Guardians of Middle-Earth PAX Prime 2012 Hands-on Preview -- Hilda-Bombing The Single LaneBy Leah Jackson - Posted Sep 07, 2012
Guardians of Middle-Earth (GoME) is the new console multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) experience from Monolith featuring characters from the Lord of the Rings universe. We've seen the game a few times now since it was announced back at E3 2012, and discussed its overall scope and different types of characters and classes in past previews. At PAX Prime 2012, we got the chance to go hands-on with a new character, Hildifons, and try our skill in a few different gameplay modes.
In GoME, as is the case with most MOBAs like League of Legends or Dota 2, the objective is to work within a team of five players to destroy your opponent's base. GoME will have a few different game modes and feature more than 20 guardians to play as. With such variety, all types of players will be able to find the playstyle that suits them best.
In our demo, we played two matches in Battlegrounds mode. The first was a classic 5v5 destroy-the-other-base fare on a three-lane map with a base on opposite ends. My teammates and I started the game on one side of the symmetrical map and there were three lanes in between our base and the other one. To get through the lanes, called top, middle (mid), and bottom (bot), we had to split up in to groups of one or two and take out a series of defensive towers in each one, all while attacking and defending against members of the other team who were trying to get to our base.
I played as the Uruk-hai Ugluk, one of GoME's Warrior classes. Each Guardian in GoME is broken down in to class types to make determining your favorite Guardian a little easier based on your playstyle. The five Guardian classes include Enchanter, Defender, Warrior, Striker, and Tactician. As a Warrior, Ugluk was pretty well-rounded and had a good amount of survivability thanks to all of his crowd control abilities, but he was still able to dish out a decent amount of damage.
Each game only lasts about 20 minutes and within that amount of time a whole lot can happen. Spread throughout the map are Shrines, which add buffs to your team if you can capture them, and neutral enemies to kill in the area between lanes which reap experience. Guardians can even hide in these neutral areas and sneak up on members of the opposing team for strategized ganks. With less guardians to defend a tower in the lane, the faster it will fall.
As characters progress through the game, they'll earn levels and with each level you can upgrade one of four skills. Once you reach certain levels, you can even upgrade your towers to deal more damage and your base to spawn stronger soldiers. Soldiers spawn at a constant rate and help push out each lane, so having stronger soldiers is always helpful. Since you set up your characters items before you hop in to games, characters need high levels to stay competitive and one extra skill level can be the difference between life and death towards late game.
Emerging victorious from our game as Ugluk, we hopped in to another one as one of Guardian's new characters, Hildifons. Hildifons is a character from deep in LotR's lore, but that didn't stop Monolith from putting him in the game. Other characters who don't appear in the movies will also make an appearance in the game, but how could I resist a flame throwing Hobbit?
The game as Hildifons was played on a single-lane map and he was the absolute perfect guardian to get the job done. In the single-lane map we were still trying to destroy the other team's base, but now all ten players were duking it out in the middle lane. Hildifons was a tactician, the class that's built for pushing lanes, and boy could he.
One of his moves created a flame wall that slowed and dealt damage to anyone that passed through it, while another made a flame pillar shoot out of an area for a few seconds. My favorite move of his was his ultimate ability, which I liked to call the Hildi-bomb. The Hildi-bomb allowed Hildifons to create a bomb out of a barrel, and if anything touched it, it would explode for massive damage. Laying Hildi-bombs in bushes or just running up to people with one was tons of fun. He was by far my favorite guardian to play as, and with all of his firepower I was able to carry my team to victory in the second and final match of our demo.
Guardians of Middle-Earth continues to impress every time we get our hands on it. It's not exactly going to revolutionize the MOBA scene, but the diverse characters lend themselves perfectly to the genre and the fast game modes that GoME offers work great on the console. I can't wait until the next time I can get my hands on some Hildi-bombs.