Excruciating. It is not a word that you ideally want to have in your head when you sit down to write a review, but, in the case of Baldo: The Guardian Owls, it is the one that most accurately describes the situation we find ourselves in.
Action Adventure RPG from Team NAPS, some fifteen years in process, it is excruciating on many levels. It is terribly difficult, repetitive, and clumsy. It is terribly confusing and unpolished in almost each and every one of its main game mechanics. It is also terribly close to being a Really good game.
It’s pretty hard to know where to start with this one in all honesty, so let’s start with the positives. Baldo: The Guardian Owls is one of the most exquisite Switch games. Whether you’re playing docked or handheld, the world you grieve in here, and you better believe you will put in the effort, is absolutely full of Ghibli-style charm, brimming with atmosphere, and full of demanding little details. in your presentation. Until short To play this game, wanting to move on and see all it has to offer, what NAPS Team has accomplished from an artistic perspective is almost flawless.
No matter how much we were punished by our curiosity, by our desire to see new areas, meet new characters, and delve into more dungeons, the creativity, the wealth of the world, and the attention to detail here kept us pressing against a torrent of mechanical and technical failures. .
Rodia is one of the most absorbing scenarios we’ve experienced in a video game from an aesthetic standpoint, then, and it’s also packed with puzzles and quests that are clever, that have been meticulously crafted, and should be a lot of fun to pull off. caught up in resolution. Sadly though, these puzzles and missions are badly affected by mistakes made in almost every other aspect of game design.
Baldo: The Guardian Owls sees you take on the role of the pint-sized aspiring Link as he begins an epic hero’s quest to uncover the secrets and mysteries behind the legendary village of Guardian Owls. It establishes its position well, with a story that immediately introduces its players to stories of sunken galleons, hidden treasures, magical portals, and all manner of monstrosities and dangers. Taking control of Baldo for the first time, strolling through Kidoge Village and then heading to Rodia and the mountains and valleys beyond is a fascinating experience. This is such a beautiful game to move around, and the dungeons and areas you pass through as you progress are places with a spectacular atmosphere to hang out in.
However, this is where our praise for this game ends. It’s a beautiful thing to behold, to be sure, but it’s also a disaster to play in so many ways. Everything from the simplest bits of walkthrough to standard swamp enemy battles, boss fights, puzzle solving, and mission completion is hampered by mind-blowing design choices and you’ll see Game Over as a result. Screen more times in the first dungeon here than you would probably see in a game from the entire Dark Souls trilogy.
Falling off a ledge that’s a little too high? Instant death. Fighting an entry-level enemy type in one of the early areas of the game before you’ve found a weapon? Instant death. Trying to get through a door in a dungeon without being surprised by an invisible enemy, walking down a corridor without falling down a hole you could not possibly have seen, fighting one of the incredibly frustrating bosses in the game? Instant death a thousand times more. It’s somewhat puzzling, and it’s almost beyond comprehension what exactly the developer was thinking to make it such a hugely punitive test.
The combat is fiery, with Baldo as a slow-moving target that can take very little damage, a rather unfortunate twist in which even the humblest foes can strike with enormous force. The puzzles are well designed, yes, but they are a tremendous pain in the rear due to the fact that everything within the environments can, no, Will kill you like a stone in an instant if you make the slightest mistake. The puzzles here are, in fact, an endurance test. How many times will you come back if we keep killing you for the slightest infraction? Are you ready to give up yet, Baldo, fragile little coward?
The rooms are filled with blocks and furniture, each of which you will see that you will be asked to push them if you stand in their immediate vicinity, except that only some of these items can actually be pushed. Sometimes they stand out from others, colored in a slightly different way that indicates, in the style of traditional video games, that they must move to solve a puzzle or open a path forward. Except for Baldo: The Guardian Owls doesn’t even seem to understand the most basic concept of video games; highlights the objects that cannot be moved, that are useless, so you are surrounded by environmental lies, doomed to an eternity lost in a small stone room, or until you give up and look for a solution on Reddit.
And then there is the very mechanics of death. It is completely useless. Each time you die, you reappear, after a short charge interval, in the same room in which you perished. So why bother with that incredibly frustrating Game Over screen every damn time? What is the point of the health bar in the upper left corner when the exact same attack from any enemy can completely drain you on one occasion and only take one heart away from another?
Or how about the map of the world, perhaps the worst map of the world that we have found in a game. It’s completely blacked out when you start your adventure, you’ll have to slowly unlock it piece by painful piece at a hidden vendor in and around various areas, and of course you’ll die a million times trying to find it, but even when you do this, even when you’ve cleared the fog of war all over, it’s still almost completely useless, you can’t even zoom in to see it better.
And so you spend your time going around in circles, slowly learning where everything is to the best of your ability, not easy in such a huge game, and checking the internet every five minutes for whatever help you can find on where the heck. you’re destined to go, what the heck are you supposed to do next. It took us three hours to get through the first dungeon here. Three tortuous hours.
Then there are the errors. As you may already know, we delayed this review in order to play the game with its first review, a patch that fixes some game-breaking bugs, such as a skeleton puzzle in a prison dungeon that saw our review progress halted for several hours until that we knew that you could walk through the door of a locked cage holding a fruit in your hand.
However, as good as it is that these issues are addressed, the fact remains that no amount of bug-catching patches can rectify the serious flaws that are present here regarding difficulty in combat, on the road, on that map. useless, clunky UI and menus, and often puzzlingly obtuse puzzle and dungeon solutions that we estimate 90% of players will have to use the internet to solve. No amount of fixes, hot or not, can hide the fact that Baldo: The Guardian Owls is, by any standard, a mess.
And yet we still want to get back to it. Even beyond this review, when all has been said and done, Rodia draws us in again. There is something about the utter weirdness of this game, about the complete mismatch of its external presentation and the reality of its brutally punishing and deeply frustrating gameplay that undoubtedly attracts a certain type of player who finds wicked joy in suffering, to face their dungeons, bosses and puzzles and somehow emerge victorious about seventy hours later. If you like to work like a slave, check Reddit every ten minutes, really get stuck in the self-flagellation of it all … well, you might still find something worth spending here.
If only the NAPS team had spent more time working on the basics, the difficulty, the combat, and the course. If only as much time had been spent fixing the problem here as it has obviously been devoted to the art of the world of this game. It feels so close to having been something special but in the end, we would be making 90% of the players who might grasp it as an injustice by suggesting that this wonderful Ghibli-style action RPG is more than just an extreme mistake. , exasperating adventure and inadvisable to undertake. In a word, unbearable.