Tiny Guardians is a the latest tower defense on Steam. It touts a clever new take on active defensive layouts. This PC port brings with it all the gameplay mechanics that earned it favorable reviews on mobile platforms. How does it fare compared to other tower defense titles? The answer: Tiny Guardians handles itself quite well.
Tiny Guardians draws similarities to Kingdom Rush, another well made mobile/PC Tower Defense game, but only in a couple of design concepts. The game’s initial comic book panel cutscene is one such resemblance. The other similar technique is utilizing heavy units to draw attackers while other ranged units do far more damage to incoming enemies. And that’s where the similarities end.
Tiny Guardians is a game always in motion. Your job is to protect a white clad sorceress named Lunalie, as she tries to rescue her kidnapped friend. Akin to the “home base” in most tower defense games, if she dies the game is over. As our brave adventuress travels abroad, many creatures attack, attempting to thwart her progress. Her defenses are the heroes and powers she can summon in her time of need. Heroes are presented as cards in a book, which you can put into play assuming you have the mana. Units are then placed into formations within designated slots surrounding Lunalie. These slots can be increased with mana further down the line, while mana is replenished by defeating enemies.
When enemies attack, her guardians move into position to intercept. Waves of enemies will attack from all angles, and units will require a change in positions to remain most effective. Your initial positions are useful for the first wave, as guardians do not attack while in motion. Meaning, they may miss engaging the first wave of enemies if in the wrong positions. You are free to move any of your units within your blue sphere of influence. This is useful for positioning weaker units away from danger, while keeping the heavies on the front lines.
Units are broken up into 4 classes, with at least 3 unit types per class. The classes are: Stealth, Magic, Warrior, and Range. Each class has its primary attributes. Warriors are the front line guardians, high health, and melee range, but with considerable armor. These units excel at tying up handfuls of incoming units on their own. Knights, Paladins, and Berserkers make up the warrior class units, each with their own defensive style of play. Ranged units are your bow and arrow type of units. They do better at long ranges, with almost no melee attack damage and low health and deal physical based damage. Magic class units are similar but deal magical based damage with area of effect passive bonuses. Stealth units are a mixed bag of support, with melee attacks and range attacks and dodge abilities instead of brute shielding. Your book only holds 5 unit types, requiring forethought before entering any mission.
As enemies have their own unique abilities, which units to bring along and how to shift them properly becomes an important tactical element. At times it can be frantic and a little mind-boggling when so many units are crowded into a tiny space. The good news is, I never tired of balancing units or working my marionette skills to progress through the game. Not allowing your sorceress to take damage, and advancing mobs into attack early, will earn you enough points to earn three stars. These stars can further upgrade each unit class (which in turn affects all units under that umbrella). Partaking in challenges such as beat a level on Easy/Normal/Hard will earn gold coins which can unlock the third unit type under each class. The upgrade and unit options are robust, and offer plenty to experiment with.
Boss battles are a little more challenging than regular enemy mobs. They often attack AOE cones, or focus on a specific guardian. This requires a little more reflex and movement on your part to keep your units safe. Often one boss hit is enough to end your guardian’s life. Getting zapped isn’t really “the end” for these stalwart guardians. In time they will regenerate back to full health and join the fight, or they can be healed. However, losing guardians means a defenseless Lunalie, which could mean loss of valuable upgrade points as well as mission failure.
Tiny Guardians is a cute game, and its art direction and simple sound accompaniment emphasize that. The control scheme is simple, as everything is handled with a click and drag. This appears to be a leftover from mobile devices. Experienced PC tower defense fans might run in double clicking on everything, and it’s not needed. This only becomes a slight issue when upgrading a unit. Instead of a double click to make them more powerful, often you’re fumbling for the unit within a pile of units, then once you find the right unit you have to slide the upgrade card to the top. This mobile remnant is mildly irritating, but doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment or solid gameplay.
Tiny Guardians is loaded with cute. It’s unique defense style will entertain for hours. It isn’t a very difficult game, and most experienced players will pass through most of the normal challenges and levels in a manner of hours. Hard mode does offer steeper challenges, and is worth replaying, even for veterans. Picking up this title is a no-brainer for tower defense fans, especially if you are already a fan of games of similar ilk (such as Kingdom Rush). There’s a hefty chunk of entertainment value in this budget port from developer Kurechii, and it should not be overlooked.