Ever since its release late last year, Lord of the Rings: Guardians of Middle Earth has been getting a good deal of attention for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. That's because it isn't often that you see a MOBA – a multiplayer online battle arena – game get released for consoles, as stuff like that, including League of Legends, is usually reserved for PC audiences. But this effort, produced by Monolith (the same studio behind F.E.A.R. and the online shooter Gotham City Impostors), stands out in its own right, with a variety of characters to choose from (both good and evil) and a number of classes to master and make your own.
And now the game has grown even further with the addition of a new survival mode and map. Available for 320 Microsoft points (or $3.99 if you're buying it on another platform besides Xbox 360), this pack offers an excellent new challenge to the franchise, one where you'll have to work with your allies closer than ever in order to get through the session. That's because Survival Mode, like most team-oriented "us vs. them" contests, requires you to work cohesively as a unit – or die trying.
The Survival mode takes place in a map set in the Glittering Caves of the White Mountains, and here, instead of facing off against an opponent until one of you succumbs and loses their base, you have to stay alive as long as you can with ongoing enemy and boss waves. As you might expect, each wave becomes progressively harder as you go on – like any good Horde Mode would do in Gears of War.
But this is precisely the sort of mode that will test your mettle as a team. It's important to have your Guardians chosen in the right manner – just picking Strikers and hoping for the best won't get the job done – in order to keep your defenses from collapsing. It's important to have a little bit of everything for your team – the strikers for close combat, the enchanters for distant techniques, and, of course, someone to heal and defend you should you fall during the course of a round. This is one of those modes where learning the right style of offense – and having the proper level up and spellcasting capabilities – will make all the difference. And to some, it really does, as we've seen people pass level 30 and higher thus far.
If you have access to a more powerful character, like the Witch King or even Bilbo, it doesn't hurt to have them be a central part of the team, mainly because of either striking capability (Witch King) or the ability to life steal (Bilbo). But you'll also want to make sure your characters aren't too big, as movement speed is ideal for getting away from clusters of enemies and figuring out a new strategy to bring them down – perhaps with the help of the enchanters. Don't be afraid to play with different class types, or even new characters you probably wouldn't have considered before, to find the right balance for your team.
As part of the game's latest update (which is free), Guardians of Middle Earth introduces an interesting new map to the game, based in Goblin Town. The reason we state that it as such as because it's one-lane, a big difference from some of the bigger maps in Guardians of Middle Earth. Here, confrontation is unavoidable, as enemies come within the small lane and strike pretty hard at you.
But it's here that, again, what you learn working together as is team is pivotal. It doesn't hurt to have a defender or a tactician nearby to keep you from succumbing too hard to incoming strikes, while your enchanter lets loose with a powerful spell and then the striker moves in to finish them off. You won't want to always stick to this game plan, as sometimes it can be read pretty predictably, resulting in your online opponents developing a counter strategy. Don't be afraid to change things up, but remember to stick together. Wandering off in a game like this – and ending up in a skirmish as a result – will pretty much get you killed. Even Frodo had Sam to rely on in The Lord of the Rings films.
Though Guardians of Middle Earth does take some time to get into – especially when it comes to mastering character techniques and certain opponents who have played for a while – that shouldn't discourage you from checking it out. This is a quality console MOBA, packed with hours of entertainment and something to offer to everyone. And the cool Survival Mode and Goblin Town map just add to that – and for only four bucks, at that.
Lord of the Rings: Guardian of Middle Earth is available now for Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network, as well as PC.