Easily one of the best games you’ll find while browsing Apple Arcade, Guildlings is humorous, innovative, and exactly the kind of high quality game promised with the announcement of Apple’s fledgling subscription gaming service.
Guildlings has been cleverly crafted, with the talented folks at Sirvo Studios taking a battleaxe to your typically chunky roleplaying game. Whittling and shaving away, what’s left are the barest essentials, a streamlined yet playful story of friendship that’s bursting with character.
Falling prey to a cursed smartphone isn’t your average fantasy origin story, but that’s precisely how our adventure begins with our hero Coda being transformed into a wisp. Instead of dungeons and dragons, Guildlings has more of a wizards and wifi kind of vibe, while also embracing the drama of being a teenager. To break the spell you must embark upon a quest to reunite with Coda’s friends, stumbling from caper to caper along the way.
The first roleplaying pillar Guildlings demolishes is storytelling. Not only does it yank out any needless lore-building fluff, the game uses a texting style of dialogue that feels far more fluid than staring at entire paragraphs or skipping through fragmented voice lines.
There’s ample banter between the game’s colourful cast, each bringing their own different personalities to the group. Where Coda’s sister Syb is slightly more focused and mature, the excitable Chazzazz is a lovable, self-posting cannonball.
Managing the moods of party members goes hand in hand with the game’s combat. At a glance it may look like Guildlings uses traditional turn-based battles though, in truth, they’re more like resource management puzzles.
Enemies don’t have hit points. Instead they’ll perform a number of actions your party will need to endure in order to win. Each turn you can activate one companion’s power, usually to restore health, support allies, or intentionally draw enemy aggro. There are only a few powers per character and they’re inspired by fun twists on fantasy archetypes such as ‘Sportsknight’, ‘Spellblaster’, and ‘Dashling’.
As mentioned before, there’s an overlap between the story and these battles. The moods of your party members will shift depending how conversations play out, adding another ball to juggle when facing down an opponent. In practice, it’s all very straightforward and easy to wrap your head around, the battle system hiding some extra nuances for players to discover.
Guildings looks just as wonderfully quirky as it plays. The game sports a charming low-poly style that suits its playful toonish vibe to a tee, melding fantasy staples with elements plucked from a teenager’s daydream. This is all tied together with irreverent yet innocent humour that will often catch you off guard – even something as dumb as visiting a ruin called “Snog Temple” is enough to bring a little smile or chuckle.