The board is set… the pieces are moving.
I usually give fans considerable leeway when it comes to their complaints, but after taking a look at some of the YouTube comments for the debut trailer of Guardians of Middle-Earth, some of them need to chill the f*** down. Just because it's not the open-world "Lord of the Rings Skyrim" that they've always wanted doesn't mean this multiplayer battle arena title isn't any good. I mean, the first time it was evfen remotely playable was at E3 several weeks ago. Give it a damn chance, people!
Guardians of Middle-Earth has already been aptly described as Lord of the Rings meets DOTA 2. It has the all the makings of a successful MOBA-style PC title, except it features the likes of Gandalf, Gollum, and Legolas, and (surprise, surprise) will be releasing as a downloadable title for XBLA and PSN. Some of you might be shaking your heads in disbelief, but the console controller actually makes a lot of sense with the analog sticks used for movement and the face buttons and triggers used for activating the player's four abilities. Monolith is so adamant and self-assured on this control change that they're not even discussing keyboard support.
In traditional MOBA format, Guardians of Middle-Earth pits two five-player teams against each other with primarily live players, as it should be, and AI combatants for practice and Skirmish mode. The objective is to destroy the opposing team's defenses by attacking their towers directly with your hero avatar or bolstering your side's soldiers (aka "creeps") who automatically trudge their way toward the opponent's side. Your hero can defeat the many creeps to earn experience and level up base stats, learning new skills while dominating the competition. This means controlling and defending each lane on the map and occasionally capturing buff-granting shrines.
Unlike more PC-oriented MOBAs, this title's caters to console sensibilities, first by making matches that can normally take 30 minutes and speeding them up to 15 to 20 minutes. The only usable items are those that heroes bring with them at the start, as there is no gold or in-match store to break the action. The interface for aiming these abilities have also been adapted to suit the console with radial and cone systems in lieu of the immediacy of a mouse and click.
Heroes begin with three of four of their abilities unlocked, which ties into the LotR heroes already being powerful. Gandalf can inflict an incredible amount of damage and status effects, Gollum has strong physical attacks despite having low health, and Thrain can throw his hammer for high damage and knockdown. Not all of the playable heroes have been announced yet, but they will rolled out at a steady pace and some of them will be characters that the Peter Jackson films edited out. On that note, Warner Bros. plans to introduce additional characters alongside Peter Jackson's The Hobbit film premiere.
Guardians of Middle-Earth is slated for this Fall and will cost somewhere in the standard $15-20 range for a downloadable title.