Air Guardians – What We Think:
Designed not as a flight simulator but as a fast-paced arcade shooter with easy to grasp controls, Air Guardians offers futuristic air combat action with a variety of missions to complete. An attractive price and some noteworthy visuals help to make Air Guardians stand out, but does the game deliver a solid flight combat experience?
Airing a Grudge
The story of Air Guardians is thin on the ground; brief cut-scenes introduce each mission, but little real context is provided for what’s going on beyond the idea that there are comparable military factions at war and that bad guys need to be shot down. The dialogue and voice acting for these scenes is basic, but adequate to the task.
A blissfully short tutorial provides the information you need to get started with Air Guardians. Instructions are given to guide you through piloting, combat (with three weapon types) and changing the camera setting.
Clouding The Issue
Unfortunately, the tutorial doesn’t make the best first impression for the game; during the instructional segment, mouse movement inputs didn’t work for me, despite the game asking me to use them (thankfully this issue vanished the moment combat began). Another issue I encountered was a sizable piece of landmass missing on the planet below (not unlike a unloaded chunk in Minecraft). Once the tutorial was over, however, I didn’t notice any glitches, beyond the occasional sound anomaly.
Air Guardians doesn’t waste much time on scene-setting, and you’ll soon find yourself in the action. Each of the six missions features a scenario ranging from intercepting enemy bombers to engaging in a massive fleet battle. Controlling your fighter is a relatively simple task, but you may find you’ll want to dial up mouse sensitivity quite a bit.
You’re provided with three weapons; a machine gun, homing missiles and more powerful “dumb” missiles intended for larger targets. Unfortunately, combat generally comes down to using one of the two missile types, as the machine gun seems to have limited viability (and homing missiles are rather effective at downing enemy fighters, not to mention the fact that you have an infinite number of them). This results in combat that generally involves spamming missiles at fighters while lining up attack runs on heavier vessels.
A Wing and a Prayer
Enemy fighters also tend to rely on missiles and this can become frustrating in later levels where you can end up with five or six enemy weapons locks at the same time (homing missiles in Air Guardians auto-lock as long as they are fired in the general direction of a target). Without anti-missile countermeasures, you’re restricted to trying to out-fly missiles and this rarely ends well.
After trying multiple evasive techniques I’ve been forced to conclude that death in combat can be somewhat arbitrary in Air Guardians; your survival generally depends on how many enemy fighters decide to launch missiles in your direction.
Some missions succeed in creating an enjoyable experience more than others, with the large scale fleet battle mission being one of the better engagements. The visuals of Air Guardians ensure that missions like this can be quite spectacular. The sound effects are somewhat less dazzling; missile launches and combat explosions are lacklustre to say the least. It’s always a shame to see the importance of impactful sound effects overlooked in action games.
Mild Blue Yonder
Air Guardians has some entertaining moments that stand out as diamonds in the rough–spiralling between massive cruisers while targeting an enemy fighter is thrilling, but sadly it isn’t enough on its own to fully compensate for some of the problems present in this title. That being said, Air Guardians is available for a very competitive price and – while there isn’t an enormous amount of content here – you may get a couple hours of enjoyment from its better missions. This arcade flight shooter isn’t quite up to par, but for fans of the genre, there are some enjoyable battles to be found here.