The idea of selling a MOBA on a console is a fairly uphill battle. MOBA community members have played DotA for about seven years now on a PC, and such a drastic change could have drastic challenges for a development team.
Enter Guardians of Middle-earth — a console MOBA that strives to incorporate all of the potential fans who always wanted to play the genre, but never really could get into all of the advanced mechanics, or face the community.
If you’ve never played a MOBA game before, the concept is pretty simple: a team of three or five players enter an arena with a base on either end, and it’s your job to push forward and destroy that base.
On the way, a number of high damage “towers” will greet you, and the best way to destroy these towers is to have your NPC minions soak up the damage as you attack them.
Of course, the other team of players won’t make it easy, as you strive to balance offense and defense, while keeping the main goal of destruction in mind.
Like most of the titles in the genre, Guardians has a number of classes to choose from: Enchanter (AP), Defender (Tank), Warrior (AD), Striker (Carry), Tactician (Support).
Utilizing each class in tandem with your team is vital to success, and thus, voice communication is key. I’ve found that in my few weeks of play with the game, most people are either extremely helpful, or don’t talk. It’s kind of a mixed bag for sure, but it’s better than most MOBA games, where you get yelled at for not knowing the game inside and out.
Control-wise, the game is really simple to pick up. You can attack in a small AOE box with the attack button, and all of your abilities are mapped to face buttons. All you have to do is juggle four abilities, a basic attack, and a few items, since the “item shop” mechanic isn’t present in this game.
For the most part, the game feels pretty balanced, and I didn’t really encounter many issues. There are characters that feel similar to ones in other games, but Guardians does a decent job of establishing its own identity, and it doesn’t feel clone-like in nature.
You’re not going to get anything extra lore-wise from the game, especially if you’re a hardcore Tolkien fan. Personally, I’m able to suspend my disbelief when it comes to the New Line Cinema-verse, so I don’t mind things like the abundance of enchanters in the Third Age.
Still, the game doesn’t really offer anything really distinct that would sell itself to Lord of the Rings fans — this is mostly a well oiled console MOBA with a Lord of the Rings skin.
In addition to the lack of character, there is another issue.Be warned: when you purchase the game for $15, you aren’t getting the entirety of what Guardians has to offer. You’re getting the base game, a series of rotating Guardians (again, characters), and the ability to purchase more characters via in-game currency.
If you buy the season pass for $15 more, you can access everything. For me, this is a double-edged sword. Yes, it sucks that you have to pay $30 to get a full XBLA/PSN game.
On the other hand, most MOBAs are significantly higher in price if you want to buy everything — League of Legends can run you around $20 per month, depending on the champion release schedule.
So take that information accordingly and factor it into your purchasing decision, as the season pass has both pros and cons.
Despite the issues and general lack of character, Guardians of Middle-earth is an extremely serviceable MOBA that should satisfy both casual fans and invested MOBA players alike.
Although hardcore professional players may scoff at the general lack of skill in public games, most of you will enjoy the experience, and the fact that the developers were able to actually create a solid MOBA experience on a console should be commended.
This review is based on a digital copy of Guardians of Middle-earth for the Xbox 360.