Guardians of Middle-earth is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena game), a genre which mixes roleplay with strategy.
Teams of 5 players compete in an arena in order to destroy the opposing defense and win the match, with an emphasis on team strategy and coordination of the different complementary characters.
The PC version of a game designed for consoles
Released in December 2012 on PS3 and Xbox 360, Guardians of Middle-earth was an interesting game which had the virtue of offering a new genre for game consoles. The formula might have been successful when it was released on console, but in its PC format the game has some tough competition against giants like DotA 2 and League of Legends.
However, Guardians of Middle-earth does take a few risks, and does innovate a little in order to freshen up the classic MOBA formula. The game doesn't hesitate to jettison certain gameplay elements in order to simplify. Money and equipment are absent from the game. Your ability to earn experience points faster than your opponents and to choose the right skills are the only elements that matter.
These omissions are offset by interesting innovations such as health regeneration points scattered around the map that will restore a few of your precious life points. Similarly, Guardians of Middle-earth allows you to modify the waves of allied creatures that appear on the map, in order to aim at faster or more resistant waves.
A MOBA that's easily accessible but a little simplistic
Gameplay for Guardians of Middle-earth was originally designed for consoles, and this is evident from the second you start playing. So it's not a question here of directing your character by clicking the mouse, but rather of moving him with the keyboard and attacking with the mouse, like you would in an action game.
Although a little confusing at first, the system quickly becomes both fun and original. Since these control mechanics facilitate taking charge, they make Guardians of Middle-earth an excellent game for someone who wants to start a MOBA without first going through the painful learning curve which usually accompanies this kind of game.
Guardians of Middle-earth is therefore excellent for beginners, but risks boring more experienced players who won't find the depth of gameplay characteristic of MOBA.
Our verdict: a good game that won't threaten the giants of the genre
Guardians of Middle-earth on PC is a pleasant surprise at first sight. The game is easy to pick up, and offers noticeable innovations in the small world of online games. However, the game runs the risk of disappointing Lord of the Rings fans, since it appears content to simply reintroduce the characters without putting forward any sort of storyline.
Finally, it's impossible to end this test without addressing the larger problem of Guardians of Middle-earth: the near impossibility of making real online matches of 5 against 5. The problem is due to a lack of players and to a badly thought out system of player relationships. In basic terms, it's extremely difficult to find enough players to play a match. Guardians of Middle-earth automatically fills in empty slots with artificial intelligence, but unless you have a lot of friends who want to play with you or you are interested in fighting against AI, you may find Guardians of Middle-earth an unsatisfactory online experience.