Developer: Kingdom Games
Publisher: Kingdom Games
Genre: Action, Adventure, Indie, RPG
Have you ever heard of a Christian video game? If not, you haven’t missed much. If you have, and you’ve played one, then you know that they generally don’t do well. However, the people over at Kingdom Games have made their first game, and for the believer or the non-believer, it’s a fantastic gaming experience straight from the Bible.
When you first start FIVE—Guardians of David, you get a beautiful story of Israel and how it was formed, from Abraham to Moses to King Saul. After catching up from the Bible in the book of Genesis to 1 Samuel, we are introduced to Abishai and Benaiah who are young shepherds saving some sheep from wolves as well as Abishai’s sister from a lion in a cave. As you progress in the story, time passes and they grow up and join the future King David’s army. Since King Saul is still ruler of Israel, David must hide and build up his own troops and followers.
For those familiar with the Old Testament books of 1 Samuel to 2 Kings, you will know this plot very well. In fact, I was fascinated by all the little details I never saw when reading them. David becomes King slowly, and his five guardians complete missions to make sure Israel is safe and purged from all the Philistines, Jebusites, Moabites, and other clans that want to claim its land for their own. The adventure is all about war, and is a breath of fresh air in the Christian gaming genre. As you protect King David and Israel, you go on missions to help different cities, and proceed to help David establish himself as Israel’s king.
Mild violence is found throughout FIVE. Swords, axes, spears and other weapons are used to fight off enemies like wild animals and soldiers. During cutscenes using comic book strips, you will see events like David as a boy holding the head of Goliath, or other battles with more detail than shown during gameplay. There is no blood during the game even though you are using weapons. You will see the enemy AI bodies fall down to indicate death, but again, nothing vivid.
When you select characters, they do talk about “cracking some skulls” or say “my sword is thirsty,” which is understandable as all five of the guardians are mighty men in the army of David. Personally, I like that they have those one liners because warriors, even if they serve the Lord, are not going to sound wimpy or cute. These are men that have killed many a Philistine, and they aren’t playing around.
The Bible is referenced if you approach a cache, indicating verses that are relevant to that area in the game. This is a feature designed to disperse background information. If your not into reading a lot of scripture, you can always skip this as it’s not required reading but I think even those unfamiliar with the Bible will enjoy reading where the source of the game came from, part by part.
I don’t have a lot of experience with ARPG’s, having played Diablo a couple of times way back in the day—JRPG’s are probably my favorite genre. I have played Diablo a couple of times, and games like Baldur’s Gate way back in the day. Going into this game felt familiar and new to me at the same time, but I was looking forward to giving it a go.
You don’t start off playing as all five guardians, so it gives you a chance to get to know each of their fighting styles gradually. Starting off with an archer and a swordsman, you can switch between the two at any time, especially if one requires assistance or you need a different strategy. The only issue that I have with this is that even when you have all five characters, some of them may just stand around and not run to your aid as you play even if your character is about to “pass out” (they don’t die, as they recover shortly after). This is disappointing because many times I might be fighting 3-4 enemies and my team would not move unless I switched to them and brought them over to the battle. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future patch.
Another little annoyance for me was that in the beginning of the game, you get so much loot, that you literally have to drop most of it. Later on, you find your first merchant where you can sell your booty. The equipment itself though, can only be used by certain characters at certain levels, so I found myself constantly clicking auto-equip in the inventory menu so my characters had on the best armor and weapons. The merchants themselves many times didn’t have many high stat items so I was just better off finding them in the field.
Each character has a variety of unique skills that they can utilize as you level up. Maybe you prefer a temporary power up instead of a strong single-enemy attack, or perhaps a medium-damage multi-foe ability suits your fancy; it’s up to you. At first all abilities are not available, but they open up as you grow stronger. I liked this a lot because I became comfortable with my skills over time, and was ready for more when they became available.
There are different armor and weapons that you pick up along the way, whether from jars you destroy or after an enemy encounter such as a boss that different characters can equip, sell for money, or donate to the spy network which allows you to have a larger inventory and gives you information for your quests.
Boss battles aren’t anything special as they look similar to regular enemies with the exception of performing different attacks and taking a lot of damage before going down. I was hoping for something more dramatic in regards to the dialogue between the heroes and the bosses, but this is lacking. Five can be challenging though, even if the beginning seems easy it gets harder as you progress.
FIVE—Guardians Of David presents itself as an overhead action RPG, where you control a character and roam various environments and defend yourself from animals, soldiers and other adversaries. Each place is pretty from caves to cities to the outdoors. each reflects lots of detail that makes you feel like you’re really there.
Character voices sound realistic and not cheesy with each guardian having different heroic phrases when you select them. Their profiles in the inventory menu look good, but there isn’t much that makes them different aside from their armor. I would have liked to have seen more creativity in their personalities and looks.
Something that I have not seen in any game are the fantastic comic book story points that flesh out the story more with voice acting. If you’ve ever read the Action Bible, then this will look very familiar. If you ever wanted to see the Bible in comic panels, then you will enjoy this.
The music is your typical score from an adventure game, nothing that is very memorable but each tune ties into the setting or scene that is happening. Sound effects like when you strike your enemy or unleash a skill.
Playing through many hours of FIVE—Guardians of David proved to me that there is a future for quality Christian gaming. Even if the player does not recognize the same faith, or any at all, they will find a solid gaming experience that is enjoyable and family-friendly. There’s lots of depth to the game, even though it comes in later stages, and players will find features that have not been explored in other games like the donation system, comic book scenes, and biblical story.
I have to admit that I have been calling out how bad past games based on the Bible have been, but this gives me hope that there’s many games that can be released and do well as long as the right team is behind them. A game created with excellence, wisdom, and experience is what gamers really wanted in the first place when it came down to the Christian genre, and we finally are getting there. I encourage you to pick up FIVE—Guardians of David and have a lot of fun taking down Philistines, getting to know a history that isn’t often discussed and fighting alongside five warriors who serve the Almighty and protect Israel’s king.
The Bottom Line
A great entry in the ARPG genre and one of the greatest representations of the Bible in a video game to date, I recommend Five: Guardians of David both for the Christian who wants to see their faith represented in a video game, and also for the gamer looking for a great story full of action and depth.