Many Shall Pass!
Guardians Injects Arena Combat Into Middle Earth
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Guardians of Middle-Earth is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) set in the J. R. R. Tolkien universe of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.'Normally this is a game that would I would expect to come out for the PC, but not this time. Guardians is an Xbox 360 and PS3 game only. And console gamers should really love that.
Now, you are probably asking yourself how good combat will be without the precision of a keyboard and mouse, and you would be surprised.' I know I was, but it just seems to work with a controller.'Instead of precise slices and blows, the attacks here are mostly area of effect ones (AoE) as you and your team tear up Middle Earth.'And honestly, I found this to be so much easier for me as I am not a hard core fan of this genre.'That is not to say that I don't enjoy arena-style combat. I was just never that good at it.' Which in my experience, makes this a great title for newbies, fans of Middle-Earth, or the Hard Core MOBA set.
At launch there were 22 guardians to use as characters, with more coming via DLC. Warner Brothers promises that there will be at least 34 when all is said and done. Many have been releasing in drips and drabs since launch, so players are sure to find someone they like that matches their play style.'And they look great too. I am a big fan of the Tolkien universe, and I thought that developer Monolith did a great job visually with all the characters.'
In terms of balance, each warrior seems to have a good mix of strengths and weaknesses. So someone like Sauron won't dominate right off the bat. Each guardian has four stats of varying power.'They are survivability, basic damage, ability damage, and difficulty.'Each also has four special abilities that function as power attacks like Gandalf's flame of Anor or Sauron's The Lidless Eye.
If you play battle pit type games, or even traditional MMOs, you will quickly recognize that each of the guardians tend to fall into one of an archetype that is useful for different situations. You have tanks, crowd control, damagers and flankers. Knowing the role your character best plays in different situations will be the key to getting the most out of the game, and putting your team on the winning side.
This is restricted a little bit because the user interface is a little bit muddled. There are a lot of abilities and controlling them all quickly with just the controller can be frustrating. Also, there is a surprising amount of text involved, which could be difficult to read on smaller TVs.
The matches themselves are 5 versus 5, and guardians can be a mix of AI or live players.' The wait time to find a match can be on the long side (5+ minutes) and I had some trouble with lag, and keeping my connection throughout the matches.' I had originally assumed it was just me, but while talking to some other players on the PSN, I found out that it was a fairly widespread issue. It's possible that these issues are confined to just the PlayStation Network and not the Xbox Live service, but I only played the PS version of the game.
The lag was annoying, but the game isn't one that requires too precise controls with all the AoE attacks, so it was manageable. But what was very frustrating was getting dropped out of a match in the middle of a game. The way you improve your heroes is that you earn currency while playing which can be used to buy items for your character's belt. These can be real life-savers during the game. But when you get dropped, you lose all of your accumulated wealth, which is no fun at all.
Overall, I had a lot of fun playing Guardians of Middle-Earth.'The range of playable characters is really good from hobbits to elves and wizards to dwarfs. And everything just looks fantastic in the top-down battle arena type of interface. The combat is challenging to be sure, but it's also welcoming to new players.
Guardians of Middle-Earth earns 4 GiN Gems for being a solid battle pit set in Middle Earth that looks great and plays well. If they are able to clean up some of the lag issues, especially on the PlayStation Network, their score would probably go even higher.
Chris Richards is a Gin Product Tester. He played his first game in 1985, Rogue, and it has been downhill ever since. Chris can be contacted at : firstname.lastname@example.org.