Over the last ten years, the free-to-play video game model has become increasingly popular. Games like Fortnite, Fall Guys, and Genshin Impact are now part of their own “games as a service” genre. So with that popularity, one expects to see a dramatic influx of these types. One of which is the subject of our review: Guardian Tales. While the game falls into the typical tropes of many free-to-play titles, it is separate enough to make it an interesting game – if you’re willing to invest the time.

Guardian Tales is a top-down action RPG akin to The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past or, more recently, Children of Morta. Monsters have launched an attack on the land of Kanterbury, and it is your responsibility as a knight to stop the evil invaders. It’s your tried-and-true “save the kingdom” story with side quests, quirky characters, and plenty of baddies to fight. 

The main story is split into levels, and you navigate the overworld in a fashion similar to the New Super Mario Bros. games. You select the next stage and get right into things. Each has some dialogue that moves the story forward, and you’ll spend your time fighting bad guys, solving puzzles, and collecting items. There are also hidden items; if you find them all before you exit, you’ll earn some extra rewards. You can also choose different dialogue and action options directly impacting your “good” or “evil” affiliation.

The more you play through each level in Guardian Tales, the more options become available. Eventually, you’ll unlock challenge dungeons, the ability to create and join guilds with your friends online, and even compete in PVP battles. You’ll also be able to build and furnish your own floating castle! To say there’s much to do in Guardian Tales is an understatement. You can stick to the story, but the gameplay options are plentiful.

And speaking of plentiful, the variety of support characters and weapons is massive. You can equip all sorts of weaponry, from swords and bows to hammers and, yes, rocket launchers. Weapons are earned through playing the story and through the game’s gacha mechanics. You earn different resources throughout your playthroughs, which can then be spent to level your character up, improve weapons, and unlock characters. These can also be purchased with real-life money, as can the ever-present season pass, which gets you additional resources, outfits, characters, and weapons. The issue I had with this is that there’s just so much to do that it gets a little overwhelming. But I must say, I do love my 5-star Succubus support character Karina.

The gameplay and production value of Guardian Tales is top-notch. Usually, with these kinds of free-to-play games, they can feel “thrown together” and not very refined. Guardian Tales doesn’t skimp in the quality department, from the opening anime sequence to the tight controls, amazing music, and hilarious dialogue. There are also a ton of easter eggs and meta jokes that will make even the most hardcore gamers chuckle.

The game is designed to keep you moving forward, so don’t expect a lot of challenge. I pretty much decimated every monster on my playthrough. This is a mixed bag: it’s great for newcomers and kids, but the more experienced gamer looking to be tested may end up questing elsewhere.

The most important thing to know about Guardian Tales is that you’ll only get out what you put into it. If you only want to work through the main story, you can just ignore all the other options and play through. But on the other hand, those looking for a deep and engaging experience will also feel right at home with this game. There is a ton of content here, which may intimidate some gamers at first, but don’t let that dissuade you – Guardian Tales is a thoroughly enjoyable time.