Guardian Cross, An In-Depth Review

7.1 TCG RATING
Gameplay: 7/10
Sounds: 6/10
Graphics: 8/10

The best of the casual card battling bunch. | A fun gun-hunting mode for capturing and acquiring cards.

Combat is automatic which feels unsatisfying at times.

iOS

Free to play, with in-app purchases.

September 13,2012

English

Guardian Cross is a casual card battle game for Android and iOS by SQUARE ENIX. Capture Guardians by hunting for them in the wild and take them into battle against other Trainers. You may be looking at the words “casual card battle”, ready to turn away in horror. Normally I’d be right there with you, but I ask that you hold on just a minute. If you’re willing to open your mind just a little bit, you may be surprised by what this game has to offer. Can a casual card battle game ever be saved from the genre’s lackluster gameplay? Read on to find out…

combat1

Combat is unfortunately the most unexciting thing about the game, but there is a lot of gameplay that is peripheral to combat which redeems it from being utterly boring, and actually very exciting.

Gameplay

Guardian Cross takes the form of a story-driven RPG, moving from location to location and talking to characters to resolve quests. There isn’t much you have to do except go from place to place, kill enemies in-between and go back again. Don’t expect too much from the campaign other than as a way of advancing your character level and gaining the resources you need to play the game, such as acquiring Hunter and Coliseum entry tickets. Combat takes place between your Party of Guardians and your opponent’s. Fights resolve automatically, with the first character in each party attacking each other until one dies, continuing to attack the next ones until the whole Party roster has been defeated on one side. It’s simple and straight forward – you don’t do anything. This is a bit disengaging, but as you’ll see, combat itself is more of secondary mode of the game while everything peripheral to it is where the real “gameplay” is.

hunting1

Capturing cards is made a lot more exciting (and nail biting!) through the hunting mini-game.

For example, the best thing about Guardian Cross is, hands down, the way that you actually acquire cards in the first place. You don’t find them randomly while questing and you don’t buy them in booster packs. Instead, you have to go hunting for them and play a gun shooting mini-game to capture them. This is way more fun than it should be and totally a nerve-wracking experience. You peer down a gun sight as you scroll around the map, looking for guardians to shoot at. You have one minute to shoot and capture as many as you can. Some will take more bullets than others, and reloading your gun wastes a few precious seconds of time as well so you have to be careful with your shots to make them count. There are other special events that might occur while a hunt is going on, such as the appearance of large and rare Guardians. I love this method of card acquisition because it’s a game of its own and I love playing it.

hunting-grounds

The different hunting locations also have Day and Night variants, with whole different sets of Guardians that are going to appear there. The progress bar on each one tells you what percentage of the possible Guardians you’ve encountered there so far.

Modes and Features

Guardian Cross has a single-player campaign, which also features side quests that help you gain more resources and level up faster. There isn’t much more to it than talking to people and beating enemies on maps as you descend through floors of dungeons. There is also the dreaded ‘stamina’ system to stagger your progress, with premium potions available to refresh it, but I’ve been playing the game for a long time and have never needed to use these. You’ll even find free ones by finishing quests. There is also the Coliseum. This is a building that you ascend floor by floor, encountering the Parties of other players. You must defeat 2 out of 3 matches on the floor to advance to the next one. Every tenth floor houses a Boss who has their own unique reward drops, as well. The Coliseum is fun but also frustrating because of the higher level players, but this is just the challenge you need to push you into hunting more and leveling up your Guardians. It’s a real mark of progress and strength in the game.

coliseum

You’ll meet people of similar strength, sometimes a lot tougher, but you’ll get to see their average amount of damage so you can make strategic decisions about who to engage in battle from a list of possible options. Then cross your fingers and hope you don’t die horribly.

You need to combine cards together to make them stronger, as it’s the only way to level them up. Cards have a rank which also indicates their rarity and how difficult it is to find and capture them. While the cards’ ranks do not increase, their stats will and they’ll gain new abilities too (discussed in the next section). The only thing is it seems quite hard to get cards ranked 4-star and above, but they can and do sometimes appear in the normal free hunting runs. This is one of the only casual card battle games I’ve seen that legitimately offers a free-to-play model and doesn’t pressure you into buying coins to do special hunts.

card-combine

The only way a card can get stronger is to sacrifice others to it, which they call “combining”. I like to call it “feeding time” instead while I shout at the screen, “Go on, eat them! EAT THEM!”

The game also boasts some interesting social features – while there are no guilds, there are rewards for making lots of friends and sharing things with them. You’ll collect Friend Points which can be spent on exclusive rewards only purchasable with Friend Points. Maybe it’s a bit cynical to give rewards to force people to add each other and share, but actually I found it helped me make some friends in the game who were a lot further ahead than me and they shared some Slime cards with me to help me level up my Guardians faster. It actually felt more human, like I wasn’t playing this game alone. That’s what these casual card battle games are supposed to be good at, so I give two big thumbs up for the social features in this one.

Deckbuilding and Strategy

Strategy in Guardian Cross comes about mostly in the way you construct your Party of Guardians. You should have a mixture of elements amongst your Guardians since there are strengths and weaknesses applied between the different elements, and nothing sucks more than pumping up your main card’s level while ignoring all the others, only to have it defeated by an opponent’s card just because of an elemental weakness. Trust me, I have felt this pain. So, the order of the day is to DIVERSIFY! Use different ones and try to level them up evenly, rather than front-loading your team and having a bunch of level 1 cards at the back, cowering behind your biggest bully. If something breaks through your front defenses, there’s nothing those level 1 Guardians can do to stop the onslaught anyway. So level them up together, be fair and be even with them across the board. They all deserve your love and attention, equally. Remember that when combining cards, using cards of the same element will give you just a little bit more experience points than one of the same rank but a different element. You’ll be paying the same GP cost, but getting more bang for your buck. Every little amount adds up.

combining-cards

Cards gain abilities as they level up, but they only have three ability slots so you’ll have to delete one to replace it with any new abilities you gain after that. Abilities trigger automatically in the game, using up the character’s resource of Magic Points.

Final Thoughts

I really love Guardian Cross. I shouldn’t admit to that, but I will. This game is much better than I was expecting it to be. It’s so different from any other casual card battle game I’ve ever played that it’s kept me hooked with its addictive gameplay and awesome card art. Even though combat resolves automatically, the higher up you go in the game, the more interested you become in the various abilities that cards possess and their increasing stats. I miss being able to control them myself, but other than that, the rest of the game makes up for it with its various modes and features that keep you hooked on wanting to hunt for more rare Guardians to combine and upgrade. As far as casual card battle games go, you’ll either love them or hate them, but I have to say this one is pretty amazingly designed – especially since SQUARE ENIX and some of the Final Fantasy designers are behind it, which makes it a top quality production that we’ve come to expect from those guys. It has a very video-game feel to it – you’ll know what I mean when you play it. Guardian Cross plays fast and easy, which makes it perfect for those “in between” periods where your phone or tablet comes in handy to play a quick game of something. I recommend giving it a try at least. For more screenshots, click here.

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Zac Phoenix
Author: Zac Phoenix View all posts by

Zac Phoenix graduated with First Class Honors in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics and has been playing strategy card games since childhood. He has a keen interest in the underlying mechanics and player interactions of trading card games, as well as tabletop game design in the digital space. He also designs card games in his spare time.

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