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Guardians of Middle Earth Review

Mike Wehner | 5 Dec 2012 21:00
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At the start of each match your guardian has only the most basic of attacks, and you must level up by killing enemy soldiers or guardians, or taking out some of the environmental enemies that remain neutral until attacked. Leveling up as fast as possible is the most important thing in Guardians of Middle Earth, and you'll find that dispatching your foes is exponentially easier with an advantage of just a level or two. Your ranks of soldiers and your towers themselves can also be upgraded as you gain levels offering further strategy to the skirmishes.

However, these strategies work both ways, and if the enemy team is more efficient in leveling and upgrading than your own, you'll find it hard to hold them off. If you do meet an untimely end, you'll respawn back at your base and must make your way back to wherever the battle is taking place. As the match progresses, your respawn timer grows, and if you fall late in the match you'll end up waiting for quite a while to be brought back to life, which can offer the opposition a huge advantage.

Unfortunately, the in-battle balancing act isn't as forgiving as it should be, especially in the early going. If one of your fellow players or AI-controlled counterparts gets off to a slow start, it can doom your entire battle plan. Once a teammate falls, it becomes a slippery slope, and there's often very little you can do to even the odds. This is especially true in the three-lane game variant where you'll need to leave your own local skirmish in order to keep the enemy from advancing elsewhere.

When you're winning, you'll feel like you're a dominant and unstoppable force, but when you end up on the losing end, it quickly becomes clear that either you or a single fellow guardian was largely responsible for the landslide. Of course, the MOBA genre as a whole has a habit of being unforgiving when it comes to ensuring every player is pulling their weight, so while this issue is somewhat expected, it's unfortunate that Guardians doesn't introduce an elegant solution.

As you gain experience to your overall rank, you unlock the ability to customize your loadout with things like potions and special perks that can offer a bit of aid if your team falls behind, but you'll need to do several hours of grinding to get to that point. Likewise, many of the guardian characters must be purchased using the in-game currency won from battles, so if you want to see what each warrior has to offer, prepare to spend a good chunk of time unlocking them all.

Bottom Line: Guardians of Middle Earth is a hardcore experience in just about every sense of the word. If you're looking for a simple hack-and-slash brawler, you'll need to look elsewhere. Strategy is paramount here, and while the skill - or lack thereof - of your teammates can indeed doom you to failure, the rewarding feeling of waging a successful war is well worth it.

Recommendation: If you're a MOBA fan that has been frustrated by the lack of a true online battle arena on consoles , Guardians of Middle Earth was made for you. The title offers a wealth of content that will keep you busy for a good long while, but just be prepared to deal with some balance issues, especially while you struggle to put a few ranks under your belt early on.

Game: Guardians of Middle Earth
Genre: Brawler
Developer: Monolith Productions
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Platform(s): XBLA, PSN
Available from: Amazon(US), GameStop(US)

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