Over the years, Monolith has been responsible for such four-letter acronyms as FEAR, JACK, and NOLF--and now you can add MOBA to that list. The studio is here at E3 2012 showing Guardians of Middle-earth, a Lord of the Rings-inspired take on the action-strategy genre recently popularized by the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2.
Guardians of Middle-earth features a roster of 10 playable heroes (what the game calls "guardians") ranging from obvious choices like Gandalf and Sauron to somewhat lesser-known characters like Galadriel and the Witch-King. And while 10 is the number of heroes the game will start with, Monolith has promised continued postrelease updates with new characters as well as an under-the-hood balancing system that will allow them to stealthily tweak each hero without the need for a cumbersome title update.
Aside from the Lord of the Rings license, the major difference between Guardians of Middle-earth and the titans of the MOBA genre is platform. League of Legends and Dota 2 are both PC-only games, while Guardians of Middle-earth is being built as a console-only take on the genre. So what you've got is your hero's primary abilities mapped to the controller's four face buttons, as well as an analog stick control system replacing the point-and-click method of a computer mouse.
The overall pace of the game is designed to be a little bit faster than others in the genre, in terms of both the general action and the overall match length (there's a 15-minute timer enabled by default). You can customize the overall feel of the match depending on which matchmaking options you pursue, however, including how many human or AI players you want in combinations of up to five versus five. You can also choose from battle arenas featuring either one lane to the opposing team's base, where there's sure to be a massive bottleneck of action, or three lanes, where you can get more creative and spacious with your approach.
Guardians of Middle-earth is scheduled for release later this year on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade. There's no official price just yet, but Monolith did mention they're aiming for "standard pricing," so you can expect something in the neighborhood of $15.'