Lord of the Rings is one of the most beloved franchises of the past decade. With a kick ass trilogy, along with some pretty good titles for gamers. Yet the water for the Lord of the Rings as far as gaming is concerned has run dry. Middle-Earth is definitely in peril again with mediocre games coming out with the franchises name to that accursed Lord of the Rings: Conquest. There is no question as to why this franchise shouldn’t build on the first book from J.R.R. Tolkien to satisfy the drought. Yet this new title has nothing to do with any Lore found in Elrond’s Library. The GamersBliss crew was lucky enough to visit the Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment to get some hands on time with the title. It is a shame however, since Heather was waiting for the Animanics to jump out of the famous water tower on the studio’s lot… they never showed up.
Guardians of Middle-Earth is a breath of fresh air from an ailing franchise that has seen one to many steins of mead go down the hatch. For consoles it will mark the first time that a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game will be released. With that said the game is developed solely with the console in mind. Bringing the layout of the controller to the forefront of development allowing Monolith Productions to really fine tune the game for competitive multiplayer.
The title will have over 20 playable Guardians from the many stories from the Lord of the Rings. Each character is unique and have very different abilities from one another. For example, Legolas is a long ranged attacker and Sméagol *cough* GOLLUM… GOLLUM, focuses on hand to hand combat. Yet both are found in the Striker class in the character selection menu. Being an arcade game, Guardians of Middle-Earth showed more depth than some of the premiere AAA titles coming out this November.
Once all of our characters were selected for the hands on preview we got to battle for Middle-Earth in a match. Each match we played consisted of two teams for some 5v5 action. Oddly enough some characters like Sauron and the Witch-King Angmar were on teams with Gandolf and Aragon. Yet this actually adds to the fun rather than take away from the experience allowing each player to select their favorite character, rather than limiting and confining the players actions. The matchmaking system had us finding our way the Battlegrounds on a 3 lane map. Each map we played on had tower positions of interest which players could capture along the route to the enemies base or tower. Yet be mindful that enemies are capable of performing the same task.
The name of the game is to overpower your enemy with both strategic and tactical combat to allow your army to move forward and control as many towers on the map during the duration of the match or by destroying the enemy base within the time limit. And when I say army there literally is a small army that walks along an invisible line from tower to tower. Both teams armies will attack enemy towers and player controlled characters. Think of it as a tug of war game, yet instead of pulling a rope your killing soldiers from Mordor and the land of Rodan. This allows player controlled characters to manipulate the armies on battlefield to their advantage by using them as shields or distractions for an ambush.
Guardians also brings a unique twist also found in other games. When you play as a character you unlock their abilities naturally. However, in this game you must unlock your abilities every time you play a new game. For instance, each player will start the match at level 0, by the end of the match you are able to reach level 14 which is the max level a character can reach. Every time you level up you are given an experience point to use towards upgrading one of your abilities. Of course you can’t just unlock the Guardians best ability until you reach a certain level giving both balance and freedom to the player as they can choose one of the three other abilities. Each special move is on a cool down and will remain on cool down even after you spawn allowing players to really hunker down and focus not only on combat but on tactical strategy on the map. With this in mind every time you die the spawn timer will increase clearly stating this game is not for the newb at heart.
Middle-Earth will be looking for new Guardians when it releases this December for both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. For more info on Guardians of Middle-Earth stay tuned to GamersBliss.com!