At some point within the last several years, someone looked at the expanding MOBA market and The Hobbit, then decided that the two would go great together. In 2012, we got Guardians of Middle-earth. The game was, however, exclusive to consoles at the time. Now, less than a year later, it's being announced for PC.
Yes, Warner Bros. released a MOBA exclusively for consoles, but developer Monolith Productions actually made it work, believe it or not. The game felt comfortable with a controller, which I hadn't been prepared for after my time with League of Legends and Dota. Even so, I had my doubts concerning its reception and how much attention Guardians would get by being an XBLA/PSN-only affair.
The PC version, a joint project between Monolith Productions and Zombie Studios, is now expected to arrive August 29. Unlike its toughest competitors, however, Guardians of Middle-earth will not be free-to-play. Instead, Warner Bros. is offering a tiered payment system. The entire roster of Guardians is attainable just by playing the game and earning in-game currency, of course -- not their skins, though. Either way, here's the payment breakdown:
- $19.99 - Base Game
- Unlocks Gandalf, Galadriel, Thrain, Gollum, Hildifons, and Legolas
- Alternate skins for included Guardians
- $79.99 - Mithril Edition
- Includes all 36 playable Guardians
- All 36 alternate Guardian skins
- Mithril Guardian Relic (rare in-game item)
- A buddy key, so you don't have to play alone!
- $14.99 - Guardian Packs
- Class-specific bundle with five Guardians and their alternate skins
In addition to that, players can also get something called "Smaug's Treasure," which includes in-game currency and Smaug's Greed Relic for $9.99.
How It Plays
Gameplay is staying more or less the same in the PC version. You'll still have the iconic characters (including DLC characters), who are split into five classes: Warrior, Defender, Striker, Enchanter, and Tactician. Interestingly, controller support is staying with the game, but that's not particularly surprising, since Guardians was initially designed for consoles. Fortunately, the controls still transition well.
During some hands-on time I had with the game earlier this week, I found that Guardians of Middle-earth really does feel more natural with a keyboard and mouse -- in combat, anyway. Navigating the maps still felt somewhat cumbersome when compared to other MOBA games, and you can tell that thumbsticks would've worked better with character and camera movement. Everything else worked smoothly; more natural, as I said.
All the modes from the console version will be returning, from 5v5 co-op to 5v5 PVP. Maps come in 3-lane or single-lane varieties, and like before, Guardians does away the item shops, meaning last hits are no longer an issue during matches, and farming only applies to acquiring XP. Instead, you'll be able to tweak your items before each match via the inventory system. As you play and level up your player profile, you’ll earn money and points with which to buy and unlock various consumables, stat boosts, and other buffs, and these can be assigned to loadouts that you may equip at the start of a match.
Most of my time was spent trying out the horde/survival mode, simply called "Survival Mode," previously released as DLC for consoles. As the name implies, players must survive and fight of waves of enemies that grow in number and toughness over time. Every five waves, you'll also have an enemy Guardian to take down. Shrines and turrets (both friendly and not-so-friendly) also come into play, so there is an element of strategy involved. At times, enemies would be made invulnerable by magical generators on the map. Our team would then split up, where two people led the hostile mobs away (Kite for your life!) while the remaining members attack these generators to remove the buff.
How long did we last? 26 waves, thanks in large part to our support-heavy group comp.
Since Guardians is coming through Steam, expect perks like Steamworks functionality, Big Picture mode, and Raptr integration. Still no word yet on whether the game will support Steam Cards, but it's something the developers are currently exploring.
If you already bought Guardians of Middle-Earth on Xbox LIVE Arcade or PSN before August 15, then expect a free PC code to come your way.
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