When I learned I would be reviewing Baldo: The Guardian Owls, I immediately penned a simple but funny lede that I hoped would serve as an enticing start to what I hoped would be a fun review. But for it to be a decent lede, I would have to like the game. Like Little Dragons, there’s a lot of tiresome busywork to go through before you can begin exploring what is likely to be a huge and vast environment.
The tediousness increased, and all the little issues I had overlooked at the outset of my journey started to shape my overall impression of the game. The game’s official description describes it as an action-adventure fantasy starring a young, good-hearted kid on a journey to find the Owl Village. Instead, it’s more of a test of players’ endurance and desire to keep playing a huge game with dubious design decisions and nothing to show for it. Normally, this would not be a problem, but in this instance, oh my goodness, you will be carrying a slew of gear with you.
As Baldo is mostly a puzzle game, carrying goods is one of the most important things you will accomplish throughout your trip. There is not a single place in the game where you will go where you will not encounter a puzzle aspect. Because the game does not offer you any guidance, I died a lot early on in learning all of this.
With no tutorial, you will get lost in a sea of text while talking to NPCs, who frequently give you vague directions to a specific place before informing you where you should go. This is very much a self-discovery experience, and although I like it when games forego hand-holding in favor of presenting me with a task, the creators should go out of their way to accommodate you. They may allow you to learn via trial and error, but they must also make the process of learning what you can and cannot accomplish in the environment they have built fun.
A game should motivate you to discover and try new things, yet Baldo fails to do so. When a game allows me to embrace my inner cartographer and map out these worlds and the mysteries they hold, it’s like digital paradise for me.. While I do not need a route to be perfectly straight, please be mindful of your audience’s needs. Trying to figure out how to get to the next point in the narrative took up much too much of my time with Baldo, and we both knew it.
There are a few mapping tools available in Baldo: The Guardian Owls to you as a player that should aid your exploration of this vast globe. As you progress through the game, you will gradually fill in a mini-map in the lower-left corner of your screen and the full map on the pause menu. Both, on the other hand, are utterly worthless in terms of guiding the player, failing to display even the various heights of your surroundings or a useful route you may follow.
Throughout the environment, signposts guide you in various directions, and it’s obvious the game wants players to exclusively depend on them to navigate about. To be fair, this is a good idea, but due to inconsistencies in the dungeon’s design and implementation, players may find themselves wandering around aimlessly. I had a terrible time with Baldo due to the sheer amount of frustration it was to just get around the map. In spite of this, even when I ignore the world’s organization, there is not much to be excited about.
Baldo is not as quick as he needs to be in combat because it’s so basic.A.I.in enemies are unpredictable, and they can be aggressive from off-screen or simply wander away because they were distracted by a shiny object on the ground. Most of the overworld has few or no enemy encounters, so combat in this game is not a huge part of what you will be doing. Main and side quests are plentiful in this game, as are rooms that keep you trapped until you have defeated all the enemies.
However, no matter how difficult the task is, you will always be rewarded with a meager amount of coins. If you wonder why this review took so long to appear on Destructoid, here’s why: Baldo was the part of the game that I most dreaded. My Xbox controller was a source of anxiety for the past three weeks as I feared the next two to three hours would be excruciating.