NYCC 2014: The Legends of Mobile-earth
There are two types of collectible games that cross my mind: card games like Magic and Pokemon and figurine games like HeroClix. Card games seem to be crossing over to the digital realm fairly well, with Hearthstone becoming a strong seller for Blizzard and the aforementioned Pokemon recently porting to iOS as well. No digital figurine-based game has crossed my path until last week, when Kabam sat me down in front of Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth. It was there that I learned that collectible figure games might have a shot of entering the digital realm as well.
Figure collection is just like any other collectible-based game: there are certain rarity tiers, from common to legendary, and the rarity of the statue will affect its overall usefulness. I could have up to twelve figures in my party at any given time, as the game allows for three groups of four figures each. Some figures are so enhanced they take up multiple spaces, like the Gollum in my part who took up all four of the second group, and others have abilities and perks that only unlock when paired with certain other figures. Both of these elements add strategy and tactics to the formula, as without them it would simply be a matter of rock-paper-scissors in Lord of the Rings figure form.
Questing is where Legends of Middle-earth really shines, however, as the game will take you through important locations from all three of the core 'Lord of the Rings' films. I chose an area, then chose a stage, and I saw the woods laid out before me with a path right up the middle. As I walked, I gained coins and experience, while every few steps also scored me a new statue. Once in a while, I'd encounter an orc with an axe to grind (sometimes literally), and the fight would begin.
Battles play out in classic JRPG format, only I don't choose what actions to take as the teams fought. Attack power, defense, and other attributes will be dependent on the strength of the group, factoring in any abilities or perks as well, and I would watch as those perks were triggered and the two sides went to battle. Each battle is not a lengthy cinematic, sometimes taking up to 60 seconds at a time, but those pressed for time can still skip them if need be. After fighting I'd collect my reward and move on, finding more figures along the way. One caveat I should mention is the Stamina bar, which depletes after each step in the questing areas and replenishes after a certain period of time has elapsed. I wouldn't expect to just push right through the game, because that won't happen.
Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth takes the basic formula of a game like WWE SuperCard, removes the cards, and inserts figures based on one of the most successful franchises ever made. It's a smart idea turned into a fun game, and I would expect LotR fans to jump right in when it becomes available.
Oh, and I guess I should mention that this isn't the only figure-based game Kabam is working on. A similar venture from another franchise is coming, a game that a whole other groups of fans might hunger over, but that's for another time.
Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth will be available on mobile platforms by the end of 2014.