Guardians of Middle Earth attempts to bring the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) genre that has been made popular by such games as Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a mod for Warcraft III, and League of Legends (LoL), to the home console. Developer Monolith Productions brings players a full blown MOBA experience to the comfort of their living room, breaking the mold of what many gamers believe defines the genre. But with several juggernauts of industry vying for top spot in one of the most popular genres of eSports, can GoME compete?
The game is structured much like others in the genre; two teams of five are pitted against each other in an RPG based arena. Players control one guardian who has special abilities that are used to control their AI counterparts. The objective is to move in on the enemy base and destroy it to win the match, fighting enemies along the way and destroying enemy towers to fend off the opposing guardians.
At the beginning of each match all guardians start out at level one and are able to level up through the ranks. As you’d expect kills garner experience and with each level your guardians earn more hit points and basic attack skills, each level also grants a skill point to be spent on one of 4 abilities. Upon reaching level six, players can begin upgrading tower defenses for better attacks and do more damage.
Across the map are wild minions that can be killed for a large experience/gold gain as well as shrines to capture in order to gain team buffs, gold can be spent on additional guardians, potions or commands. Potions and commands are not available when you start out and must be unlocked, as you level up and earn gold you will be able to purchase additional add-ons and use them to customize your character loadouts. Abilities are mapped to the 4 face buttons while potions and commands are customized to the d-pad and left trigger. Although it may seem like not having a full keyboard for keybinding would make the game limited, this setup is surprisingly efficient, having all abilities available instantaneously.
Choosing the right guardian is crucial in regards to strategy. Although each has a specific difficulty rating that allows for new and veteran players alike to be able to effectively make use their abilities. Another nice touch is that all guardians are available for free for a limited time, allowing players to test them out before they purchase. Each guardian is different however, and taking the time to master each of them is a skill not easily learnt.
Most people will spend the majority of their time playing online. This is where the game shines but also where it’s biggest flaw is most apparent. For the most part online play is smooth but the network architecture is built on a peer-to-peer system. This means players are at the mercy of the slowest connection of their peers. Normally this won’t be an issue but as you can imagine with 10 others, there will be an amount of lag from time to time.
With a solid control scheme and branding by one of most recognizable franchises in history, Guardians of Middle Earth has a lot to offer. Monolith has done a great job making this game work well with a controller, the ease of use and having everything available at your fingertips really is remarkable. Add in some Gandalf for movie fans and Arathorn for book worms and you really have something special. It’s a shame however, that there are only two maps available for play. Overall I can say this; players will either love it for what it is or end up running into a few matches of incredible lag and condemn it to the fiery pit of Mount Doom. But for $15, if you’re a MOBA fan and a console lover, there’s really no substitute.
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