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Guardians of Middle Earth Review

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A console MOBA?… What?…

If, like me, you saw that and were left scratching your metaphorical(?) dangly LoL balls in confusion, I implore you – don’t give up on it just yet.

“Noooooo!”, you might cry as if you were Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi (Or upon the first coolest Darth’s discovery of the Disney sale). Hold onto your charred nutsacks – what’s with all the testicle analogies today? – because it’s actually pretty good.

A few tweaks have been made to make it more console compatible, and it brings some pretty good ideas of its own to the table in doing so. But I’m not going to talk about that yet. I’m still a little bitter about this game Guardians-Of-Middle-Earth2exceeding my cynical expectations, so I’m going to have a few digs at some of the less meaningful aspects of the game before giving a fair critique.

The user interface, at times, is completely awful. It gets in the way of epic bro-downs like Legolas marching up to Sauron and sticking an arrow in his facehole and too much information floods across the screen at once when things get hectic. It’s almost as if they’re saying “Oh, you couldn’t afford a huge TV? Well, you’re going to struggle seeing all of this important game shit then”.

Technically, the game is constantly letting itself down, complete with lag spikes, occasionally horrific waiting times and dropped connections resulting in all that precious experience vanishing completely. Nothing is more infuriating than knowing you’ve got a good internet connection but the game just doesn’t work with it, and as a result you’re going to lose progress. A lot. It might only be a match’s worth but to get dropped out of a game you’ve been doing particularly well in (not to mention waiting sometimes upwards of five minutes to find) starts making all of the awesome lore and character appearances seem like a small bandage on a big wound. It’s playable, extremely so, but technically GOME will screw you around a lot, and you’ll notice it more and more the longer you play.

In order to make the genre work on consoles a few compromises have been made here and there. Single enemy attacks are severely reduced and you’ll find the majority of your skills boil down to AoE (Area of Effect) which works very well – it certainly makes things feel a little more hectic. There’s no item shop like in LoL, instead you have loadouts on a Guardian Belt that you can customise on the fly before each map for different buffs and abilities. Little touches like this make the game feel smoother than Gollum’s forehead.

But it looks distinctively like LoTR. It definitely sounds like it too, with original movie voice actors and that soundtrack that sends a ghost army of chills guardians-of-middle-earth1marching down your back every time you hear it. The game’s got atmosphere and fan pleasing down to a T, and when handling a franchise as beloved as this, that’s winning a good 70% of the battle. It’s the same reason I played the Game of Thrones RPG despite everyone telling me it was awful – I didn’t particularly care if the gameplay was great as long as it didn’t take any liberties with the source material and did it justice.

If you slap Lord of the Rings on something, you’re pretty much guaranteeing that there’s a large crowd of people that are going to play it without the first hint of a doubt as to its quality (There’s a Peter Jackson joke in there somewhere). New Mario games sell. New Pokémon games sell. Even new Star Trek games still sell. My ninety year old Grandfather is a Tolkien nut and bought a PC just to play Battle For Middle Earth – fair enough, you like Lord of The Rings, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer for it. Do it poorly and you’re going to have a hell of a lot of backlash from righteous fans telling you just how wrong you were to model Gandalf’s beard like that – everyone knows it’s at least a quarter inch longer and almost an entire percent more lustrous. How could you? Do it right, and you’ve got an instant hit – and that’s what we’re seeing here.

The Good

Treats the revered source material with all due respect. Tolkien is certainly watching from the Undying Lands with a smile on his face as he burns pagans and converts CS Lewis to Christianity. It’s actually a very good MOBA for a relatively small price tag, including 22 LoTR heroes each with their own individual skills and more to come via DLC. Manages to streamline the experience excellently with optional timers and in-game store removal. Also, you can play as Aragorn’s dad.

The Bad

Visually a little clunky at times, with lots of different information competing for your attention. It can overpower the battles themselves which would otherwise look great, and the user interface needs some work. Unless you’re playing GOME on a huge TV, you’re not going to be able to see everything properly all the time.  Online matchmaking can be a complete ruin – it might actually be worth bringing the Lord of the Rings trilogy so you’ve got something to do in the waits between matchmaking sometimes.

The “Meh”

This is totally my own point of view but aren’t we pushing it a bit now with the LoTR games? A MOBA might not be that much of a stretch for the franchise but I’m dreading the eventual side scrolling fighting game, pitting the Fellowship and Mr T against a gang of technicolour Orc thugs where Legolas has to eat lembas bread out of a bin to recharge his health meter.

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Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.


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