Let’s just get right into the nuts and bolts of this game.
The gameplay in Guardians of Middle-earth is what you come to expect from a typical MOBA. The default mode that you’re going to play first is called Battlegrounds. You’ve got a set map that is very contained by today’s gaming standards, and a series of different objectives that you can accomplish. The main goal of Battlegrounds is to bring down enemy towers that are systematically placed in specific spots on the map. The more towers you bring down, the more points you earn and the greater chance for victory in the alotted 20-minute timeframe the game gives you. For new players of the MOBA genre, you may not initially get what is happening at the beginning of the game, but just wait. You’ll have that ‘click’ moment where you absolutely attach your attention to the game. Battlegrounds gets your tastebuds wet for more of the rest of the game, which comes in quite a few modes. BUT! Before we go through those modes, let’s talk a bit more about what you are up against with the towers, and other elements, in Battlegrounds because the game isn’t as simplistic as this reads.
The towers have powerful defenses that will make you dead pretty darn quick. The strategy you’ll want to use for attacking the towers first starts with your NPC troops that are created in waves during the game. Much like you would find in an RTS, you have barracks (in a sense) that keep spitting out disposable soldiers. The soldiers are immediately drawn to three different directions in the game (if you’re playing a 3-lane game). Each wave tries to get to the tower to help bring it down. The real use of these soldiers is as distractions to keep the tower from hitting you. It works well, even with waves of enemy soldiers trying to stop your soldiers impending attacks.
Once you bring a tower down, it stays down. You get a set amount of points for it and you move on to the next target.
There are other ways to make points in the game. For example, you can take down enemy soldiers and actual online enemy players (which, as you can imagine, is slightly more difficult in comparison to the NPC soldiers. You can also conquer Shrines in the game, which are placed in a vertical row in the middle of the maps. Once activated, they help out the ‘guardian’ players with health regeneration, which is something you want, so don’t ignore those shrines.
Battlegrounds is a mode that contains everything you want to know about the game. It’s probably the mode you’ll stick to the most, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The other modes are as follows:
Elite Battlegrounds — This is the first mode that you ‘unlock’ when you reach level 2 in the overall game. This mode is for the hardcore players who want nothing to do with the AI. There is no AI allowed. The only caveat to this mode is that you have to have 10 players to even start it. You might be waiting a little while if this game doesn’t take off.
Skirmish — Five players versus five AI-controlled guardians. There are no time limits for this mode. The end point of Skirmish is when all the bases have been destroyed by the other team. As you can probably imagine, this mode more than likely will take much longer than 20-minutes to complete. That might even be longer if you can’t find five people to play with in Skirmish.
Custom Match — This one is pretty much self-explanatory. If you or a friend is mightly obsessed with putting together a game of your own, then look no further than this option.
Honestly speaking, I spent more time in Battlegrounds than any of the other mode. In the near future, I can’t imagine I’ll be spending more time in the other modes. That’s not to take anything away from other options, but Battlegrounds is so darn fun and the gameplay is even, although the AI can be pretty damn dumb sometimes.
Now, let’s discuss what really makes tho game deep.
The beef to this game isn’t the gameplay, rather it’s the loadouts that you earn as you level up and get better. Your loadouts are spread over three different paths: Potions, Commands and Current Belt. Having three different ways to access or apply attributes makes for an interesting piece of strategy when you’re trying to decide what’s best for your character. This reminds me a lot of Call of Duty: Black Ops II loadout’s screen, as you have different items and attributes to make yourself better. Finding the right combination is the obvious key to it all. You also have several different slots to experiment with a variety of different ways your loadouts look. Again, it’s very much like CoD in that regard (did you ever think that a MOBA could be compared with an FPS? Keep in mind, I’m not a huge PC gamer, so don’t kill me for not knowing how far loadouts go back).
Getting back on track, you can attach gems to your belt that enhance your attributes in the game (such as health regeneration, attack speed, cool down reduction, etc.). The belt is a more permanent, completely zero interactive piece during gameplay. It’s just constant attributes. On the flip side to that coin, you can also add potions to your character that are easily accessed with the directional pad on the controller. There are different types of potions, such as health, which can be extremely useful in battle. The last part of the loadout is commands, which allows you to kick in health, adrenaline or even smite someone. It’s controlled with the L1/L2 combination, and multiple commands can be carried at once (three at the time I was playing). All of these pieces to the loadouts will be the reason why you want to continually play this game. It adds depth and intensity to the overall value of GOME.
While this may seem like a glowing review for a game, there are some ‘issues’ with the game itself. The biggest issue, and the one that made me cringe a bit, is how long it takes to actually play a match. The server does some sort of estimation that tells you an ‘average wait time’ until the next game. Usually that ends up being nearly two-minutes. In actuality, it could take up to 3+ minutes to start a game. Sometimes it’s less than 30 seconds. The issue here is that the unpredictability will throw some players for a loop, since this generation of gamers is used to instant gratification when it comes to online play. Patience is a virtue and if you have plenty of patience then you will be rewarded handsomely with great gameplay. Still, it’s a knock on the overall game.
So after playing the hell out of this game, is it worth the money? Is it fun? Well, if you couldn’t tell already, the game is very much fun. I had to pull myself away from it to write this review. It asks you through the loadouts option to keep playing, so that you can find better/newer ways to defeat your enemies. The maps aren’t very special, but you won’t care. The strategy and attacking will keep your eyes and brain occupied. The scenery is but a scratch on this surface. As for the money, well you can decide that. If you buy this retail then it’s going to cost you $29.99. If you download it, it’s cheaper. This is the first time I’ve seen a company actually offer the game for less if you download it, and it’s a very good trend for it to start. The PSN cost for this game is around $14.99, which if you do the math is about half the cost of the retail version. I’m not sure I would pay $29.99 for this experience, but I don’t mind downloading it for $14.99 (although, I did get it for free, so I can’t complain). Now, to be fair, the retail version does come with the season pass (which opens up DLC in the future for you). If you don’t care about DLC, then download that sucker on PSN.