Friday, December 7, 2012

Guardians of Middle-earth: MOBA on PS3?

 You know you always wanted to play a mid Gandalf...

I don't know what possessed developer Monolith Productions to release Guardians of Middle-earth which is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena on the consoles... Real MOBA, as I am excluding Awesomenauts here, is native only to the Personal Computer for a good reason. Mostly, the controls. That should not be that much of a problem though because you can always make a MOBA with keyboard and mouse controls for the consoles but those who game only on consoles may see that as a deterrent. I suppose that Monolith was afraid to go into the PC market because they don't want to get lost between the three MOBA giants: League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Heroes of Newerth. But they got The Lord of the Rings license but I suppose they felt that was just not good enough. Perhaps they wanted to release GoMe on consoles to prove a point? That this genre should find a home on the consoles? I would have believed that last point if they actually included keyboard and mouse control for the game because this game was definitely custom made for the controller, for better or worse.

The towers can hurt a lot even at late game if they were upgraded.

Well, the good news here is that this game is very well done for a console MOBA. At the moment, it features 22 unique champions from the LotR universe, - yes, Gollum included (ewww). There are two maps, one with a single lane and the standard 3 lane map. If you are not familiar with MOBA, basically, you are controlling one of the 5 champions on your team against another team of 5 and your goal is to destroy the enemy base before your enemies destroy yours. Be prepared to be utterly disappointed by the game's graphics. Not only does GoMe look sad and mediocre, the frame rate is downright horrible. Which is a real shame because I know that the PlayStation 3 can do so much better than this. Thankfully, just like any other good MOBAs out there, this game is deliciously fun and addicting. GoMe offers pre-game customization options found in LoL which means that outside of the matches, you get to rank up your player profile which leads to better pre-game preparation.

Now strange as this may sound, there is no gold economy within the matches itself and all of the items that you can equip your character must be done before the game starts. I suppose the developer thought that adding an item shop in the match may be too complicated for console gamers. The problem with this system is that you are then stuck with whatever you are equipped with so you cannot change your strategy mid game but at least your opponent would not be able to do the same. At least the way that you customize the character outside of the matches, to a degree, mirrors how buying items work in other MOBAs. You can equip multiple relics in your belt slot that come with their own stat modifiers and you have to fill these relics up with stat gems. These belts will only be activated when you have reach certain levels while in the match so your character becomes significantly more powerful when those belts are finally in play, just like when a champion has farmed enough gold  and gets an item from the shop. Of course the difference here is that the stat improvements in this game is guaranteed because leveling up should be pretty easy, not to mention that it's maxed at level 14, while in other games, you can really shut someone's gold income down.

In-game shop is overrated?

Since there is nothing to buy in game, creep kills are merely there as a way to get more experience points. Leveling up your character provides you with the ability to upgrade towers and your barracks. Killing enemy champions however will grant a structure damage boost that can stack up until your are killed by an enemy champion. Killing the neutral creeps outside the lanes provides a variety of bonuses. There are also several points on the map that can be captured to provide stat bonus for the entire team. So as you can deduct from these gameplay elements, the game tries to compensate gold gain with plenty of mini objectives to fulfill. Let's move on the most important concern for a console MOBA - the controls. You move your character with the left stick and you aim using the right stick. Yes, it's very restrictive compared to the keyboard and mouse setup so it will take quite a some time to get used to it. The four abilities are triggered using the four buttons on the controller while regular attacks are performed using the R2 trigger. If you are interested to see the other part of the map, you can press both the L3 and R3 and you will enter free camera mode. You can still move your character around while doing this but this is far slower than merely clicking a point on the map with your mouse. It does affect the gameplay, especially when you are roaming the map to assassinate a target but the real flaw in the controls is the way abilities are triggered. The buttons has to be pressed down and then released to activate an ability and the reason why they did this is to allow you to cancel casting with pressing R2 while having the ability button held. But this also means that you cannot instantaneously trigger an ability and in a game like this, that could lead to a lot of failures.

My favorite so far. He's no Ashe but it will have to do.

Despite the problems I have mentioned, GoMe is a very playable console MOBA. As the first MOBA game for the console, I will consider it a success but a lot of lesson can be learned here, the most important one being that developers should allow a console MOBA to use the keyboard and mouse setup. The game is available at retail and from the PlayStation Network Store. Buying the season pass will provide you access to 8 new champions that will be released in the future. I sure hope that there will be more than 8 however because MOBA is a genre where the game can easily last to infinity as long as they keep releasing new champions or at least build the number up to 50 or more champions. Perhaps they will do that if they ever decided to release a free-to-play version on the Personal Computer. I am certainly hooked but I haven't done any matches against other players yet and I won't be doing that until I have unlocked everything I could from my profile rank. I am looking for regular teammates to play the game with so hit me up on PSN and let's get a fellowship going.



Anonymous said...

4/5 is way too kind. You didn't even mention the online match making p2p system being very broken. I uninstalled the game on ps3 after waiting months for a fix that was only promised by Monolith.

Loner Gamer said...

It was addressed in the last paragraph: "I am certainly hooked but I haven't done any matches against other players yet and I won't be doing that until I have unlocked everything I could from my profile rank." Note that this is a first impression article versus a full review.