Inspired by The Lord of the Rings saga, Guardians of Middle-Earth brings up to 10 players together in five versus five competitive multiplayer battle arenas in the epic setting of Middle-Earth.
The game offers more than 20 iconic guardians, including Gandalf, Sauron, Gollum, Thráin etc., for players to control in player versus player (PVP) matches.
Gamers have the ability to connect with other players via an in-game voice communication system, as well as access to a comprehensive online stat and leader board system where they can track friends’ victories, defeats, and more.
Guardians of Middle-Earth reminded me of the PC game Dune 2000. In Dune 2000, you had to build an empire while devising a plan to destroy the enemy’s empire with your army. Guardians of Middle-Earth is similar to that, except you and your enemy’s base is already built.
You also use potions, combat moves, special moves, etc to win the battle. Also, Gems and Relics that you’ve chosen to unlock, give your character stat bonuses.
Monolith has chosen to go with a more area of effect (AOE) attack approach, giving each champion – called “Guardians” here – a cone or column of attack range. There are very few single-target special attacks, so I rarely missed having a mouse in my hand. A big change comes in the form of the lack of in-match item buying.
Whereas in games like League of Legends, where you’re constantly heading back to base to buy the next bit of gear you need, Guardians of Middle-Earth allows you to choose a load out at the beginning of each match in the form of your Guardian Belt.
As the round progresses, the Gems and Relics that you’ve chosen to unlock, give you stat bonuses. It’s a really smart way to get around the clumsiness of a controller-driven item store, and even makes the game more accessible for those who have been turned off by the slightly terrifying item store in PC MOBAs.
A nice change is the addition of an optional 20-minute timer in multiplayer. Hour-long League of Legends games can be daunting for incoming players. With that little addition, plus a points system that determines a winner upon time running out, Guardians of Middle-Earth brings another level of accessibility that a lot of MOBAs simply lack. Of course, if you’d prefer a full-length match, you can go ahead and do that too.
I had moments where I thought that some characters were overpowered in relation to others. Granted, with a fairly large roster (22 Guardians in total), and more being added via DLC in the future, we’ll see how the balance shakes out.
On the visual end, everyone looks great, from Gandalf toLegolas to newcomers like Hildifons and Runsig that have their own distinct Lord of the Rings look down to a T. Not only that, it sounds like Lord of the Rings, right down to original movie voice actors and sweeping soundtrack.
However, the UI is a bit of a mess. Because MOBAs have a ton of information they have to convey at any given point, there needs to be a ton of stuff on the screen at the same time. Unfortunately, that means the mini map and stats screens can be a bit tough to read on an average-sized TV. It’s a minor gripe, but in the heat of battle, that kind of hard-to-see information can really lead to issues. It’s too bad, because the actual combat looks amazing.
The biggest problem with Guardians of Middle-Earth, however, comes on the technical end. Online matchmaking takes way too long, often forcing players to wait upwards of five to twenty minutes to find a match. And once they’re in, huge lag spikes mix with fairly regular disconnects.
I dropped out of almost every game, only to lose all the experience points and in-game currency that I would have received upon completion. It’s a huge bummer, and one I hope is fixed, but in its current state, Guardians of Middle-Earth can be an extremely frustrating experience. It’s just too bad such a solid game can be made occasionally unplayable by technical issues. If it weren’t for the issues, I would give this game a much higher rating because it is quite fun.