When console MOBA Guardians of Middle Earth launched around two weeks ago, it included 22 heroes, a 1-lane map, and a somewhat more standard 3-lane map. On Friday, December 14th (timed to coincide with the release of Peter Jackson’s movie The Hobbit), Warner Bros and Monolith released what is hopefully the first of many content packs for the game, which included 2 new heroes, and a map skin for their 3-lane map. Read on to get the full details.
As I mentioned above, the initial Guardians DLC contains 2 characters, both drawn from the pages of Tolkien’s first book, The Hobbit (most of the heroes from the initial 22 come from either the Lord of the Rings trilogy or were invented by Monolith or based on other Middle Earth games). This was rather obviously a tie-in to the Hobbit movie, released on the same date, but darn it if Monolith didn’t just do a great job with the new content.
The characters introduced on Friday are Bilbo Baggins, who enters the battlegrounds as a stealth-oriented Striker-type (assassin), and Bert the Troll, who almost ironically has been cast in the Tactician (support) role. The new map is a simple re-skinning of the existing 3 lane Battlegrounds map to resemble Bilbo’s native Shire, complete with party tents, Hobbit holes, and lush New Zealand verdure.
Players that chose to purchase the Season Pass will get Bert and Bilbo by default as a part of their purchase. Other players can purchase them with Microsoft Points. I believe the Shire Skin is included free to all players.
From a story and lore perspective, Bilbo Baggins seems to be kind of an odd choice to throw into the battlegrounds of a MOBA. Aside from spiders in Mirkwood, he never really fought in the Hobbit, and his role is more one of riddles in the dark and dangerous discourses with Dragons than sneaking up behind Sauron for a gank. However, as I mentioned in my review of the title, the names and visuals of the character are pretty much window dressing, so as weird as it was to play the Burglar Baggins, I got over it and took him into a couple of matches.
As a Striker, Bilbo Baggins is focused mainly on doing high physical DPS to a single target at melee range, and he has moderate escape potential and the ability to get the drop on opponents. He’s fragile, his basic attack is one of the highest damage in the game, and at high levels with good Relic and Gem choices can melt through unwary opponents.
His basic abilities are called Attercop! Attercop!, Hobbit Sense, Gaffer’s Home Cider, and his ultimate is Sting. For those who don’t know, Attercop! Is a reference to a scene in the Hobbit (novel, I don’t think it was included in the first movie) where Bilbo Baggins is attempting to rescue his dwarven companions from a brood of giant spiders who have captured them with the intent to make a meal of them (this is something of a theme in the Hobbit – most bad things want to eat you). According to the lore, Hobbits are very accurate at throwing stones, and Spiders apparently hate being called attercop. Anyways, the ability, much like in the novel, is a taunt. Bilbo tosses a rock at an opponent in range, doing moderate damage and forcing them to move towards him or attack him for a short period of time. It’s a good initiator in line with other such abilities in the game (as possessed by the Witch King and Mogzog, among others). It also has an interesting effect in conjunction with his ultimate, as I’ll get to in a little bit.
Hobbit Sense is a short duration stealth ability (it caps at 6 seconds). This is a reference to a short tidbit Tolkien throws into the early portion of The Hobbit about hobbits possessing the ability to quickly hide from Big Folk (humans) blundering about. I think it might have made more sense for the ability to be called Magic Ring, as Bilbo was frequently invisible over the course of his story, and makes liberal use of the One Ring. For some reason, though, they eschewed the easy answer and decided he's somehow just hiding carefully? This is a moderately useful escape ability, and can be used incredibly effectively when initiating a gank on opponents who have pushed forward recklessly in lane. It’s very good in conjunction with Attercop! and Gaffer’s Home Cider to get the jump on, and quickly power down unwary enemies.
Gaffer’s Home Cider is a reference to Gaffer Gamgee, Bilbo’s gardener and the father of Samwise from the Lord of the Rings story. He’s not directly mentioned in the Hobbit novel, but the reference makes some sense. This is a short duration buff which increases Bilbo’s attack speed and critical hit chance significantly, at the cost of making him take additional ability and basic attack damage from opponents. Initiating with Attercop into Gaffer’s Home Cider is pretty much your baseline tactic with Bilbo, though it might make sense to save Attercop for when they attempt to run, to pull them back into your hacking.
Bilbo’s ultimate is Sting. Sting, in case you didn’t know, is Bilbo’s Elven dagger, picked up after a brush with the Trolls early on in the novel. It’s also carried by Frodo on his journey to Mordor. In GoME, this ability deals considerable damage to all targets within a medium range of Bilbo, doing more to anyone who’s recently been taunted with Attercop. Thus, if you’re in a teamfight, this is a good way to hurt all of your foes while powering down your primary target (someone like Lugbol or Agandaur, for instance) even more than the rest. Since it’s ranged, it can also be used to finish off a single target you’re pursuing.
All in all, Bilbo is relatively easy to use, favoring Red gems and Relics, speed boosts, and damage Commands. Do note that his escape ability, while useful, is not as sure a thing as Gollum’s Coward ability, Galadriel’s chainble Fear and Stun, Haldir’s Treetop Ambush teleport, or Agandaur’s teleport. Also, against melee bruisers like Mogzog, he’s somewhat less effective due to their HP and ability to match his damage output. In the time I used him, he seemed best against unwary Enchanters or Tacticians like Ori or Gothmog.
Bert is a tactician with a skillset that resembles in part many of the other Tacticians in Guardians of Middle Earth. As humorous as it might be to call someone as dimwitted as a troll a "tactician," he's certainly an interesting character. Like Enchanter Ori or Tactician Nori, he’s partially reliant on a cornerstone ability (in his case, Bonfire). He also has an ability to greatly increase his resistances, which comes in handy, though it’s no replacement for a true escape mechanism like a teleport. All in all, he’s fairly aggressive hero with an ability kit that has a lot of synergy.
Bert is one of the 3 Trolls Bilbo and the Dwarves ran into early in their journey. In the story, the 3 trolls were seated around a bonfire eating mutton (and complaining about it, prefering manflesh). Due to a misguided pickpocketing attempt by Bilbo, they discover, capture, and almost eat the Dwarves before a bit of trickery from Gandalf gets the 3 trolls arguing amongst one another over how best to prepare Dwarf; they bicker until dawn, when the sunlight turns them to stone. This, hopefully, will cue you in on the lore for 2 of his abilities – Bonfire, and Mutton. These are also his 2 primary abilities in the early game. His other 2 abilities, Spirits and Stumbling Rage, round out his kit.
Bonfire is Bert’s central ability. It places an area on the ground in medium range that deals damage over time to Turrets, heros, creeps or Creatures in its radius, and empowers Mutton and Stumbling Rage when cast on nearby enemies. It deals decent damage and is a good way to help whittle down turrets that you’re able to assault for short periods of time, but it really shines when you’re able to pull off combos with it.
Mutton is Bert’s other main use ability. It pulls enemies to Bert, deals a small amount of damage, and briefly stuns the target. If Bonfire is nearby, Bert will then throw the enemy into the fire, dealing extra damage. The Bonfire/Mutton combo is the one I see most from Bert in the days since launch, and in conjunction with Wulfrun, Agandaur, or other AoE/high damage heroes, it can be devastating to the enemy. As far as initiators go, Bert’s Mutton is one of the ones I’ve seen been most consistently result in player deaths. It seems to have a higher success rate than simple taunts like the Witch King’s due to the stun component, and since time isn’t wasted as the taunted player walks towards the taunter. Combined with the ability to easily pull the enemy into Bonfires or other ground-targeted damage zones, it’s quite formidable.
Spirits is a defensive ability which drastically reduces incoming basic attack and ability damage, while rendering Bert’s basic attack useless for a short time. If you’re trapped by a good Striker or Warrior like Mogzog, it’s not necessarily going to save you, but in team fights or even when overextending during early laning it can save your big ugly butt.
Lastly, Bert has his Ultimate, Stumbling Rage. This is kind of a unique ultimate in that it’s not really very “ultimate.” Unless, that is, you have Bonfire up and nearby. Unaugmented, Stumbling Rage simply fears enemies in its target area. With Bonfire, however, it deals a decent chunk of damage in addition to the base effect.
Ultimately, Bert is rewarding to play, and one of the more straightforward Tacticians out there. He’s certainly more straightforward than Felgrom while being more offensive than Nori and more able to trap enemies than Hildifons. Ultimately, he’s somewhat positional like most Tacticians, and being caught away from his Bonfire is the best way to deal with him.
The last update that came with the initial DLC is the Shire map. While it is a simple reskinning of the default 3-lane map, it’s comparably gorgeous. With brighter colors, hobbit holes, tents, waving flags, and other buildings instead of brambles and chasms, the map feels a lot brighter and more vibrant than the basic 3-lane battleground. The map is chosen randomly when you queue, so if you’re doing Quick Matches, you have an equal chance to get 1 lane, basic 3-lane or the new Shire map. I seem to get it slightly less often than the basic 3-lane when I queue, but that could be a fluke. Either way, I vastly prefer it to the default map.
All in all, Bilbo, Bert and the Shire map are welcome additions to the Guardians of Middle Earth lineup, and they set a good precedent for future heroes and maps.