Halo meets Starcraft in virtual reality

Guardian’s Frontline leaves the Early Access phase and appears exclusively for Meta Quest 2. Our review shows whether the mixture of real-time strategy and first-person shooter is convincing.

The VR game Guardians Frontline was in Meta’s App Lab for two years and received many positive user reviews. The mix of real-time strategy, first-person shooter and tower defense has already inspired many players in Early Access. The full version became available on the Meta Quest Store on March 9th, 2023 and I tested it on Meta Quest 2.

Guardian’s Frontline: Recap to the point

Guardian’s Frontline does not shine with impressive graphics, but above all convinces playfully. Even if the AI ​​soldiers sometimes lag a bit and the sound isn’t always perfectly mixed, the combination of first-person shooter and real-time strategy works perfectly. I can blast my way through hordes of enemies as a commander in first-person view, or give strategic directions to my troops right on the battlefield.

If I lose track, I seamlessly switch to the top-down view and play Guardians Frontline like a classic real-time strategy game. Away from the campaign, there’s also plenty to do with different game modes, multiplayer sessions, and an extensive map editor. VR strategists can therefore buy the game without hesitation and should spend many exciting hours with Guardians Frontline.

Guardians Frontline is for you if you… want to experience real-time strategy in VR like to shoot around on the virtual battlefield yourself Sci-Fi settings like Starship Troopers Guardians Frontline is less suitable for you if you… are looking for a pure RTS game or a pure shooter awaits a sci-fi graphic gem like Red Matter 2 is looking for particularly impressive gunplay Starship Troopers meets Starcraft meets Halo

In Guardians Frontline, you fight on the side of the Federation at war with an alien beetle-like race. Both factions are after a mysterious energy source that can be mined on different planets.

The aggressive creatures are reminiscent of the arachnids from Paul Verhoeven’s cult science fiction film Starship Troopers. Even in the tutorial, I immediately feel like Sergeant Johnny Rico during the large-scale attack on Planet P. However, unlike Rico, I have a say in Guardian’s Frontline from the start.

As a commander, I command a group of humanoid combat robots. The “bugs” are attempting to overrun a Federation base, requiring my mechmen and I to stop them. I can defend myself with pistol and machine gun in the first person perspective or send my robots to attack the bugs.

Between tower defense, sci-fi shooter and real-time strategy

The action-heavy tower defense mechanism is expanded over the course of the campaign to include real-time strategy elements and different mission types. Sometimes I have to ensure that a mobile extractor can mine the coveted crystals unhindered, sometimes I go with my unit to destroy bug nests that have nested in an underground base.

I start as a Halo-style commander. During the campaign I unlock different skins for my avatar. | Image: Fast travel games

I always have to keep my base intact and producing resources. I have turrets, anti-aircraft systems, walls, mines or explosive barrels at my disposal for protection. I can assemble mobile units from combat robots, tanks, drones and even huge mechs.

Of course, all of this costs money. On each level I track down and develop different sources of raw materials. Since the beetle aliens are also attracted to the red crystals, I have to protect my defenseless “extractors” or I’ll run out of money quickly. So I’m always challenged on at least three fronts: defending the base, mining, and the actual mission objective.

Energetic commander on the VR battlefield

The mobile artillery reacts independently to direct attacks. But in order to successfully complete a mission, I have to take command myself. I have two options for this. Either I act directly on the battlefield from the first-person perspective, or I switch to the bird’s-eye view, which is known from classic real-time strategy games.

In Guardian’s Frontline, I can take part in the battles myself in the first-person perspective. | Image: Fast travel games

On the battlefield I use a laser pointer type tool to interact with units and buildings. I can either select robots, tanks and mechs individually or combine them into multiple teams. To do this, I simply draw a circle around them on the ground.

With my left hand, I press a button to bring up a menu that’s projected onto my watch. So I can quickly and easily launch targeted attacks, set patrol routes, protect buildings or vehicles, repair units and much more. The controls are arranged intuitively. After a few minutes, the chain of command becomes second nature and I react quickly and confidently even in heated combat situations.

Everything at a glance with the classic RTS view

When the bugs attack from all sides, I have to keep calm and make quick decisions. Do I face the attack on the main route myself, or is this just a diversion? In case of doubt, are our flanks protected and the resource extractor safe from air attacks? Do I have enough weapons to fend off a horde of giant bugs while I counterattack with artillery?

During battles in Guardian’s Frontline, I can easily switch to “tactical view” and control the action from a bird’s-eye view. | Image: Fast travel games

For strategic considerations or if I need an overall view during an attack, I can switch to the bird’s-eye view at any time. From there I have a full overview of what is happening and can maneuver groups to hotspots or travel quickly from A to B using teleporters that I set up.

However, when I switch to top-down view, my character stays on the battlefield and is vulnerable to attacks. So I have to weigh up beforehand when I can safely change perspective or go to a safe place.

Campaign, multiplayer and map editor

In addition to the single player campaign, there is also a skirmish mode in which I have to conquer different planets. Guardians Frontline also features co-op for up to four players and PvP multiplayer battles for up to eight players. If you already know the included maps by heart, you can use the map editor to create your own mission areas. This offers endless possibilities for creative strategists.

In the Guardians Frontline map editor, I can customize miniature-style virtual battlefields to my liking. | Image: Fast travel games

In the editor, I find myself in front of a large strategy table that represents the map. There I can place different objects, spawn points for units or basic elements as I like. When I select an item from the list, I can grab it with my hand and place it exactly where I want it. A festival for miniature lovers.

Created maps can be shared with the community. As a result, a growing map library is available for free download, even apart from the standard maps.

Conclusion to Guardian’s Frontline: successful mix of action and strategy

What sounds like a zero-eight-fifteen (the book that inspired Hogan’s heroes) real-time strategy game on paper feels incredibly good in virtual reality. Instead of following the action on a monitor, I stand on the battlefield myself, issue face-to-face orders to my units or actively intervene in the action with small arms or by controlling large-caliber units such as mech robots.

I can also switch to the top view at any time if things on the ground get too hectic or if I want a strategic overview of the entire area to plan my next steps. The control of the devices is smooth, all buttons can be operated intuitively after a short familiarization phase. I can always react quickly, even in hectic situations.

Graphically, Guardian’s Frontline won’t blow anyone’s mind. The environments are stark and stark, and the unit animations are rather wooden. The shooter mechanics are also not up to date. The weapons lack a bit of punch and the background noise sometimes seems a bit tinny.

However, these points of criticism quickly fade as the game progresses, because the focus is clearly on the strategic component. It always remains challenging, requires quick decisions and leaves little time to appreciate the missing details of the desert landscapes.

All in all, Guardian’s Frontline is a great mix of action and strategy that will keep you entertained for hours in VR with various game modes, an extensive map editor and online multiplayer games in co-op or PvP.

All information about Sony’s VR headset can be found in our Playstation VR 2 review. The PSVR 2 is currently only available on the Playstation Store. You also need a Playstation 5.

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