Beginning in the modding world of Starcraft, the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre has taken the PC gaming world by storm. With titles like Defense of the Ancients, Heroes of Newerth, and League of Legends leading the charge, gamers have increasingly been investing time and money into the fast paced, strategic realm that is MOBA. With their success, it was only only a matter of time before this console generation was introduced to the genre. Honestly, I’m surprised its taken this long. With reaction time and precision being a huge factor, controls certainly were a major concern in translating MOBA from PC to console. With Guardians of the Middle Earth, Monolith Productions has found a balance, but what about the rest of the game? Does it bring an authentic MOBA experience to consoles?
First I’ll start by explaining what playing a traditional MOBA title entails. Typically, you have two teams that each have a base with one particular structure they must protect in order to win. If they lose that structure, its game over, but there are other structures as well that influence gameplay. The most important of these structures are the defensive towers. Less important, though not by much, are the weaker AI controlled minions or soldiers. As players, you control unique hero characters. Outside of battle, you can put together load outs with different items or relics equipped to better maximize the powers of your Guardian and help them survive longer. Inside battle, experience is gained for any structure destroyed or minion or hero character killed. You level up throughout the individual matches, gaining new items or abilities in some games, developing defensive structures in others. Guardians of Middle Earth takes the best of all these features, adds a few things, and makes the experience all its own which works great on consoles.
Instead of starting with an undeveloped character a la League of Legends (you begin with one ability), in GoME you start with three abilities and you never feel underpowered in the early stages of the match. This makes an already fast paced genre even more-so, making players more willing to jump into PvP fights sooner. The flip side of this is that some characters are quite overpowered. One of the great things about LoL is constant updates to gameplay and characters. If one person is overpowered, they get nerfed (typically too much) and then are rebalanced. Same if underpowered. Monolith will have to develop a degree of consistency around this particular issue as any MOBA developer has, but I have faith in them. I know they plan to release a massive update after The Hobbit debuts in theaters, for example. Hopefully some balancing mechanics will come packaged with the new guardians and maps.
The graphics are pretty good for a $15 title on PSN or Xbox Live ($25 for disc version). Characters look detailed enough and the maps are clean, of course nothing on a blockbuster level. The effects stand out greatly though, in a good way. All the different abilities have a flair to them and ultimate abilities all look amazing. A lot of time was evidently spent on not only polishing the abilities, but making them all unique to their individual guardians. No character plays the same and that’s a big plus in a genre where purchasing new characters is such a major focus. MOBA games can only survive on the quality of content continuously pushed.
You have multiple match types, most that will fill empty player spots with AI controlled Guardians. Elite Battlegrounds, though, forces a 5v5 player only match. I have yet to start one. I waited it out for the purpose of this review in my recent session. 2o minutes passed and I canceled and restarted. Then another 17 minutes passed before I went on into the regular battlegrounds. Luckily, AI Guardians are not simply cannon fodder and they make some smart decisions during gameplay so matches aren’t completely trashed as result, but this is something that has to be fixed soon. If it’s a matter of amount of players, Monolith should offer some incentive for playing Elite battleground.
- MOBA controls transfer well
- Awesome ability effects
- Many new Guadians in the works
- Unbalanced Guardians
- Matchmaking troubles
MOBA titles are difficult to review early on simply because the consistencies and dedications of the developers are what make or break the title. Only a week into gameplay, that particular quality can’t be rated on a scale with gamers essentially only playing the early stages of a full project, but GoME definitely has a great foundation to work with. The solid gameplay mechanics and pacing combined with the ever intriguing Lord of the Rings lore makes for a great game, one I’ll definitely continue to support as new characters and new maps are released.
Final Grade: B+
This review was conducted using the PlayStation 3 version of the game provided by Warner Bros.