|Dev: Kingdom Games|
|Pub: Kingdom Games|
|Release: November 24, 2015|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Mild Blood and Violence|
by Jenni Lada
There's quite a long history of religious video games, all with varying degrees of success. Spiritual Warfare is a The Legend of Zelda-like for the NES that's among the best efforts. Super 3D Noah's Ark is a weird FPS where Noah shoots animals. Five: Guardians of David, from Kingdom Games, is a substantial action RPG inspired by King David and his warriors. It offers an enjoyable experience that happens to also be religious, rather than being a religious game pushing an agenda that skimps on gameplay.
While Five: Guardians of David is the story of King David's rise to power and reign, it's more about the people who protect and support him. His five chosen warriors, Abishai, Benaiah, Eleazar, Jashobeam, and Shammah, go through eleven acts protecting the king and fighting against other nations, like the Philistines, Amalekites, and Moabites to save the kingdom. Each of the eleven acts are based on an important period of time and conflict during David's rule, starting from the first act, where Abishai and Benaiah are established as his first protectors and he fights Goliath, to an epic final battle. It's steeped in religious lore.
Don't let the fact that Five: Guardians of David is a Christian game deter you non-Christians, though. Yes, it is inspired by stories taken from the Bible, but it isn't overly preachy. It's absolutely possible to skip over the narrative segments, and the actual interactions between NPCs and enemies aren't conversion attempts. It's best to liken it to the Spiritual Warfare NES game. The trappings help set the stage, but the focus is on the gameplay.
That gameplay is surprisingly tight. Five: Guardians of David is an action-RPG, with players controlling the Five. You can switch between them on the fly, which is helpful since each one does have his own specialty. You start with Benaiah, a heavy weapon wielder, and Abishai, who uses a bow. Eventually, Eleazar, Jashobeam, and Shammah each join the party. They have their own specialties, challenging you to pick the proper person for each battle.
The ability to control guest characters is quite appealing, too. Most interesting are segments where Ariella is a playable character. She's a stealthy character who shows up in four acts. It adds quite a bit of variety to the game, making you think differently about your objectives and how you're going to play. Getting to play as David in the first act is a given, since this is a story following his warriors, and reliving his iconic battle against Goliath is a wonderful way to kick things off. Uriah is a bit of a letdown, compared to those two, but the diversity he represents is an absolute positive.
I'd actually recommend manually switching between characters as you play Five: Guardians of David, though. The AI isn't great if you leave your party members to their own devices. There seem to be intermittent targeting issues as well. I didn't have as much trouble in less populated areas, but if there were a lot of characters on screen moving around, setting up attacks or skills could be troublesome. This isn't a problem for basic battles, especially since enemies don't regain health if your party is wiped out and needs to respawn at a checkpoint, but can be an issue with boss fights.
The massive assortment of loot does help compensate for a battle system that sometimes isn't at it's best. You can get tons of equipment for every character, and all of it offers stat boosts for your party that makes each of them most effective. However, the only enemies that really drop these items have at least one star attached to them. You don't start encountering these folks often until you're into the second act of an eleven act game, which might leave some people wondering about the incentive. It's worth sticking with it to get those extra items, though.