The matches themselves are addictive, and while it might feel overwhelming at first, once you learn the ebb and flow of a battle it’s enthralling. With five guardians per side and 3 lanes, one player can inevitably be left alone - teamwork is essential to any match - and adding to that the guardian abilities complement each other. Certain classes like the Tactician might feature an ability that will root the opposing player, causing them to stop moving. This gives time for a Striker or a Warrior class to move in and do maximum damage. An Enchanter can heal or debuff, and the Defender can lay traps to slow enemy advance. These cooperative elements are paramount for victory.
Guardians of Middle-Earth features a few modes of play including Battlegrounds, Elite Battlegrounds, Skirmish (Co-Op) and Custom Match. While the core of the game is set for Battlegrounds, it’s also where you’ll earn the most XP, Skirmish is great for parties of people to hone their skills in co-op play. There are two bot difficulty levels - Easy and Hard. And while easy is a little too easy, hard is a little too hard - at least for now. It’s a little odd there isn’t a choice for a "normal" difficulty.
Aside from the standard three lane map, Guardians features a one lane map that is a bit more chaotic and a lot more action oriented. There’s also a planned survival mode coming as part of some DLC. I do find it odd that there are only two maps in the game, it would have been nice to see some reskinning at least of the included maps for variety’s sake. You won’t find any co-op campaign or single player here, though there is a tutorial, the core of this game is a competitive arena and that’s it.
Guardians of Middle-Earth is definitely a surprising game for me, as someone who has tried a handful of times to get into the MOBA genre, only to be turned off by a steep learning curve and a unfriendly community. Monolith has somehow found a formula I can get on board with making a game both accessible, deep and fun to play. A big part of MOBAs are the community around it and it remains to be seen just how the console crowd will handle the game - but the groundwork is here for something that’s definitely fun under the right conditions.
The Co-Optimus review of Guardians of Middle-Earth is based on the Xbox Live Arcade version of the game. A code was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
The Co-Op Experience: Team up against the AI in a skirmish mode or custom matches. Player choose class based characters with complimenting abilities from the Lord of the Rings franchise.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.