Guard Duty – Your princess is in another castle – Review

Gare – Thursday, May 2, 2019 6:00 PM
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When a mysterious man in a black cloak kidnaps the princess and the knights of the realm aren’t doing a very good job of saving her, it falls upon Tondbert, a common, bumbling guard, to take matters into his own hands. But he first has to get out of his room... and find his clothes. Guard Duty is a point & click adventure game inspired by the classics, but one that comes with a twist in the form of a second protagonist and an additional time period, resulting in an experience that essentially mixes traditional medieval fantasy with dystopian cyberpunk. An interesting concept on paper, but let’s take a look at how it all works out in practice.

Agent Starborn
Right off the bat, I feel like it’s important to clear up how the two time periods are handled by the game. Guard Duty won’t allow you to freely switch back and forth between Tondbert and Agent Starborn – the second protagonist – but instead, the narrative follows a strictly linear path, with the first two Acts happening in the medieval land of Wrinklewood, and the third Act switching things up and showing you what’s going on in the dystopian future. The two time periods do have a connection plot-wise, but it’s not nearly as deep as you might think.

Blacksmith
The world is charming enough, though – Wrinklewood, at least. Tondbert is reasonably likable as a main character, and the game’s dialogue, filled with a decent bit of humor and charming Britishisms, help liven up an otherwise extremely straightforward experience. Guard Duty is not a particularly challenging game by any stretch of the imagination, and those looking for satisfying riddles, obscure item combinations or pixel-hunting will not find it here. You’d often reach a specific area and go “hmm, I’m going to need a ladder here” or “dang, if only I had a heavy object to put on this pressure plate” and then you conveniently find a ladder or a heavy object nearby. It’s all rather straightforward, designed to let players comfortably breeze through the few-hour-long experience, which may or may not be a huge problem, depending on the kind of adventure gamer you are. Things are simplified even further when controlling Starborn during the narrative’s sci-fi segments, where, instead of giving players a traditional inventory screen to sift through (like in Tondbert’s case), the game instead handles all items for you contextually, so all you really need to do is find and click on the right thing, and everything else is taken care of automatically.

HQ
Guard Duty’s biggest issue, I feel, is its failure – or at least unwillingness – to make good use of its dual-layered narrative. As noted above, I find mixing fantasy and sci-fi to be a fascinating concept in itself, yet Guard Duty doesn’t really try to do much with it. Everything feels woefully underdeveloped: the plot sticks to a largely predictable “save the world” formula that’s not particularly elaborated on, and the characters do very little to help hold things together. Guard Duty’s main villain is essentially just The Big Bad who wants to wreak havoc because he’s The Big Bad and that’s his duty in the narrative. There are no interesting backstories, no motivations to speak of, and as such, no reason to really care. Even Tondbert’s very own quest is undermined by the fact that we know next to nothing about the princess and have no idea why he even loves her. He just does. Starborn’s mission doesn’t fare any better, either, and feels more like it exists solely to be a parody of Metal Gear Solid, with Starborn’s voice actor himself doing his best to imitate David Hayter’s rugged, Solid Snake-ish tone. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a caricature, per se, but Guard Duty doesn’t really find its own identity in the process, and is content with simply dropping references to other games instead of fleshing out its own storyline or characters in meaningful ways.

Attic

Final thoughts

And that sort of makes it difficult to recommend it to people looking for a satisfying point & clicker. It’s a nice-looking game with lovely pixel graphics, there’s no doubt about that, and I did find its dialogue, voice acting and the script’s delightfully British flavor to be enjoyable during Tondbert’s segments. But the overall storyline is paper-thin, filled with forgettable side-characters and even more forgettable puzzles – Guard Duty has sadly left such a weak impression on me that I doubt I’ll be able to remember much of it in a few months’ time.


You can find the game on Steam.

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