The massive online battle arena (MOBA) sub-genre has blown up the past couple of years. While Defense of the Ancients (DotA) was the first game to focus on this style of play, League of Legends (LoL) is another MOBA game that has become a massive hit. Thing is, for us console folks, that MOBA craze has been passing us by. We've had our share of variations like Awesomenauts and Monday Night Combat, but there's not one that comes off as a "pure" MOBA. Guardians of Middle-Earth (GoME) is trying to fill that MOBA void along with combining the well-known characters of the Lord of the Rings universe.
MOBA Fun - I never really bothered with the ever increasing popular MOBA sub-genre. Aside from Monday Night Combat, a FPS MOBA that some people don't even think it deserves to be in the genre, I never got around to play the mainstays like DotA and LoL. After several games of GoME, I think I'm addicted.
If you're new to MOBA games, GoME is streamlined to make it an easy experience for us newbs. Players select their Guardians who are a mix of good and evil characters from the Tolkien universe. Matches are 5 vs. 5 online battles, with the option to use bots instead of human players for practice, with the goal of destroying the other team's towers and eventually their base. Each Guardian has their own abilities to fit a certain class (enchanter, range, striker, tactician), and as the battle rages on, you'll gain xp by defeating other Guardians, destroying enemy structures, or killing the computer controlled soldiers. As you level up, you can power up your abilities, unlock the Guardian's ultimate ability to really lay down the damage, and upgrade your own structures to help win the fight. After each map, you'll gain xp that will level up your profile where eventually you can unlock extra abilities, relics to improve your stats, and potion to help you in battle.
It didn't take long for me to pick-up the nuances of the game just like it didn't take me long to want to get completely addicted to it. From the teaming up with another player to mow down the enemies or holding down a tower while yelling "YOU SHALL NOT PASS," I wanted to keep on playing. It's that blend strategy and action-RPG in a competitive mode that triggered that "crack nerve" in my brain that made the game hard to put down.
Tolkien-gasm - Fans of the Lord of the Rings universe will get plenty of joy from the selectable Guardians. Of course there are the known characters like Gandalf, Legolas, Bilbo Baggins and Sauron, but several lesser known characters from the movies and books also make up the roster of fighters. Take for example the dwarves Thrane, Ori and Nori who were introduced in the book, and now movie, The Hobbit. Also, who wouldn't want to play as Gollum and kill everyone in sight while looking for "your precious."
A Presentation Worthy of a King - Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment has done well with finding developers that take the Lord of the Rings franchise and give it the presentation is deserves which Monolith Production has done with this game. From the great orchestral score to the detailed characters, GoME can hold its own when comparing to other MOBAs. The voice actors also did a good job of give the Guardians some life as they yell out for everyone to charge or cries for retreat.
NOT SO PRECIOUS
Lag Much? - After playing a significant amount of matches, a vast majority of those matches had lag. Granted, a majority of the lag is a little stuttering here and there, but that little lag can completely screw with your match. Nothing is worse than being down to almost no health and right when you're going to activate some healing, the lag hits you causing you to die. On the flip side, as you're chasing down an opposing player, when you're about to deal the killing blow, the lag starts and the bastard has run away to safety. Then you have the laggy matches that are barely playable as it takes a good second to move more than a few steps. When you consider how many games that require some precision timing have virtually no lag, I can't understand why this game has such significant lag on so many matches.
Can I Get a Stupid Match Already? - The amount of matches that I've been disconnected from is far too many. This could be due to the netcode, I'm not entirely sure, but instead of players dropping out one at a time, the whole game stops. Unfortunately, Monolith decided to not allow players to jump into a match in progress or automatically replace players with bots. Once knocked out of the match, you're put back to the main menu to wait to start a new match. I've gone an hour where I haven't been able to finish up one single match because of all the damn disconnects. What makes it even more frustrating is that all the work you did prior to your disconnect is now rewarded. Considering the amount of times this has happened as well as the lack of rewards, I should have easily been a higher level with more gold. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm addicted to this game, and nothing worse than an addict that can't get their medicine.
Will It Last? - By far the biggest concern with GoME is how long gamers are going to continue to play the game. MOBA is the hot right now, and many gamers are either playing DotA or LoL which are more established and have much more content. So what's the reason for them to jump to GoME? Then if you consider the console only players who are still new to the whole MOBA craze, GoME simply doesn't have that depth to last for now. The current level cap for the game is 20, and if you play somewhat heavily, you're going to reach that limit pretty quickly. That means that those new people that got their first taste of MOBA and want to keep their addiction going, guess where they want they'll jump to once they max out characters in GoME? That's right, DotA or LoL. Monolith does have plans for upcoming content, including the DLC made specifically for the release of The Hobbit movie, but that low level cap is going hamper the game's longevity, It also doesn't help that the netcode is frustrating addicts like myself to where I want to delete the game from my console's hard drive.
I have to say that I am addicted to Guardians of Middle-Earth. It's just so much fun to take down other players, come up with quick strategies and totally decimate a team. Unfortunately, GoME screws up big time on one of the most important part of a MOBA, ONLINE. When you can actually play a match, the game is lagging most of the time or your game is going to be dropped. The game itself is solid but the online aspect of it was horribly executed resulting in a game that can't be played as it was meant to be which is online with multiple people without hiccups. Maybe Monolith will get their netcode in order in the next coming months, but as of now, I'm deleting this game because I don't have the patience to try and play a game that can't run properly.
*This review was based on the Xbox 360 version of the game with a review code provided by the publisher.*