Nightmare Guardians is a game riding several big trends in the medium right now. Because all of those trends don’t necessarily align, the end result is a weird, curious experience that’s hard to precisely pin down. However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t try in this edition of It Came From Canada!
So what are those trends exactly? Well for starters Nightmare Guardians feels like an interactive history lesson for a certain strain of Blizzard Entertainment’s evolving catalog. Players join a band of elite warriors to fend of waves of encroaching evil forces, and the dark fantasy atmosphere is just the beginning of the Diablo comparisons. The semi-automated gameplay has players tapping the screen to move their character who will then automatically wail on whatever is nearby that needs wailing on. From there it’s up to players to prioritize threats and protect the wall behind them from succumbing to enemy attacks. That means managing loot and experience and other action-RPG staples, as opposed to technical skill, is the best way to become powerful and succeed.
However, players aren’t exploring dungeons - they’re just surviving horde after horde of foes in a box. This structure makes Nightmare Guardians even harder to categorize. Later levels introduce shields and buildings to protect, giving the game a tower defense twist, but really it ends up turning into a single-player/co-op MOBA. Learning the different hero-specific spells like quick dashes or zombie-killing fire blasts, and more generic debuffs like spells that cripple enemy healers, is essential. Coordinating and strategizing with your partners, whether it’s a computer or another player online, also adds to the DotA vibe, as do little touches like “last hit” and “kill steal” bonuses.
But even that classification still doesn’t feel entirely complete because, for all that it borrows from these intensely complex and competitive genres, Nightmare Guardians is actually surprisingly approachable. Easily killing countless foes with flashy finishing moves feels like Dynasty Warriors of all things. The quick-hit, mobile-friendly framework could easily be called a wave-based shooter with swords and spells swapped in for guns. Based on my earlier online encounters it’s not hard to get into at all, which could be good or bad, depending on how elitist your perspective is.
If this preview sounds a little confusing, if the more you read it the less you understood about the game, well that’s just what playing Nightmare Guardians is like. But if you’ve been left intrigued as well, like I still am, you can check out when it launches everywhere soon.