I personally don’t identify with any major religion, so, without trying to raise anyone’s hackles, I was initially skeptical about the idea of playing FIVE: Guardians of David, because of the clear ties to Christianity and to Biblical canon. Not from any moral or religious bias, mind you, but due to the fact that these games generally tend to have the effort focused on pushing some agenda or ideal, rather than on delivering an enjoyable experience for the player. Fortunately, it took little to realize that FIVE had much merit, and yes, Kingdom Games has put a solid effort into repackaging a dusty old Bible story for today’s youth.
I learned more about the Biblical David during my few hours with FIVE than I have in over 30 years evolving in what, agree or disagree, many occidentals refer to as Christian society.
The story begins with a conversation between two shepherds, Abishai and Benaiah , kinsmen to the Biblical David, King of Israel and Goliath executioner. The story of FIVE follows these two brothers as they grow into men serving under David, in the army of king Saul, and eventually help David become King of Israel.
FIVE is an isometric view, action-adventure, hack-and-slasher, set in the Ancient land of Canaan. Contrary to many competing titles in the genre, gameplay evolves in real-time, and you can switch between group members at any time during any encounter. Coupled with the fact that AI relies on a set of standardized attacks, the challenge lies in maximizing your party’s efficiency with timely swaps between characters, so as to maximize uptime on various skills. Each party member has at least 4.
Let’s talk immersion.
The art and textures are a real treat. I loved Diablo 2 and 3, and this is bringing me right back to memories of slogging through Blizzard’s famous dungeon-crawlers. The voice acting is solid, and there are a couple of characters that really standout, even early on. Eleazar, you’ll find if you play the game, is the man! Levels are well-designed, but there may be a few too many checkpoints for them to feel relevant, which to me, took some away from FIVE’s true potential.
FIVE does come up short in terms of difficulty, but that cloud comes with a silver lining. On one hand, the encounters are easy enough that if you were to play only with one of the guardians, perhaps because you preferred his playstyle and skills, you can still complete the encounters. Even on the occasion that the encounter does get the best of you, as I said above, it seems there is a checkpoint before nearly every fight. On the other hand, if you like to switch things up and micromanage your party in combat, random encounters then become extremely easy.
Eleazar has an AOE stun. Did I mention Eleazar is the man?
The biggest and most pleasant surprise is how engaging the story is. It’s not cut and pasted directly out of the bible, and as it’s been said before, “it doesn’t come across as a sermon”. In fact, the player can choose whether or not to even access the ‘caches’ placed throughout the game, consequently opting to learn or disregard the extended lore and backstory. These caches even include sources from biblical quotes.
The creators of FIVE took some poetic license with the story of the rise of David, and have put together a story that I liked so much, I found myself rushing through levels at maximum speed, if only to discover more. Important to note are pages of comic panels to read in between levels, all aimed at explaining either the catharsis of the previous level or the setting of the next. The art in these is crisp and professionally executed, which let’s face it, creates that extra incentive to read them!
I was impressed with FIVE: Guardians of David. The production value is not nearly as high as a title like Diablo III, but asking it to compete with a title that well-funded is unfair. You can get FIVE on steam for 50% off until May 3, and at that price, it’s the value that we gamers seek. I know for certain that I will eventually go back and finish playing, if only to experience the entire story, and I’ll admit it, this isn’t something I normally do on titles I review. If you have any interest in the history of Palestine, in the Biblical story of David, or in killing Lions with your bare hands (oh Benaiah!) then you might want to think about picking up FIVE