From Argentinian developer Round 2 Games and publisher Top Hat Studios comes Guardian of Lore. Very much a Latin-American flavoured game in which you’re the titular guardian who is the protector of an ancient library containing all manner of legendary tomes, the names of some of which may be familiar to you. On the face of the trailer we had Guardian of Lore pegged as a metroidvania of sorts, if perhaps a low budget one. However upon installing it on our PS5, we realised that perhaps we were mistaken.
What actually struck us first was the huge disparity between the PS4 and PS5 installs of 11Gb and 3Gb respectively. Heck, we know that PS5 compression is good, but to see the difference be orders of magnitude is startling. The game itself is a pretty bog standard platformer where you have to negotiate a variety of themed levels, each being within one of the tomes you’re sworn to protect. Your actions within each level culminate in a boss, each differing dependent on the fable contained in each legendary book.
However, it soon becomes clear that something has gone terribly wrong during the development of Guardian of Lore. Even if you get past the frankly awful late-era PS2 styled assets and the generally insipid gameplay you begin to realise you’ve probably made a terrible mistake. You see, several severe glitches that are actually baked in come to light. Most egregiously for a platformer, some platforms are so ill-defined that you’ll jump on them and actually fall through to your death. Or you’ll take a hit from an enemy as you jump on to another platform and fall right through it.
There’s a little flexibility in terms of the spells and items though. If you run out of consumables to replenish your health, you’re able to cast a spell to heal yourself. The problem being that if you’re in a boss fight, once you’ve used your items, you’re entirely reliant on your magic. Yet upon dying; let’s be honest here you’re going to die a lot; the encounter doesn’t reset at all. So any items you have used are gone. This appears to be a deliberate design choice. The only way to re-up is to drop back to the hub area and buy more.
Also your currency/knowledge/whatever are eventually depleted down to a baseline two hundred. This equates to four heal spells, which on some bosses is workable, especially when you can cheese it and avoid projectile attacks and the like. Screw trying to get the beating bosses without taking any damage though. The final straw was this big bastard right here. On top of his cheesy attacks and running out of items and currency, we’d seen enough.
Bear in mind we played in the narrative mode to facilitate seeing as much of the game as we could before penning this review, so if things are that bad for us, we weep for those poor bastards that go with the so-called normal difficulty.
On top of the crappy platform issue and items not replenishing during boss fights, there’s glitches aplenty. One boss encounter eventually decided that the boss wasn’t going to take damage from our attacks, despite having been susceptible before. We were stuck in an even crappier Groundhog Day, only without Andie Macdowell simpering everywhere and Ned Ryerson trying to say hi. More like we were killing ourselves by driving into the quarry repeatedly.
Another fine glitch was our falling into a fire pit, but finding ourselves unable to jump out, we fully expected to die. No, what actually happened was we glitched to the bottom right of the pit without dying. The only way to carry on being to quit out to the hub.
Then we had the platform section that trapped us inside due to a movable block becoming stuck down a slope making our only escape route wholly inaccessible. This time though, there was a hazard we could jump into and accelerate our demise. But on dying, the same block remained in position rather than resetting to its default location.
There’s weird inconsistencies with presentation too. Some menus are perfectly readable and clear regards their function. However the controls sub-menu for example, seems to be a placeholder that made it into the final game, being entirely missed by QA testing, assuming that happened at all.
One loading screen you get quite frequently is blurry to the extent we thought we suddenly needed glasses. But no, just a low quality asset that has upscaled horribly.
Getting away from the technical issues that dog Guardian of Lore, we found it very strange that for a game where you play as the protector of ancient Latin-American legends, you play a white man. Not unlike the conquistadors that descrated sacred sites and subjugated the native tribes of South America in the sixteenth century. Why not an indigenous tribesman for example? It seems a tonally dissonant choice for a game so focussed on preserving those very legends the European invaders sought to eradicate.
Upon beating a boss in a level; good luck with that anyway; you’ll exit the level only to be told by your magic talking amulet that you’re not done. You see, there’s branching levels with different outcomes depending on where you jump at the outset. Try as we might, we couldn’t work out quite where the pivot to the alternative route was though. A map might help. But no, you’re wholly dependent on exploring yourself, but as we said, you’ll probably end up stuck and have to kill yourself anyway.
The PS4 and PS5 versions are indistinguishable from one another, the only difference being you have play with a Dualsense on the latter. No haptics. No trackables. Yeah. It feels like an old shovelware title on the Wii. We’re certainly not in any sort of hurry to go back and play this again on both formats.
Sooooo, in conclusion, Guardian of Lore is a huge lemon. Not in a good way either. Riddled with baffling design choices and buggy to a fault, it’s also baffling that you’re a white dude who’s the custodian of the Latin-American legends passed down across generations. Unless this gets patched to resolve the issues we’ve encountered throughout, we doubt we’re ever going to play it again and recommend you steer well clear.
+ PS4 and PS5 versions in one package
+ The spellcasting is OK we guess
+ At least we'll never have to play it again
- Baffling design choices with regards inventory items
- Graphically a mess
- UI feels cobbled together