VirtualAge Games and Fast Travel Games rebranded Guardians into Guardians Frontline but make no mistake, this remains a promising halfway point between the FPS and RTS genres. We went hands-on with a Quest 2 demo at EGX London 2022 – read on for our full thoughts.
Over the years, few games have tried merging FPS and RTS mechanics and given middling attempts from titles like Disintegration, even fewer do it successfully. Guardians Frontline is in a unique position, as the first major title to take on this challenge in VR. Frontline certainly doesn’t hide its Halo and Starcraft inspirations, letting you swap between a soldier and commander at your discretion. In this instance, however, the hybrid approach actually has mileage.
Testing the single-player campaign during my demo, I moved my Guardian around freely using artificial locomotion – anyone who’s played other VR shooters and FPS games should find this familiar. Aside from getting stuck in a cliff after misjudging a jump, gameplay flowed smoothly. My eyes darted towards a flamethrower but at the developer’s request, I eventually stuck with the rifle. Thanks to an intuitive UI, swapping between weapons never feels fiddly.
It didn’t take long to enter a full-scale battle, mainly fighting on foot as a soldier. Combat doesn’t feel that different from other FPS VR shooters but to VirtualAge’s credit, there’s a lot of them. Nonetheless, shooting down aliens remains as entertaining as ever – even more so when there’s a turret involved. Sure, it’s no flamethrower, but gripping onto the handles and sinking heavy fire into heftier enemies was a particular highlight.
Where Guardians Frontline truly comes alive though is in its strategic elements, allowing you to swap to an aerial map view. Here, I could summon armed combat robots as additional ground support and pick a deployment location with the controller. They prove useful in a pinch but if you’re after defensive measures, support structures like energy shields are also available to reinforce your position. After placing those units, I continued the fight on foot, finishing the mission soon after.
There’s more to Guardians Frontline – this isn’t a solo affair. Alongside four player campaign co-op, VirtualAge confirmed plans for an eight-player PvP mode and an in-game level editor, including functionality for sharing maps with the community. While I wasn’t able to test those out at EGX, my time with the Frontline showed me that it’s more than the sum of its parts. Individually, the FPS gameplay isn’t terribly exciting but it compliments the strategic side well, offering a nice change of pace. Provided you don’t prioritize one mode over the other, it looks like VirtualAge and Fast Travel have an intriguing, and perhaps balanced, FPS/RTS hybrid on their hands.
Guardians Frontline launches in 2023 on Meta Quest 2 and PC VR via Steam.