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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Game review: Immutable’s Guild of Guardians offers mobile dungeon adventures

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From Oct. 9–20, Immutable invited playtesters to try out an early demo of its upcoming mobile game, Guild of Guardians.

Guild of Guardians was first announced in 2021. Its utility token, Guild of Guardians Gems (GOG), went up for sale in December 2021, raising over $5.3 million for the game’s development. In addition, over 800,000 individuals registered for the token sale, which Immutable claimed was an “oversubscription” of 82 times vs. the expected demand. It is being developed by Mineloader, which is the same company that created the Final Fantasy VII remake and Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. Gods Unchained creator Immutable is publishing the game.

According to the game’s roadmap, it is expected to be released in open beta sometime in the fourth quarter of 2023. The Guild of Guardians documents state that it will be a free-to-play and play-to-earn mobile game. Players will not need to make any purchases to begin playing the game and start earning nonfungible tokens (NFTs) or game tokens. To finance the game’s further development after launch, Immutable will sell “seasonal content” consisting of limited edition NFTs, including “heroes, pets, guilds and energy boosters.” They will also charge a percentage fee on secondary sales of some of the game’s items.

Guild of Guardians demo opening screen. Source: Guild of Guardians demo

The play-to-earn aspect of Guild of Guardians will revolve around crafting equipment and summoning heroes. Players will be able to earn crafting materials as they progress through dungeons, which they’ll be able to use to mint NFTs that represent gear. They’ll also be able to collect “common” heroes that can be combined into higher rarities and minted on the blockchain. Guild of Guardians NFTs are minted on the Immutable X network, while the GOG token is on Ethereum.

Ever since the fundraise, details about the state of the game’s development have been scarce. But Immutable invited members of the media to playtest the game From Oct. 9 to 20, and this writer was one of the persons invited.

An Android and iOS mobile game

Guild of Guardians is designed entirely for mobile. You can play it on a mobile phone or tablet, and it’s available for both iOS and Android. But there’s no way currently to play it on a PC or console, and the team doesn’t appear to be planning to make a PC version anytime soon, if ever. The controls of the game are optimized for mobile gameplay, as the battles are mostly automated, with very little real-time control during fights.

Related: What is Gods Unchained, and how to play it.

In the Guild of Guardians docs, the team emphasized that mobile games are more accessible than any other type of video game. The number of people in the world who own smartphones is much greater than the number who own PCs, which is why they chose to make Guild of Guardians strictly a mobile game with touch-screen controls.

A dungeon-crawling adventure

Guild of Guardians is a classic “dungeon-crawl” game. The main gameplay consists of progressing through various dungeons, fighting monsters and opening treasure chests for loot. Players can choose which dungeon to explore by clicking on it from within an in-game world map.

Once a dungeon is chosen, the player’s party of heroes loads into the first room, which usually contains monsters that can be fought. After each room is cleared, the player can choose which room to go to next. Different rooms contain different enemy strengths and rewards, and the player is presented with these metrics when making the decision. Some rooms contain treasure chests, healing or other boosts that may help the party to progress.

Once a player progresses through all of the choices and defeats all the monsters, the dungeon ends. In this case, the main menu pops back up, and the heroes who died in the dungeon are resurrected. If all party members die before the dungeon is completed, the player fails the dungeon. However, they still get to keep the items they acquired from their partial completion.

New dungeons become unlocked as old ones are completed. If the player completes all of the dungeons, they unlock a new “infinite” mode. This mode apparently allows a player to play through never-ending randomly generated dungeons for even more loot. I unfortunately didn’t make it far enough to test out infinite mode.

Automated battles

The game has mostly automated battles. To start a battle, the player clicks on a “fight” button and watches the fight play out. They can choose to activate characters’ ultimate abilities manually, in which case there is some interaction during battles. However, they can also choose to have these abilities activated automatically, making the battles a completely passive experience.

Battle from an earlier build of Guild of Guardians. Source: Guild of Guardians

The challenge to winning a battle comes from decisions made before it begins. Before entering a dungeon, the player chooses which heroes to put into a party. Each hero has different abilities. Some are tanks or healers, while others are focused on damage-dealing. To succeed, the player needs to create a party out of characters whose abilities complement each other. In addition, characters can be placed in various positions within the party’s formation before a battle begins. Tanks should go in the front, while ranged damage dealers and healers should be placed in the back. Players also influence their ability to win by deciding which gear to outfit their characters with.

I found that the battles were pretty balanced in terms of difficulty. My party cleaved its way through lots of small trash packs with ease, while there were a few bosses that slaughtered them without mercy. I was happy to see that heroes are automatically resurrected after a dungeon failure.

Collecting heroes and crafting

Two of the most important goals in Guild of Guardians are to collect heroes and craft equipment. To get a new hero, the player must obtain a “summon,” which allows them to roll for a randomly selected hero. There seems to be a wide variety of heroes that can be collected, each with different artwork, ultimate abilities and stats.

Some of the “summons” can be obtained as rewards for exploring dungeons, while a certain number are also given out as login rewards. Players get two heroes in the tutorial: one tank and one healer.

I found that the hero-collecting system was a pretty satisfying reward mechanic. The heroes had a lot of variety in terms of stats and abilities, which made getting a new hero feel significant.

To craft gear, the player needs to collect crafting materials within dungeons. I crafted a single item throughout my playtest sessions but couldn’t gain more experience than that. The game’s documents state that gear items differ in terms of rarity, with more rare items requiring more rare materials to craft. Different pieces of crafted gear provide different unique buffs; some items are parts of sets that give bigger bonuses if a character wears more than one piece from the set, the documents stated.

Related: Game review: Axie Infinity currently rules the Pay-to-Win-to-Earn roost

In conclusion

The Guild of Guardians demo that I played was an early version of the game. The public release will likely have more features and content. But so far, the game’s development seems to be on the right track. The battles are challenging, and there are a variety of strategic decisions the player has to make in order to succeed. This is not a run-of-the-mill play-to-earn game featuring mindless grinding for cryptocurrency. The gameplay is engaging and requires significant thought from the player. Fans of turn-based RPGs may enjoy Guild of Guardians, as it scratches their itch for strategic challenges.

On the other hand, players who are looking for Diablo-style real-time action may want to pass over Guild of Guardians when it’s released. The battles in the game are almost entirely automated, so there’s no test of reflexes in this particular dungeon-crawler.

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

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