App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Guardian Codex is a free-to-play rpg where players collect and battle monsters using traditional rpg-style combat. While the game lacks a lot of originality and cohesion when it comes to storytelling and character design, Guardian Codex manages to find a winning combination with its gameplay mechanics and progression system.
The primary gameplay of Guardian Codex revolves around creating a team of monsters that can successfully defeat waves of other monsters in turn-based combat. It's sort of like Pokémon, though the tone and look of the game feels a lot more like a Final Fantasy game.
You can collect new monsters in a variety of ways, most of which involve grinding out items and currency from winning specific missions. Each new monster you collect has its own stats, special abilities, and a specific element, which is particularly strong and weak against monsters of other elements. Finding and training the right monsters to create a strong and balanced team is your main focus in Guardian Codex.
The last guardian
To help guide you along your collection quest, Guardian Codex provides a lot of in-game dialogue to justify your actions, but the story is just a pastiche of Japanese rpg storytelling cliches.
Along the way, you'll complete quests which help flesh out this virtual world. Most of these quests are similarly generic in that most ask you to collectin a certain amount of items that drop from monsters you defeat to return to someone before moving onto a new location.
The primary focus of Guardian Codex really is monster collection. A lot of what is going on with this game is exactly what Monster Strike and Puzzle and Dragonsboth do, albeit with a more traditional rpg combat system.
The whole point of collecting new monsters in Guardian Codex is so you can train them to collect other new monsters. This cycle doesn't sound like a particularly compelling idea on paper, but it can be quite the driving force much like the progression system of a loot-based game.
Monster hunter freemium
What makes games like Guardian Codex better or worse than each other are their free-to-play models. If a collection-based game doesn't offer up enough variety between free/starting collectibles, puts up too much gating too early, or otherwise blatantly handicaps free players, it's usually pretty hard to enjoy.
Thankfully, Guardian Codex does a good job of avoiding or handling these problems fairly. Every monster feels pretty unique, there's a lot to play and learn in the first few hours of the game, and getting new monsters is a matter of completing particular event quests successfully or randomly drawing them from the Guardan Grab menu. It's not a perfect system by any stretch, but it does ensure that all players can have plenty to do and work toward without feeling blocked or discouraged.
The bottom line
Guardian Codex isn't really inventing anything new, but it does a great job of combining familiar game elements into a cohesive–and pretty compelling–experience.