“So wait, let me get this straight. You went to one of the most famous video game conventions in the world, and instead of playing Assassin’s Creed 3 or Resident Evil 6, you played a console MOBA?” My friend was baffled. I guess he didn’t realize that E3 was more of an amusement park for new games, and the lines where not optional. “Yeah, I was really surprised about how well the controls went, and the presentation was fantastic!” My excitement for this game could barely be contained. I thought the game was phenomenal. “I was hoping something exciting would have happened to you. Not, “Blade sat around playing LOTR League on an Xbox controller.” It was true, nothing exciting happened to me. “Well, my room mate shot Soulja Boy in the face in Gears of War. Is that exciting enough?” So before we begin, yes I went to E3 2012. Yes, my roommate shot Soulja Boy in the face, after he cut in line for being a “VIP” at the epic booth. While as funny as it was, we’re not here to talk about shooting celebrities in the face. We’re hear to talk about Monolith’s new game Guardians of Middle-Earth (GoME). While Console MOBAs have been attempted in the past with things like Awesomenauts and Monday Night Combat (Which are both great games in their own regard), they lacked the depth of a true MOBA/ARTs. GoME tries to alleviate that and bring a true and meaningful MOBA/ARTs game to the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. Can we bring the depth and strategies of DOTA 2 to the Xbox, PS3? Let’s find out! To be honest, when I first saw the banners for GoME across the halls of the LA Convention center, one thought kept running through my mind. “Why? Why do we need another LOTR game?” Generally when movies get bad games they get one. LOTR got several, and more were still being made. Seeing Tolkien’s iconic characters hang from the halls made me cringe. So the number one thing that made me leery of this game was the control scheme. If you’ve played MOBAs, you know there are a plethora of controls you’ll need. Moving your character, casting and targeting spells, and activating items, just to start. If you get more technical you have micromanagement, along with spell and animation canceling as well. Monolith handles the majority of these controls with relative ease. Spells are bound to the four buttons X, Y, A, B (or Triangle, Circle, Square, Cross on PS3). Activating a spell is as simple as pressing a button. The tricky part comes in with targeting, however. In other games characters can cast abilities from afar or blindly into areas. While characters can use some abilities without targeting an enemy, for the most part abilities have set range around the character and can only be cast on enemies in their zone of threat. Not quite an elegant fix, but a solid one. As for items, there are none, so the problem is quickly solved there. While it may seem like players only have 4 abilities to use (There are no passive level up skills by the way), they actually gain access to “Command” Abilities (Think like Summoner Spells in League of Legends, except you can choose 4 as opposed to just 2), as well as a stock of potions your guardian can use to help in combat. The best part about the potions and command abilities? You get to choose which one to use. They’re completely customizable. The game doesn’t stop with just potions and command abilities for customization. Since the game lacks actual in game items to effect the stats of your character, you actually have a belt you can customize that dictates the stats your character gains as they level up. Monolith has made sure that, eventhough you don’t have items in game, you still have plenty of ways to customize your character. So we’ve gone ahead and discussed the control scheme and the customization of the game, but what about the actual game play? Do we have Eowyn running around shouting, “I AM NO MAN!” (Ironically that is the name of one of her abilities) or Gollum shouting about his precious every three seconds while in lane? Thankfully any quotes or mention of things from the books or films are very limited. Often characters will just say, “Good job friend” when scoring an assist, or comment on how they’re being overwhelmed by enemies. There’s not a lot of actual LOTR lore being rammed down your throat. It’s nice to know we can play a LOTR game and not be reminded of Sauron and the One Ring every few minutes. Standard games are only twenty minutes long, and are scored by a point system. Killing an enemy player grants your team 10 points (Unless its first blood than its 11), however the big points come from destroying enemy towers. Each tower provides your team with 50 points. Obviously prioritizing pushes and taking towers is a must on a short time limit. Killing players, or assisting players, in succession without dying grants a bonus damage to towers and other buildings. Thus helping keeping it still important to killing enemy players. Because of the short time fights often break out as soon as players reach a lane. Often over shrines (capture points that give buffs to the entire team across the field) It’s not uncommon to have first blood within the first minute, or have parties run back to base. Action in the game starts right at the beginning and doesn’t stop until the game is done. Now this all sounds great and seems to be exactly what Consoles needed for MOBAs to succeed on that platform. However, no game is without faults and there are quite a few of them in GoME. Sadly Monolith breaks my number one rule with GoME. Peer to Peer hosting. On any type of competitive level, having P2P hosting is a determinant and huge turn off. I’m not going to go into too much detail about why this is a no-no (I think I’ve talked about this at least four or five times before) , I highly hope that P2P hosting gets replaced with dedicated servers if Monolith hopes for this game to stay successful. Another thing is that, health bars often get cluttered upon the screen. It can easily become difficult to understand where your enemies health is at. Not knowing if you should advance with your attack or retreat from combat. This is less of an issue if you spend your time playing ranged characters, but whenever melee characters begin to duke it out, it can sometimes become a game of guessing to figure out what your opponent’s life is at. Finally while GoME’s customization does a fantastic job of replacing items you would normally purchase in the game, it’s a very very difficult system to understand and I fear will become a difficult part of the game for players. Something akin to reforging in World of Warcraft, is how I feel that if left unchecked, belt customizations could cause as big as a headache for the average player without reforge-lite. I feel that it should probably simplified a bit, in order to help newer players understand how and what choices they’re making. All and all Monolith does a fantastic job at bringing the MOBA genre over to consoles with Guardians of Middle-Earth. This has only been the first week, but I see great things for GoME and Monolith games. Once a few things are touched up, like getting dedicated servers, the game will be an even bigger success than it currently is. Stay tuned to our 12 Days of Giveaways to win T-Shirts for Guardians of Middle-Earth and even win a copy of the game!