One MOBA to rule them all…

J.R.R. Tolkien’s massive Lord of the Rings universe has provided us some of media’s most memorable characters. From Gandalf to Gollum, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone not familiar with this fantasy realm. Rarely though do many of these great characters ever exist in the same place at the same time in the books or movies and so in the vein of a classic ‘What if?’, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment is bringing us Guardians of Middle Earth.

This MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) game allows players to control one of 20 different iconic characters from the main series, as well as the expanded universe, as two teams of five players battle to eliminate their opponent’s towers. The major difference for this game, however, is that unlike most other MOBAs, Guardians will be available on consoles. Normally, this would be a problem in regards to the control schemes of most MOBAs that dictate a mouse/keyboard combo as the proper way to play. But Guardians of Middle Earth blew me away when I went hands-on with an Xbox 360 controller and found it had been simplified to a point that made it manageable, yet still a ton of fun.

Each character has a simple basic attack set to the right trigger and a variety of special powers that unlock as you level up with them set to the four face buttons. You could also carry a hodgepodge of different potions that perform the expected functions of restoring health or boosting stats for yourself or your party.

There are also the expected character classes depending on whom you choose. Sauron is a tank, Gandalf is your magic user, and Legolas is your hit and run ranged character. Along with these series staples there are characters from the expanded universe you can use like Wulfrun, a dark magic user best utilized as a defender, and who may be recognized for his role in The War in the North video game. There is also Hildifons the Hobbit, who is only briefly mentioned throughout Lord of the Rings canon, but who makes his first spectacular appearance in this very game as a brilliant tactician whose powers can set up barricades and force opponents into well laid traps.

We also saw for the first time customizable loadouts. Depending on which Guardian you wish to use, you may wish different abilities or buffs and by equipping a gem-laden belt, you can boost many different attributes of your characters. Also, there is a one-lane option aside from the MOBA standard three-lanes so depending on what match you may wish to take part in, may change how you wish to fortify your chosen Guardian.

When all was said and done, although our time with Guardians of Middle Earth was short, I walked away very excited for this game considering its status as a download title. With a bevy of competitive options ready to be explored and with all the attention to detail you’d expect for any game set in the Lord of the Rings universe, I can see myself pouring way more hours than I should into this title as it stands to be the first legitimate offering of the MOBA game style on a home console. I can’t wait to see how ‘precious’ this game ends up being when it hits December 4th.