Guardian Cross Proves That Even Square Enix Can’t Make Freemium Good
Recently, Square Enix released a card-based RPG with MMO elements, Guardian Cross. It’s an intriguing idea, because, well, it’s Square Enix. Not only have they ported several excellent — but expensive — Final Fantasy games to iOS in recent years, but they were one of the first big companies to really invest in original iPad content back in 2010, when they released the first Chaos Rings game. So I thought I’d give it a try.
Right away, the game annoyed me. I downloaded it and started it up, and the first thing it did was open up a Safari window and activate some web driver at http://appdriver.jp/. Then it had to download some large packet of info from … somewhere. Um, no? When I download and run an app, I expect it to run as is. This thing is acting more like a PC game.
The game gives a very Square Enix intro, complete with scored music (probably the best part of the game). It’s your typical generic fantasy setup — a world of order has fallen into chaos, time to try and fight back! This one specifically involves “guardian monsters,” i.e. Pokemon, that the people of the world can collect and control and battle with. Gotta catch ‘em all! It may have that JRPG veneer, but there’s nothing original about this premise.
The game itself is a deck-builder with a heay Pokemon element. Before you fight, you must visit the “Hunting Grounds” and capture wild Guardians (with a rifle — this ain’t yo momma’s Pokemon). And enjoy the hunt, because at least you get to DO something during them. Deck-battling itself is a completely non-interactive affair. You watch the screen as your cards “fight” by zapping each other and shaking. It’s so boring, they even put a “fast-forward” button in the game.
They also put an energy cap in the game, and a timer that slowly resets your energy. Which means that even if you do find yourself having some fun with the game’s solo adventure, your game will end fairly quickly … unless, of course, you spend real cash.
Unfortunately, Guardian Cross is a freemium game. And as such, it suffers from the same problem that every freemium game suffers from: excessive time constraints and constant harassment to spend. Sure you can “play the whole game for free,” but it’s going to take a lot of time to do it, and you’re going to be doing it in fits and started, and when you enter the Colosseum — the game’s MMO element, with ranked matches where your decks battle — you get your butt handed to you by people who have paid for special Hunting passes and such, and thus who have the best cards in their decks.
That’s the thing that kills freemium games like this. Even when you WANT to get interested, you can’t without shelling out money. Defenders will say “You got the game for free!”, but that’s a dodge. I’m going to end up spending more in IAPs if I want to really play the game than I ever would if I’d spent money on the purchase. And games like this, where the spending is so hard-baked into the game play, it’s just not worth it.
So, Guardian Cross: proof than even Square Enix can’t get make freemium games good. Avoid it at all costs.