Guardians of Middle-earth
Gamescom 2012: Guardians of Middle-earth Hands-On Preview - MOBA Rule
Written Saturday, August 25, 2012 By Lee Abrahams
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GOME is a MOBA rather like DOTA. If you're looking at those strings of letters and assuming that we’ve gone a little bit mental then, rest assured, you’re right but that doesn’t make what we're saying any less true. Guardians of Middle-earth is a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA see?) in a similar vein to Defense of the Ancients (DOTA, now you get it) and titles like League of Legends (LOL, is the acronym not our personal feelings on the matter). So far so good but what does that all mean to those of you that haven’t been indoctrinated into the genre via your PC?

Luckily for us all, Bob Roberts, a Producer with Monolith, was on hand to separate the men from the boys, and the acronyms from the gibberish. “With this game, what we’re doing is bringing a new, competitive, multiplayer experience to home consoles,” he explained, “We’re doing this through the MOBA genre, which is super popular on PC but hasn’t really had much play time on consoles yet.” Releasing the game on the Xbox Live Arcade seems to be the right way to go for a game that is fairly simple at heart but eminently replayable, and having the Lord of the Rings franchise as a starting point is bound to lure in more than a few players who are new to the genre.

Roberts shows us through the menus and adds, “The characters you’ll be using are from that universe and they’ll be familiar to you from the films. But we have also pulled some from a little deeper in the lore as well.” The obvious figures of Gandalf and Sauron stand out right away, along with a few familiar elves and hobbits and the like, all of whom are spread across five distinct classes that can then be tweaked to make them fit your preferred role. Teams are five players per side, so there is plenty of chance to mix and match the characters and come up with strategies and abilities that complement one another, which is exactly how players can emerge victorious. Going it solo is likely to lead to a painful death while clever team play is going to lead to glory and unimaginable riches. Well glory anyway.

Having not experienced the world of MOBA gaming before we weren’t sure what to expect, so getting a lengthy hands on offered a chance to jump in at the deep end. The results were pleasantly surprising and it is easy to see how people can get sucked into the genre in a remarkably short space of time. The basic goal is for your team to destroy the enemy's base, aided by some AI controlled underlings and upgradeable defence towers at key locations. You can also capture unique areas to gain team buffs as well as leveling up your character by beating up on the opposition. Hopping into the game and being able to pick up the controls is surprisingly simple, and it doesn’t take too long before you can give a good account of yourself.

Of course the whole point of the game is being able to work well with others. The maps are symmetrical and generally split into three paths, or lanes, that the fighting takes place down. Each side has a smattering of towers to defend their lands and taking these down effectively is your first priority. So using the various sneaky traps of the hobbit class can slow down your foes, allowing your big guns like Gandalf to step in and deal some serious damage. You can enhance your skills on the fly and even power up your own defences and goons to boot, but the real trick is to co-ordinate your assaults with your allies in order to take out enemy heroes and towers as you streamroll your way to victory. Theoretically at least.

Of course, when you start to clash with your foes then you can whip out one of four unique abilities to try and take them down or just rely on basic attacks should you so wish. As you amass points you can make said abilities even more powerful and learn the nuances of how to combo them well with your team. Should you be brutally cut down, then you can expect a short wait before you can hop into the fray again, all of which is time your enemy will be spending whittling away your defences. Controlling specific lanes and co-ordinating your efforts on perceived weak points and lone wolf characters can help you get closer to victory, but the ebb and flow of each battle is a real spectacle with momentum shifting from one side to the other (THE PENDULUM HAS SHIFTED: as Jim Ross might bellow).

You can also load out your character with what Roberts describes as, “Huge, game changing spells that might only come out once or twice a match”. A good example of this is the ability to summon a Balrog which, as you can imagine, leads to an insane amount of decimation. As well as this you can take along some single shot items and potions that might just help you out of a jam long enough to accomplish a smaller goal, like taking out a rival or similar. You also have a relic belt that helps you to tweak your character more specifically in terms of statistics and builds, with players able to mix and match hundreds of items to find the set up that makes then INDESTRUCTIBLE. Right up to the point where someone kicks your ass and it’s back to the drawing board.

Of course, if you aren’t up for just pummeling, or being pummeled by human foes, then Monolith still has something for you. The basic set-up is Battlegrounds, which is five on five with a set time limit, but you can opt to fill the extra slots with AI team members so you aren’t hanging around. For those wanting to fight only those of us that eat, sleep and breathe then you can head to Elite Battlegrounds where games are populated only by real life players and there is no timer, so it’s an all-out brawl until someone emerges triumphant. For those just after a friendly game you can hop into Skirmish which sees you and some buddies tackle AI foes together for good times and a few laughs – you weaklings. Solo players can also challenge training missions to help ease them into the genre.

After emerging triumphant from our first game (naturally) it was interesting to see how such a simple concept could become so engrossing. After spending a short amount of time mastering the controls, it soon became apparent when we needed to tag along with our team and when we could sneak off to capture a helpful objective. Likewise using the various abilities was a simple case of using the face buttons and we were soon dropping foes like flies, before beating a hasty retreat to get healed by an ally. It looks and plays supremely well and it is easy to see clans of players emerging to dominate matches online and pummel the unwary into submission. Having said that, it's obvious that a lot of effort has been made to introduce new players into the genre and for that we should be grateful. What seemed an inhospitable and bewildering battleground may just turn out to be XBLA’s next big thing.

Expect to be dominating lanes that aren’t at your bowling alley with the likes of Gollum, Galadriel and the Witch King come the end of this year, when Guardians of Middle-earth will be available for download.


User Comments

Forum Posts: 74
Comment #1 by SilvereX
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 04:13:50 AM
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I really don't see how this will work on consoles. MOBA's are all about strategy and teamwork, and nobody on consoles uses their damn mic.

Forum Posts: 12
Comment #2 by Epic Gamer Will
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 05:41:13 AM
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Gandalf wants to destroy Frodos ring D:

Forum Posts: 80
Comment #3 by Calib4n
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 06:02:11 AM
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Actually, I think MOBAs would be a great concept even (especially?) on consoles. I'm surprised that nobody has tried to make a decent one. (not counting Awesomenauts)

Forum Posts: 2418
Comment #4 by Andreas_loel
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 06:55:02 AM
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@1 I use my mic pretty much daily, but not to talk to randoms. Live randoms are unworthy

Forum Posts: 1744
Comment #5 by UberPirateNinja
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 07:39:55 AM
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#4 nailed it. play with friends. even when playing alone, i play in a party to drown out some of the dumbasses you meet on live.

Forum Posts: 33
Comment #6 by Zmoke
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 09:41:16 AM
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New author, huh? Good job! ╚(•⌂•)╝

It's unbelievable how grandly they are about to resurrect the LotR series – instead of one Hobbit movie, for instance, they decided to go with a trilogy. Seems cool, and also I've got to test this LoL.

Forum Posts: 714
Comment #7 by Bajan Elite
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 10:38:00 AM
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@1 That's why you go online to find to forums for specific games and find people willing to play or see if your real life friends are interested in playing with you. Anyway I can't wait to try the demo out. I love me some LOTR.

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #8 by General Redland
Saturday, August 25, 2012 @ 01:00:13 PM
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Um, this sounds more like an overview of what a MOBA is than an actual preview of the game. Any chance we could get a preview of what makes this MOBA different from other MOBAs or what strengths/weaknesses it is showing thus far?

Forum Posts: 9
Comment #9 by ChrisDrummer
Sunday, August 26, 2012 @ 03:13:32 AM
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Like Lee said, MOBA's aren't exactly a big thing on consoles, so it needed an overview. And apart from giving you specifics like item names, and what buffs they do, that was quite an in depth preview

Forum Posts: 53
Comment #10 by Assasin13
Sunday, August 26, 2012 @ 08:57:59 AM
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I've been playing a bunch of League of Legends on PC recently, it is a great game, imo this game won't be as good as DOTA 2 or LoL but if you don't have a good enough computer to run one of them then this is good. If you do have a decent/good computer you should definitely check them out though. Both are Free to Play and are some of the best F2Play games I've ever played, it is the exact opposite of Pay to Win. League of Legends takes less system requirements than DOTA does. I would be willing to play with someone on here on LoL if they want and teach them the game a bit, hit me up, my Summoner Name is "Dewtrocity"

Forum Posts: 1
Comment #11 by XxMayhemxX
Sunday, August 26, 2012 @ 02:57:23 PM
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Played arena games on Broodwar .. fun stuff bout time consoles got somthin

Forum Posts: 298
Comment #12 by Phantomzero17
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 01:28:14 AM
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Played a little bit of the original Dota back when Halo was young and the Bungie weekly updates talked about it so I figured if they like it must be good. Now I got over 2k wins in League of Legends (Played off and on since the Beta), barely touched Heroes of Newerth but I gave it a shot, and I'm getting my teeth sunk into DOTA 2 (Just won a 2 v 5 as Bloodseeker and Lina because our other 3 disconnected after not liking the characters they random picked and the other team was equally new at the game as our leavers).

MOBA's are probably the greatest online games available right now. Learning curves can be hard, the communities can be downright dickish, the matches are looooooong, and Item A is OP/Champ B is OP/Needs Neft/FIX IT NOW/etc complaints are more prevalent then any other genre but the games are just so darn satisfying.

Takes plenty of teamwork, you need to know not only your character but others characters, got to know your chains and combos, respawn timers, how to stack, and so many other things but it all really boils down quickly and you get the hang of it. And individual

I'm not sure how well MOBA's will work out on consoles but I hope someone can do it well and bring light to it for our Couch Commanders to enjoy and so we can see the genre expand. I love my shooters but a good afternoon of COD, Halo, or Gears can't even compare to how much fun is in a sub-par game of any MOBA. Even if you farmed bad and you're 3 minutes behind on your item build.

@10 For anyone reading this guys post I'll give him credit for his enthusiasm but don't pay attention to his comment on "decent" or "good computer". League can easily be played on a crappy compaq or similiar bought back in the late 90's or early 00's that you or your parents picked up for $200-300 at the time. I know plenty of people of little considerable means who have to play on that kind of set up. It's not going to be the best experience and you might have some jitter but you can play the game. I would know I did it for a very long time and still did well.

Although I would suggest building a PC gaming rig if you ever find the means to do so. It's cheaper and far easier then many of your Console gaming peers would like to tell you.

Forum Posts: 3
Comment #13 by Bacon Yaaaay
Monday, August 27, 2012 @ 05:23:24 AM
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looks rubbish

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US December 05, 2012

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