The jury’s out: I’ve been playing Bossgard on the Switch, and I have formed enough of an opinion to write some words about it.
Primarily this a multiplayer game, but there’s a Survival Mode catered for the solo artist, and you can also play local games against bots. But here’s the quick summary before the words you’re likely to skim over: play this with others, it’s significantly better.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at this couch play multiplayer:
Bossgard Switch Review
You’ve heard about Ragnarok from pop culture no doubt, or perhaps Grimnir himself whispered in your ear of the future this last line of Vikings will face.
The premise of the game is essentially a boss rush, but with the assistance of four other people. Turning the tides a little, you can play ‘the bad guy’ and be the boss.
Defeat the other party and you win. As you can probably surmise, as there’s only one boss, you’d be right in thinking that they are pretty OP. When fighting against the boss, it’s hard going, but when fighting other players, it also hard going!
Bossgard is no-nonsense from the get in turns of gameplay; you choose your character, their ability, then the arena where you will fight.
Players can respawn, but there are only a limited number of attempts until you forfeit the match (some of the Vikings can resurrect and heal their teammates, however, and this can be a bit of a game-changer).
Band of Brothers (And Sisters)
At the start of the game, you have the option to play a tutorial. I say ‘you have the option’ – I selected it without thinking, as it seemed intuitive to pick first. It was the first item.
This intro plays out like a mini-story where you choose one of two fighters and battle the subsequent boss, the narrative composing the lore about Ragnarok and Valhalla.
Emphasis should perhaps be on a story mode than tutorial, as in the first battle I don’t recall any pointers. Still, the subsequent fights detailed your special abilities which are performed with L and R respectively.
As the Danish King (his name escapes me), I was a melee-based character with his special moves being a whirlwind attack and an overhead smash like Cloud Strife’s Braver skill.
But before you ask how long the story lasts, it’s only a few battles then you’re back to the menu selection screen. The cutscenes are narrated, and the visuals are shown in a Ken Burns-like manner, and it fits the bill. I bought it.
It was brief, but I picked up the controls and moved on to the Survival Mode to get it out of the way. I’m not usually very good at them.
Bring Me A Bore
In my head, the was a boar reference from the Asterisk series, but they’re Gauls, these are Vikings. It will make sense in a minute.
The Survival Mode was a bit of surprise. Instead of the static birds-eye view from the boss battles, you play a character in third-person. I stared aimlessly at the screen for a moment too long until realising that I was supposed to be playing it.
Now… I’m not sure about this mode at all. It’s hardly filler as entirely different to the main game, but I couldn’t get on with it. You stroll through a snowy realm shooting enemies that randomly spawn (often on your person).
Shooting the enemies rewards you with collectable flames that can be exchanged for character upgrades and to extend your time in the realm by burning the fire longer. When the timer’s up, your health drops rapidly until you die.
Playing as Miko, the Japanese Viking (there’s a Viking for several countries), I could set up a defence turret and keep enemies at a distance, so wasn’t troubled for a long time. Eventually, I found an ‘epic’ character that took a lot of hits. If you kill 10, you get to fight the final boss for big rewards.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t any map other than a compass, and I found myself trudging along looking for enemies to appear until I had strayed too far that the flames burned out and I couldn’t find any more to keep it going.
Though I had a few more attempts, I found this section to be sluggish, and it was a chore that manifested into a bore.
The More The Merrier
By now, I needed something to steer this ship around as I was losing interest, so opted for a quick match. Not overthinking, I didn’t realise I was playing an online game.
As someone who seldom plays online other than for reviews, I was impressed with how quick the lobby worked. There wasn’t one moment where I was waiting to join a match, other than the dicking about with characters and abilities (that’s on me).
The first game was relatively swift and a win to the Vikings. Having a family member walk past, I roped them into the game and our plan of melee and ranged formation worked quite well in local play, but we bit the bullet and joined online again.
Yet again, the process was impressive. I’ve lost count the number of games that I have reviewed before release where, understandably, there aren’t any other players other than the odd dev and fellow reviewers.
Not the case as there was a fair amount free to play, and to tidy up my notes, I played again today, and other players were in abundance. Bonzer!
It might be worth mentioning that the battles are pretty fierce. Sand Sailor Games are very much on the ball with their balancing tests, but I did find that bosses that could heal themselves back to health or getting a second wind were a nightmare.
Still, it’s fun to see the rankings after a match when I’m deemed a ‘Stress Ball’ as I take the most damage while attempting to be a tank. Made of butter.
Bling, Bling – It’s For You
Here’s the final element that gave me the horn, in the Viking sense: additional characters and a massive selection of outfits and weapons, albeit cosmetic.
To unlock these goodies, you need gold that is won from the matches. Alas, Bossgard is stingy, and you don’t get much gold, in my opinion. However, as mentioned above, it’s purely cosmetic so doesn’t enhance your game, unless the character has a skill you want.
That didn’t bother me. As shallow as it is, I love the option to customise my characters, and when Bossgard gets pretty manic, you need something other than your name tag identifying who you are.
On that basis, there’s plenty of scope for repeat plays to unlock all the characters (4000 gold for a new character?!) and the online play is one of the most reliable I’ve experienced.
As a resident grinder (steady), I’m more than happy to grind in a game to get better loot, but Bossgard isn’t like that. Sure, you can unlock the cosmetics, but other than new characters, it’s not a necessity to grind and doesn’t stop you enjoying the game.