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Guardians of Middle-earth coming to Steam for PC Aug. 29

Monolith Productions is bringing its multiplayer online battle arena based on the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien Guardians of Middle-earth to Steam for Windows PC on Aug. 29, the company announced today.

The port is made possible with the help of Zombie Studios, the developers behind last year's free-to-play first person shooter Blacklight: Retribution and upcoming survival horror title Daylight.

Speaking during a presentation for new PC version, associate producer Adam Hanson said Zombie has worked closely with Monolith to develop the port and "bring it back to the roots of MOBAs on PC."

The original version that launched for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in December 2012 featured five character classes, all of which are available in its PC counterpart: warrior, defender, striker, tactician and enchanter. Fitting into these five classes are 36 different characters, each pulled from the world of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. At the start of the game, players will have access to a handful of these, the rest of which they must earn as they play.

Monolith will sell alternate skins for each character, Ultimate Skins that will unlock all of a character's highest abilities at once. For example, players who purchase a Gandalf the White skin — the great wizard's final form — will instantly gain access to all of Gandalf's abilities. Other notable skins include a heavily armored version of Rohan's shieldmaiden Eowyn, which will allow players to instantly use her most deadly sword attacks.

"[These skins] will allow players to experience Guardians in a brand new way," said Hanson.

At launch, the basic version of Guardians of Middle-earth on Steam, which comes with six guardians and their alternate skins, will cost $19.99. An ultimate Mithril Edition packed with the game, all 36 guardians, their alternate skins and a rare Mithril relic item will be available for $79.99. Six ad-hoc DLC bundles will also be available featuring five guardians each along with their skins for $14.99 a piece. An item bundle featuring a rare treasure item and in-game gold, the Smaug's Treasure pack, can be bought and added to players' games for $9.99.

Guardians of Middle-earth will launch for PC with three competitive and cooperative modes: a streamlined and action-oriented one lane mode for more "frenetic, intense combat" according to Hanson; a three lane, more strategy-based mode that tasks players with dominating field points to advance forward; and Survival mode, which hit the console versions in February.

It's a great proving ground for trying out new characters and a great way to test maxed-out characters."

Survival mode is set in the Glittering Caves, a sprawling labyrinth of tunnels beneath the fortress of Helm's Deep, with stone walls inlaid with sparkling gems. Players face off against waves of AI enemies that get progressively tougher and more difficult to kill. After every five waves, players will be challenged by a boss that must be defeated for them to advance.

"It's a great just to see how far you can get," Hanson said. "It's a great proving ground for trying out new characters and a great way to test maxed-out characters."

The PC version will include close to 400 challenges at launch, or mini-goals, for characters to complete and achieve accolades. Players can earn these awards for making a certain number of kills or completing a goal with a certain guardian.

Guardians on PC will also launch with map skins. These will not alter the obstacles or terrain on the map, but will give them a new coat of paint, transporting players to a different environment in Middle-earth. At launch, players can re-skin their battleground with a few maps, including a three lane skin based on the eerie, spider-infested Elven forest of Mirkwood and a one lane map of Goblintown as depicted in last winter's film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

"The playing field is still geometrically identical, which is good for more skilled players used to clicking over certain obstacles," Hanson said. With map skins, a rock may be transformed into a bush or a pile of rubble and bones, depending on the skin. "Once you know where to run, you can do it in any of these environments. But it's still visually refreshing."

Players can still tackle Guardians of Middle-earth using the Xbox 360 controller, but for MOBA veterans used to mouse and keyboard control, Monolith has allowed fully customizable loadouts using traditional key input. Potions, abilities and commands have all been mapped to the upper left side of the keyboard along the 1234, QWER and ASDF keys respectively. Players can change these 12 keys around as they see fit for more comfortable input.

"We took special care to return to the roots of PC," Hanson said. "We've made faster matches, shorter field lengths and tried to remove all the things that took a bit took long of a time to get into the action."

Players who aren't keen on customizing their keyboard layout can jump right into the game using the quick loadout option, which will keep all abilities set on their default keys.

"We took special care to return to the roots of PC."

It doesn't take long to become comfortable with the controls; the default loadout is uncomplicated and after several matches our fingers would fall right into line as the battle began. Inexperienced MOBA players will find Guardians of Middle-earth's PC version a good place to get their feet wet in the genre.

Guardians of Middle-earth will take advantage of a number of Steamworks features as well, including Steamworks Matchmatching, leaderboards and social links. Players can also set up Guardians in Big Picture mode and play the entire game through on their TV.

To commemorate the game's launch on Steam, players who pre-order the Mithril Edition through Valve's service will get the game at a 10 percent discount, and those who pre-order a standard copy of the game will receive the discount along with the "Company of Dwarves" DLC character bundle featuring Thorin Oakenshield, Ori, Nori, Gloin and Kili and their alternate skins.

Additionally, players who previously purchased Guardians of Middle-earth through Xbox Live or PlayStation Network prior to today are eligible to receive a free copy for PC. More information on claiming a code can be found at the game's official website.

"Guardians has a unique take on the world [of The Lord of the Rings]," Hanson said. "We really wanted to put emphasis on faster gameplay and getting right into the action [for PC.]

"We're focusing on a really accessible experience for new players into the genre," he added. "But if you are a veteran player, you'll definitely have that deep, strategical experience you would expect from a MOBA."

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