I’m going to preface my review here by voicing my bias beforehand. MGN and the game’s publisher Freedom Games are all part of the same network, therefore I received a free copy of the game in exchange for a fair and honest review. The second point of potential bias is that this game is exactly in my wheelhouse for genre preferences, and as such, my impressions and enjoyment of the game might be different from yours if you’re unfamiliar or not a fan of the auto-battler genre.
With that out of the way, I need to let you know that Guardians of Hyelore is fun as hell. It’s also super addictive in the best way. It’s the type of game that you sit down to play for ten minutes after work, then suddenly it’s morning in February and you haven’t bathed for several months.
You know those types of games, where you get so engrossed that time just seems to fly by, regardless of how much you thought you’ve played. It’s in that subgroup of games.
I know that I can’t just say that without justifying why, so I’ll say that the gameplay itself draws you in. You always feel like you’re making progress and that each level you beat, and the upgrades you take to augment and improve your characters, will make you excited to play the next level afterward. And that is something that snowballs in and of itself and carries you with it as the game goes along. Your improvements and team choices might seem small at the beginning, but as you play you will gain an understanding of just how important and influential your choices before and during a level affect the outcome and result.
The game begins by letting you choose between four Guardians. These will essentially represent yourself in the tug-of-war style battles, and you can also consider them your boss character similar to how the enemy team will employ bosses during your matches. These four fit typical fantasy archetypes; there’s the knight defender-type character, the damage from afar archer, the damage-dealing mage, and the healer.
I like this initial choice, as you can begin the game by really playing to your preference. If you want your representative to reflect how you usually play games of this nature, then you can. Grab the healer as your Guardian, and then spawn plenty of front-line tanks during your matches to keep your Guardian safe and give them something to heal and power-up, and plow through your enemies.
Not the healer type and want to be a bruiser? Grab the shield-wielding front-liner as your Guardian, augment and power him up with plenty of stuns, buffs, and general bruiser abilities, then once you’re in a match you can spawn plenty of healers to keep him alive and annoying the enemy front-liners.
I could go on about the remaining initial Guardian choices here, but you get the idea. You get to pick your play-style right off the bat. And even the Guardians themselves have several options to make them more defined. Their abilities offer a few different options in terms of approach, so don’t think that you’re pigeon-holed into the role you expect them to perform. Specific parts within that play-style can be improved and focused on as you level-up and augment the character.
I really like that you can play to your preference right off the bat. It’s a satisfying feeling to play within a specific archetype that you’re comfortable with and then succeed in a level based on your plan. This will be the decision you make in-game, and sets up your expectations for that level of satisfaction during your entire playthrough – and that’s a great move on the developers’ part.
Moving on to the battles themselves, which are a huge reason that I’m really in love with GoH, why the game is so playable, and what makes the time fly by so quickly whilst playing – simply put, the game is incredibly relaxing, without being too passive.
What do I mean by that? Well, it’s often a pitfall of the auto-battler or auto-chess genres that the gameplay becomes really detached from the players’ actions, that your influence is irrelevant. That’s not the case here. If you don’t employ genuine strategy, deploy units actively, and make good and reactionary choices during a level, you’re either going to fail or you’re going to get a score that reflects your input. What you do matters. What choices you make, what you prioritize, the power of your units based on your choices, it all coalesces into making the game a blast to play. It all combines into an active play-style that is fun, without becoming overwhelming.
You might think that the active play-style might take away from how relaxing the genre is in general, but this isn’t the case. All the best points of an auto-battler and how chill they can be are still present in Guardians of Hyelore, again, without going so far as to make the game dull. I wasn’t overwhelmed by my choices; I felt like my actions had a direct influence on the game’s outcome, without being so frantic as to make the experience one that wasn’t relaxing.
Because after all, that’s the reason I play and enjoy the genre. However, it is a delicate balance to toe the line between relaxing and being too passive and boring. And I feel like Guardians of Hyelore really balances the aspects of its gameplay against the genre really well. I say this because I played the game at some length, and I didn’t really feel grinded down by the experience of playing for several hours consecutively. Gameplay elements didn’t become dull, and during each session, I was excited to improve my army between each level and to see what I had unlocked to strategize with for the upcoming level.
I will say that the game’s visuals might be off-putting to those checking out the game for the first time; they did little to impress me throughout my playthrough or my initial research of the game. The animations, and the game in general, feels very smooth and it’s very undemanding on the PC, so you’re going to be able to play Guardians of Hyelore on just about anything. But I just wasn’t a huge fan of the game’s appearance. Visually, it reminded me a lot of the initial release of Adventure Quest, a game that was released in 2002.
I don’t think that those visuals are a reason to not be picking up GoH or giving it a try, though. Appearance aside, the game is incredibly fun and has genuine depth. You’re going to be getting plenty of hours of fun out of the experience, and whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, the satisfaction in planning out your characters and team, and using those decisions to pull off an impressive win, is certainly there in spades.
If you’re unfamiliar with the game, or looking for something fun to eat up your free time, then I recommend Guardians of Hylore, and suggest checking out the game’s Steam store page. And that’s going to wrap up our review. Make sure to let us know what you thought of the game by reaching out to us on any of MGN’s platforms. We’d love to hear from you on the MGN.gg blog, our YouTube channel of course, the new MGN twitter @MGN_TV, and our Discord.