Guardians of Middle-earth, like so many MOBA titles before it, doesn't feature much of a storyline. The greatest warriors of Middle-earth have assembled for the greatest battle of the Third Age. Troops will be deployed from either base and clash on the battlefield while the Guardians deal the majority of the killing blows in an attempt to overthrow the opposing army. Guardians of Middle-earth allows the most unlikely of combinations as heroes clash against one another and team up with former villains, and each character will be armed with customizable attacks, gems, relics and other equipment. Additional gear is unlocked after matches using currency earned in-game, and Guardians will automatically be strengthened through combat based on the equipped items. The system works similar to traditional MOBAs with a focus on crowd control attacks and area of effect attacks that makes the game focus more on the battles between armies than between the players. This design makes combat a bit cumbersome rather than unique, as players struggle to chase down and finish opponents before they escape and recuperate.
Even more troublesome is Guardians of Middle-earth's presentation that provides an overhead view that doesn't let the great character design shine. The sound effects, score and voiceover are all expertly designed, so it's a shame that it sometimes become difficult to follow the action of the game. Still, the most glaring flaw of the game comes in online matches where it takes far too long to find a match, and player drops are common no matter which team is winning at the time. Of course, you may not even notice the disconnects, since the combination of small text and zoomed out action makes it difficult to keep track of the entire HUD at one time. The one thing Guardians of Middle-earth does great that others do not is in the balance between characters despite the game featuring a large roster of Guardians to take into the 10-player matches. The game also gives the option of joining shorter, 20-minute matches or the full-length games.
Hopefully, the majority of Guardians of Middle-earth's problems can be fixed with a future patch, but as it stands, the game is a very average game with a big name and some major hindrances. If you're a huge fan of the Tolkien works, you'll definitely want to check this one out, but if you enjoy MOBA titles, you'd be better served picking up Awesomenauts on consoles or League of Legends if you don't mind playing on PC. Guardians of Middle-earth is an ok game, but there are plenty of other titles in the genre that are more worthy of your time.
Guardians of Middle-earth is now available for PlayStation Network and Xbox LIVE Arcade and can be purchased for $14.99 or 1,200 Microsoft Points. Guardians of Middle-earth is rated T by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence. For more information on the game, check out the official Guardians of Middle-earth website.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation Network (reviewed) & Xbox LIVE Arcade
Release Date: December 5, 2012