Petroglyph Games is one of those companies that you never know exactly what they're going to do next. Coming from a background of RTS video games and making a splash in the CCG/board game market, they are definitely a company to keep an eye on. With their diverse experience, Petroglyph Games have decided to take the best of both worlds and mash them together into a tiny download for about $9.99. They call it Guardians of Graxia.
For those that remember the deck building game Heroes of Graxia, Guardians of Graxia is the more fantastical version, taking the stand alone CCG and porting it onto PC via Gamersgate. What's this then? A collectible card game for the PC? Skepticism set in, but I think players will be pleasantly surprised by the game play.
Guardians of Graxia is a turn-based strategy game utilizing cards and abilities to defeat your opponent. The world of Graxia is a strange one, filled with monsters around every tile and floating areas representing continents inhabited by cities and beasts. It's literally a Topsy Turvy world. Battles are fought on tiles and portals from one continent to another, which is really the only way to travel across the board. It's very similar to chess but with more interactions for each unit.
Upon its initial release you have over 240 cards to draw units and spells from and 4 available guardians. A brief tutorial drops you straight to the front lines, giving you an overview of the basics, and really leaving the rest of the game in your hands to build your own play style.
Let's get one thing straight, it's a card game. You get a knight waving his lance at a goblin, or some simple character models walking from tile to tile. Combat and particle effects are simple, but it's at least better than looking down at inanimate cards on a table. Not much to discuss here, but most tactics games usually are light on the graphical side. The graphics are fitting of a game of this type, but there not really anything to write home about.
The music is fantastic. I really enjoyed the soundtrack for this game. As for sound effects, they are not overwhelming which is a great thing when you're trying to concentrate on what card you're going to play next is. Concentration is key in this title, and the sound effects are just enough to immerse you into the game play without going overboard with death groans every turn.
Rather than playing on a flat top game board, players play on floating tiles which represent separate continents, from grasslands, to rocky terrain pretty much every fantasy stereotype is here. Each terrain type has its bonuses as well as limitations, so situational awareness is important in each battle. Each terrain tile that the player can "capture" will be transformed into a mana pool, which guardians can draw from to summon creatures and utilize powerful spells.
During a players round, you can summon creatures and cast spells that are drawn from a random pool of cards, with the limit of 12 cards (Max) being in your hand at any given time. When a player attacks another player's tile and combat begins, each player launches spells and movement effects to destroy their enemy. A nice feature is that during combat players can sacrifice a spell card to get a bonus to the attacking unit or a penalty to the enemy as a "final blow" of sorts, which in some cases can turn the tide of battle. Every round is four phases; each phase allows the player to do a different action, from drawing cards, to commanding units.
One of the drawbacks I see already in game play is the lack of shortcuts/key bindings, in this case there are none. This make selecting multiple units individually to tell them to perform the same action becomes kind of daunting.
Yes it seems like a lot of information to take in, but once you get in there and really go through the tutorial (I recommend you do the tutorial!) you can pretty much get the hang of the whole system. This game is the epitome of "Easy to learn, and difficult to Master". Along with the standard quest that needs to be completed for each battle, there are also extra quests that can be completed which increases each scenarios replay value.
A great game, very engaging, a lot of fun, and something fresh that we don't get very often. For the tabletop card player this will feel like very comfortable terrain, but also to the novice, it's a great learning device to understand the rules and contemplate strategies.
My only real gripe with this game is the minimal amount of story and content. The campaign is fun, and skirmishes can kill an hour or two but there's not enough story to really bring me into the game. Although on the flip side, Petroglyph will be delivering new content and a possible multiplayer feature in future expansions, so I may have to eat my words in the coming months. If you're a fan of strategy games, or hell even a fan of Chess, with a price tag of $9.99 this game is a total bargain and well worth the time investment.
Guardians of Graxia was developed and published by Petroglyph games on October 20th 2010 for the PC. The game retails for $9.99. A copy of the game was provided from the publisher for review purposes.