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Guardians of Middle-Earth preview - Lord of the Rings goes MOBA

While the PC crowd has enjoyed games such as DotA and League of Legends for quite some time, the MOBA genre is one that’s been largely absent on the console market. Now, the developers at Monolith Productions are aiming to introduce that experience to a broader audience with Guardians of Middle-Earth, an upcoming console MOBA themed on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

The premise here is the same as it is in any other MOBA: two teams of five must work together on symmetrical maps and take out the opposing team’s base, while NPC “creeps” continually assault both sides across three connecting lanes. Monolith knows console gamers will be largely unfamiliar to this type of game - that’s why The Lord of the Rings universe makes perfect sense as a MOBA setting.

Players can choose from 20 famous characters as their guardian of choice, and all have access to a variety of abilities congruent with their fiction. Even if you’ve never played a MOBA, you’ll be able to select a character and have a pretty good idea of what kind of sills you’ll have at your disposal. For example, Gandalf has a slew of spells in his arsenal, making him a deadly damage dealer. He can use Narya’s Power to blind nearby enemies, decreasing their chances to land attacks, or the Fireworks AoE spell, which damages and silences opponents. Or, if you prefer smashing dudes with hammers instead of catching them on fire, Thráin is a solid choice, with medium damage, high health, and plenty of crowd control.

PC diehards might grumble at the thought of attempting to land skill shots with a console controller, but Guardians of Middle-Earth lends itself well to this layout. Guardians are moved with the left analog stick, while the right one slides AoE placement reticles around the screen. Abilities and potions are easily accessed, too, as they’re mapped to the controller’s face buttons and D-pad, respectively.

While accessibility is key, Guardians of Middle-Earth also contains some interesting tweaks to standard genre conventions. When full-force skirmishes break out in League of Legends, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of battle and lose track of what’s going on. In Guardians, however, players have access to recent play-by-play combat logs, which record the last 10 seconds of a fight leading up to your death. It’s a great tool for analyzing what went wrong, allowing you to learn from any mistakes you might’ve made.

Players even have access to a variety of custom game options, including one-on-one play, practice skirmishes against AI-controlled bots, and one-lane maps that are frequently bottlenecked by all-out bloodbaths. As for character customization, every guardian has a gem belt that can be slotted with gems that increase attributes. What makes this system interesting is that by equipping certain gems in specific sequences, you can unlock additional passive buffs, like cooldown reductions.

We’d love to see a full-fledged MOBA find success on consoles, though we suspect it might have a hard time stacking up to the likes of free-to-play competitors on the PC. Still, The Lord of the Rings universe could be a big draw - and if our demo of Guardians of Middle-Earth is any indication, Monolith is on track to deliver an inexpensive game whose complexity far overshadows many full-retail titles on the market.  

Topics

E3 moba

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10 comments

  • linorn - June 15, 2012 11:50 a.m.

    Ugh. Why do the screenshots look NOTHING like the LOTR universe?
  • radiodeaf - June 15, 2012 11:59 a.m.

    what do you mean? what does the LOTR universe look like?
  • linorn - June 15, 2012 2:45 p.m.

    It DOESN'T look like a genero-fantasy world with glowy sigils and floating people. If you're going to use the LOTR world do it properly, don't dilute it to become something it isn't.
  • radiodeaf - June 15, 2012 7:14 p.m.

    Having glowing things destroys the world of LOTR? "Sigils" based of elfin language is somehow bad? You haven't played the game or even seen anything other than a few screens and you lambast it...I would say premature.
  • HeavyTank - June 15, 2012 7:25 p.m.

    I would say that the trailer is a bit too glowy, but the screenies look fine to me.Remember, you need bright visual cues to tell you what's happening...you can't have everyone being dirt-brown or shiny black.
  • EwoksTasteLikeChicken - June 15, 2012 12:51 p.m.

    Will this be on XBLA, or an actual retail release? Either way I'm getting, the game looks fantastic.
  • Travia220 - June 15, 2012 5:01 p.m.

    Still calling these games MOBA I see. In the end this game still doesn't sound very excited. It also looks like it's going to have balance issues with this "Gem." System. Are there even any intricacies? Like maybe denies? a non-linear jungle? gold lost on death? how do creeps work? how do towers work? Items? You know stuff that gives Dota-like games a high skill ceiling or is it going to be along the lines of LoL or even less complex? This article doesn't really give much depth.
  • radiodeaf - June 15, 2012 7:15 p.m.

    these questions! these all need answering. all.
  • HeavyTank - June 15, 2012 7:19 p.m.

    Gold (and xp) lost on death doesn't really give you a high skill ceiling, it just widens the skill gap between players, something that in my opinion makes it far, far less fun IF the matchmaking is even slightly flawed (and this is the reason I don't play DOTA2 anymore, even if it's a good game by itself). The good thing about LoL is that if you want something simple, you can just keep playing easy champions and use easy builds, and if you're good you can still make a difference...then, if you want to hone your skills you can go more in-depth. It kinda bugs me that people still think LoL is a casual derpfest while DOTA2 is where "the pro's are at".You can find shitty players and good players on both games, and both have a frankly terrible community. Anyway, this is just a reveal trailer, you can't expect them to lay all of their cards on the table from the get-go, can you? If this were a PC game I would say it was doomed, but since it's pioneering on consoles it might have a chance, provided it's not like a top-down platformer but an actual MOBA (and of course they're still calling them that, do you have a better term?). Personally, it's not the skillshots that bother me the most.It's the targeting system.How can you make sure you hit the enemy with 10 HP between 10 minions if you don't have AoE spells (although I'm guessing there will be a LOT of them here).Is there an auto-target, do you switch between targets or is it manual? Well, I guess we'll see.
  • jackthemenace - June 16, 2012 3:31 a.m.

    Well, I want to wait until I see some solid gameplay footage before I start making a decision, but on paper (webpage) it sounds like a good idea. I think. But then, I've never even HEARD of a 'MOBA' before today, let alone played one.

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