Guardians of Middle Earth – the most recent instalment to the LOTR video game catalogue. We’ve played through the films as well as the stand alone games, so what does GoME have to offer?
I went into GoME
with a slightly naïve mindset, I’m a big fan of LOTR in general, but I’ve never really had much experience with MOBA (Massive Online Battle Arena) games. Let’s be fair though, we’re all excited about The Hobbit
coming out next week, so let’s have a slice of video game LOTR
to get us in the mood.
The first thing I noticed as I fired up GoME
was that I had tutorials coming from every angle. Now usually, I’d just hit A until the tutorials went away and I could jump straight into the action, but as I said before, MOBA games are new to me, so I figured I’d check them out.
Doing so gave me a basic idea what I could expect from the game. The tutorials come in four parts: Basic Combat Training; Commands & Potions; Soldiers & Towers and Upgrades, Creatures & Shrines.
Basic Combat Training is fairly self-explanatory – you learn how to fight. Each character has a standard attack and four abilities. Commands & Potions teaches you about... long-ranged attacks? Nope, obviously it teaches you what commands and potions are at your disposal. (In this case, commands are merely self-buffs rather than actual commands).
During the Soldiers & Towers tutorial, you learn that each team has a base, and some amount of towers throughout their side of the map (I’ll explain in a bit more detail a little later on). NPC soldiers are released from your base to aid the battle.
The final tutorial relates to Upgrades, Creatures & Shrines. Shrines can be captured by standing in the vicinity for X amount of time. If your team has a shrine captured, they’ll receive buffs. Throughout the map, you’ll come across creatures. Creatures are neutral until you attack them – killing them earns XP and short term buffs. During each game, you can upgrade your towers and shrines which earns you bonuses.
So, after the tutorials are out of the way, you’re ready to jump into a game – theoretically. In this case, we have two options; Battleground or Skirmish. Battleground is an online game mode and the meat of GoME
- two teams, five players each and two bases (Skirmish is exactly the same, but all other ‘players’ are replaced with AI). Now I touched on how the game works earlier, but I’ll explain it in a little bit more depth.
You choose one of 22 ‘guardians’ (a mixture of protagonists and antagonists from the LOTR
world), and it’s your job to... well, guard. The aim of the game is to destroy the opposing team’s base. Along the way, you’ll also destroy their towers, and kill their players and NPC soldiers.
And that’s the brunt of it - it all sounds well and good, right? Well, it isn’t. To start with, I was looking at up to eight minutes before I’d get into some games. I found that sometimes the games had a lot of lag, making it very difficult for me to play. I decided to back out of these games with the intention of finding one with a decent connection. As I got back to the menus, I was given a ‘cooldown’ period for leaving a game – this meant that I had to wait until the cooldown had finished before I could enter another game.
When I finally got into a game that wasn’t laggy, what was that like? Well, I’d grown quite attached to Legolas as my character of choice. Before the game starts, each player picks a Guardian to play as. I went to select Legolas and was unable to – someone else had already picked him. Now yeah, that makes sense – there is only one Legolas, but I hadn’t bought the alternate ‘Striker’ class character, so I had to pick a different one.
You earn money as you play, money can be spent to unlock new guardians and gems/relics to modify your character's attributes, e.g. some gems may increase attack speed, and some may reduce the cooldown time of your abilities. Gems and relics can be combined in your belt however you decide.
You may be wondering what I mean by ‘Striker class’ – the guardians are separated by classes, each class with something different to offer the battle. Some classes are good for incapacitating enemies and healing allies, whereas others have balanced attack and defence attributes.
Rather than the combat being based around 1v1 fights, GoME
aims more at intense team battles where players have to come together to prevail. Mixing up guardians gives your team an edge, each character has different abilities which contribute to the battle in different ways. For instance, playing as Gandalf gives you AoE abilities. You’ll do small amounts of damage to all enemies that are in radius. Mixing this in with a defender (good for incapacitating and healing) makes for a useful combo.
The problem with these combos, is that if you find yourself at the mercy of two (or more) enemy players without any backup from your team, you aren’t going to have much fun. You’ll be dying in seconds. Each time you die, your respawn time increases, so by the end of a game, you can find yourself sat waiting for over a minute, only to be killed within 30 seconds of respawning. It gets pretty punishing.
Overall, I think that GoME
is a great idea. It has the potential to be a very fun game. The classes have a nice mix of attributes that can be combined for tense battles. But, the lack of balance in some battles is very unforgiving if you're not a seriously hardcore player. And I feel as though it’s lacking something. Putting the connection issues aside, it doesn’t feel like it has anything to do with LOTR
. I mean yeah, the characters look the same and have the same names, but it can feel too much like a LOTR skin slapped on a type of game that isn't a great match for the franchise.
+ Mixing classes causes some tense battles
+ Plenty of character choice
+ Various play styles
- Some connection issues
- Long wait time
- Doesn’t feel like a LOTR game
SPOnG Score: 5/10