Guardians of Graxia will kick your ass. The question is, are you clever enough and patient enough to fight back? If you're a smart cookie, and you've got the time and persistence to learn (or already know the board game), Petroglyph’s latest release can be a smooth, deep, and rewarding challenge.
The game is a card-based, turn-based, 3D tactical strategy board game (that being said, it's visually quite brilliant) where all battles take place on various floating continents. You begin each mission by drawing unit cards - which can be put down like customized chess pieces - and spell cards that can modify said units or aid them in battle. On top of the potential environmental bonuses inherent in each of the board's tiles, you'll need to take into account your Mana, attack and defense type, command abilities, movement potential, the nearby units, your spell cards, and much much more. All of these factors add up when you decide to enter the intensely complicated battle phase against an enemy unit, so you better have all those dormant synapses firing if you want to make any progress. Casual gamers beware.
Above: Just a taste of the intricacies of battle
The high difficulty would be less of an issue if the tutorial did a better job of teaching you the complexities. Instead the game shows you the basics, then throws you off a cliff assuming you can fly. As a result you'll lean most of the game's nuances through grueling trial and error, restarting battles after about 20-60 minutes. It can be a frustrating experience if you aren't prepared.
Above: Is that Pippin riding on your shoulder?
If you do persevere though, and are ready to spend a good amount of time simply staring, thinking, and planning every action with careful consideration, the conquest of your AI enemy can be extremely satisfying. And once you master all of the game's concepts you can shorten the amount of time spent planning. There is a lengthy campaign as well as a list of skirmish battles to keep you busy for hours on end, but if you feel an urge to play a human opponent (as a board game is traditionally intended) you're out of luck.
The lack of any multiplayer at the time of release is a huge oversight. We felt it would have been nice to play a few matches against a similarly skilled human opponent in order to learn the game and ready ourselves for the campaign. We hope such functionality will be added in the future, as it would greatly enhance the overall experience.
Guardians of Graxia is currently available only online through sites such as Steam and GamersGate.
Nov 18, 2010