Guardians of Middle Earth will bring MOBA to console later this year, being the first game in the genre made famous by DoTA to make the jump from PC. Steph Nunneley speaks to Monolith on matters of control. First gameplay video included.
When Warner announced just before E3 that Monolith was working on a massively online battle arena game, many gamers thought two things: firstly, MOBA's finally coming to consoles; secondly, how the hell are the controls for anything like Defense of the Ancients or League of Legends ever going to transfer over onto a clunky console controller?
Thankfully, the control question's easily explained: Monolith spent over a year working on it, and it sounds as though the effort's paid off.
During a roundtable discussion VG247 attended this week with the developers, the controls were a main source of discussion. Three separate questions, in fact, were raised on the matter.
Here's the upshot. Remember, I've never played MOBA.
First, let's start with some background on the Guardians you'll be playing.
When you fire up the game, you will first need to customize one of 10 launch characters. More heroes are to be added later. The load-out for each consists of three categories - Commands, Potions and the Relic Belt - which are customizable and similar to a skill tree.
Your Potions are obviously consumables which net you either health or a stat bump, while Commands are spells. The Relic Belt is where you further customize your character using earned in-game points to increase the percentage of melee damage, defense or ranged skills.
Each Guardian will have four abilities which are bound by a specific controller scheme. Each one is mapped to the four buttons on the controller. The basic scheme will work on all Guardians, but as you become more familiar with your character you can use specific schemes for each Guardian depending on your preferred load-out.
Sounds simple, right? For the gamer, yes.
Monolith transferred the controls from PC to console by trimming back design to make things more accessible. The main buttons are your basic attacks, with the right trigger used much in the same way as FPS controls. Potions and spells are mapped to the d-pad since it lacks fidelity compared to the other controller options. Still, it worked well for the four potion system, so each one in your inventory is readily accessible. For a more powerful attack, the bumper can be pushed to instantly access the arsenal of 3-4 commands you brought with you into the match. Once chosen, you can fire off the abilities by pulling the trigger.
The controls in MOBA titles on PC contain a lot of activated abilities. This is something Monolith wanted to avoid with GoME, as they are usually built into the itemization. The developers found that many players completely forgot about these activated abilities when playing, plus, the GoME Guardians are powerful enough without the addition.
Four potions and spells are available at any given time, as that fit well with the console controllers. As development progressed, an extra button was added to the mix – the back button – which is now used as a recall option.
Control options aside, what of the game itself?
As announced just before E3, players will initially be able to choose between playing as Gandalf, Sauron, Gollum, or Thráin, but more characters are to be released alongside The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey until 20 in all are available.
Monolith said it isn't discussing whether it will release skins for the characters just yet.
Players will be able to participate in 5v5 competitive multiplayer battle arenas set in various Middle-earth locales, and since a lot of Middle-earth lore is based on the environment and locations, more maps will be released for the game through dedicated “post launch support.” Expect to see famous arenas such as Helm's Deep or maybe even the Pelennor Fields at some point.
All of the matches in the game are completely customizable, so you can choose any number of player and AI combinations in both skirmish and PvP matches. As players progress in abilities and levels, so too will the in-game bots. Expect it to get more challenging as you go, but you can always use the earned in-game currency to purchase better items and buffs if you find you're having a tough go of it.
Guardians of Middle-earth is slated for a fall release through PSN and XBL.