but swiping the screen with no rhyme or reason won’t get you anywhere, either.
Loreena has to work her way through a dungeon, a temple, a forest, and a crypt. Each level comes with its own hazards, and you have to work out how to avoid each one. Pits and low-lying enemies must be leapt over by swiping “up” on the screen. Low-hanging branches and chandeliers can be slid under by swiping down (who hangs a chandelier near the floor?). Loreena’s sword, magic, or throwing daggers can deal with enemies that stand in the way like so many scaly roadblocks. If Loreena fails to dodge a hazard, she loses energy. If she loses all her energy, or if she fails a one-on-one duel with an enemy, she loses a “Destiny Point”– essentially, a life.
Loreena can build up Destiny Points as the game progresses, which is good, because the timing in Guardians: The Last Citadel is very tricky to nail down. If you slide a micro-second too early under an object, Loreena will catch her head on it, anyway. If you jump over an object just a teensy bit too early, she’ll trip, fall, and lose energy. And so on.
Chivalry really is dead.
On one hand, it’s a matter of timing: the more you practice, the easier it becomes to dodge objects in-game. On the other hand, it’s impossible to give the game a free pass. There are certainly plenty of times where you’ll swipe the screen horizontally to get Loreena to swing her sword, and she’ll jump into the arms of the enemy instead. Other times, you’ll tap on a spell to cast it, but it simply doesn’t go through. The touch screen communication could definitely use some tightening up.
Guardians: The Last Day of the Citadel is also a very fine-looking game with smooth character movements, interesting monster designs, and neat death animations. This gives rise to another big problem with the game: a rare but deadly glitch that causes Loreena’s character model to simply vanish. It’s unclear what exactly triggers it, but it seems to happen most often following a one-on-one match with a monster or a boss. If you can’t see Loreena, well, that makes it a bit harder to guide her up, over, and around the stuff that’s constantly getting in her way.
Guardians: The Last Day of the Citadel is flawed. It’s also quite short, with “Book One” wrapping up within a few hours. But it boasts lots of achievements, three difficulty levels, multiple paths, duals, and other options. It’s a very ambitious and addictive take on a tired genre.