Guardians of Middle-Earth Review (PS3)
The lands of Middle-Earth have become a popular place for gamers as of late. First we got to build and destroy everything in sight with LEGO: Lord of the Rings, now it’s time for a round of action combat with Guardians of Middle-Earth. This MOBA game, or Multiplayer Online Battle Arena for those not down with the lingo, takes pages out of the popular League of Legends on PC and mixes in all things Lords of the Rings. Read on below to see if this genre translates well to a console and if it does justice of the epic world of J. R. R. Tolkien.
One of my first fears going into this review was how well the controls would translate to the consoles and how difficult it would be to pick it up. Those fears were quelled rather quickly, as a 15 minute tutorial to start the game showed me just how easy the game is to pick up. The controls are extremely well done and provide themselves quite nicely to the DualShock 3 controller. All of your spells and abilities are left to the face buttons, potions to the d-pad. Attacks and leveling up your spells are kept up on the top on the triggers. I can’t think of a better way to set this up, it really works well. Even better is the user interface, which is easy to use and keep track of.
Just like League of Legends, players will need to select a single guardian before setting off into the battlefield. These Guardians come in different class types; Defender, Striker, Enchanter, Tactician, and Warrior. Enchanters are all about ability damage; Defenders are designed to support their allies; Warriors have a good balance between attack and survivability; Strikers are your DPS, and a Tactician controls the battlefield with buffs and traps. There is more to just the type of character you pick though, as you will want to also check out each individual Guardians stats; which show their own damage, ability damage, survivability, and difficulty. With over 20 evil and good characters in the game and with most of them needing to be purchased, there is always someone new to try and buy. There are also plenty of big names from the books and movies, such as; Legolas, Gollum, Eowyn, and the big bad Sauron.
As you progress through the game, you will also gain money to buy potions, commands, guardian belts, gems, and relics. Only four potions can be mapped to the d-pad during a battle, so be careful which ones you choose. Commands are god-like powers that players can unlock and equip. As you level up, you will unlock higher tiers of these powers to equip. The gems and relics act as buffs that you can equip to your belt to increase ability damage, health, and much more. All of these things can be purchased with the gold that you acquire through your games.
All this talk and I have yet to touch on the most important part of the game – gameplay. You will have four options of game modes in the game: Battlegrounds, Elite Battlegrounds, Skirmish, and custom match. Battlegrounds is 5v5 competitive play, with a time-limit of 20 minutes to move things along. Elite Battlegrounds takes out the time limit and does not allow matchmaking to throw in AI-Controlled Guardians to either side, so you have to wait on 10 people which can be an issue. Skirmish is 5 players vs. AI-Controlled Guardians, and then custom match is fairly self-explanatory. Each mode can also be played in 3 lanes or 1 lane, which basically means a 1 lane battle provides just one lane to attack each other’s base, while 3 lanes gives multiple different ways to attack.
The main objective in Guardians of Middle-Earth is to attack and try to destroy the enemies main base while not letting yours get taken down. It won’t be easy though, as the enemy will have towers placed in your way and soldiers attacking from barracks. These soldiers don’t do much other than provide a solid meat-shield but the towers are deadly. Soldiers and towers can be upgraded to improve the troops and attack type of the tower. However, these upgrades cannot start until you reach level 6, which gets us into the Guardians. As you attack with your character, you will gain XP and level up, which allows you to upgrade one of your spells. You have 4 spells per character and they can be upgraded 4 times each, with your Guardian able to reach a max level of 14. As you level, your health and resistances will also increase.
Towers, soldiers, and enemy Guardians are not the only things you will have to worry about on the battlefield. There are also shrines in the map that teams can capture to boost things like max health or defenses. Shrines can switch possession as many times as needed in battle and help a lot, so make sure to seek these out. Also hidden in the darkness of each battle are neutral monsters that stay out of the fight but provide a lot of experience if you decide you want to take them down.
One of the main problems found in the game is that lag has been a huge problem so far. The lag usually hits in a few spikes and then settles down, but I have had a few matches where I spent a good 5 minutes spiking around the field. This is mainly an issue when you get a match with 6-10 human players, but I have seen it happen with less. It’s not a huge breaking point as most of the time the lag settles down, but it can get extremely frustrating.
Another of the big issues for me was the AI-Controlled Guardians. The difficulty on the Guardians was top-notch and they often times will kick the crap out of you, but I found that if you have 4 AI players in the game, they will often duplicate the Guardian that is selected. Example being, both teams will have a computer Gandalf and Gollum. I know this is a minor complaint, but I would like to see a bit more variety in the computers and not selecting the same characters.
Visually, this is a good looking game that won’t win any awards but doesn’t leave itself open for mocking. The character models are well done and the battlefields look passable, but could have use a bit more life. The game could also use more variety in the arenas, as there is really only one. Attacks and special abilities look great though, with a lot of detail and pop to each move. On the side of audio, things are executed to a tee, with good sounds for attacks and special abilities.
As I stated at the beginning, I was worried how this type of game would translate to the PS3 controller. After spending a fair amount of time in the game, I can safely say that it came across without a hiccup and what we were given was a well executed and fun experience. The abilities fit each character’s play style to perfection and playing against AI Guardians doesn’t diminish the fun. The game can be purchased retail or digital and, with a season pass available, you can expect plenty of reasons to come back for more.