The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring
If you’re not a big fan of orcs and wizards and people shouting, "For the glory!" every ten minutes, 2002 probably won’t be the best of years for you. You’ve already had to put up with the boy Potter and his media omnipresence last year, but that was giant rat feed compared to the phenomenon that is The Lord of the Rings. As we all wait for the second film in the series to arrive later this year, Tolkienites will be able to keep themselves amused with the virtual incarnations, currently massing at the gaming world’s borders like some dark army of evil bent on conquest. You may have been aware of the various legal shenanigans surrounding the games but to bring you up to speed: EA has the licence to create games based on the three films (none of which have yet been revealed) while Vivendi/Sierra/Universal/VU Games/whatever it calls itself this week has the rights to create games based on the original books. So just to be clearer than a man made of clingfilm, today we’re looking at the Universal titles. The plan is quite an ambitious (and potentially very lucrative) one. At least eight games spread not only across the You’ll be journeying from tl to the dizzy heights of the I sticking closely to the three books, but also across just about every current gaming platform known to man or elf. And if they just happen to come out around the same time as the films, well that’ll just be pure coincidence we’re sure.
Presently Universal has confirmed two of the titles and hinted at two others. Sadly the confirmed titles are just an isometric RPG on the GameBoy Advance and a third-person action/adventure romp on the Xbox, but the indications coming from our sources on the inside suggest that the Xbox game will bear more than a passing resemblance to the PC version.
The Fellowship Of The Ring takes the players through the first of the books, either in the hairy feet of Frodo, the pointy hat of Gandalf or the, er, cloth britches of Aragorn. You’ll be journeying from the cramped huts of Hobbiton to the dizzy heights of the bridge of Khazad-Dum, sticking closely to the first 14 chapters of the book. You’ll be pitting your wits against Orcs, Ringwraiths, the Balrog and (maybe) even Gollum.
The other biggie is the MMORPG. Not much in the way of details yet but fans of odd-shaped dice and lead miniatures will be thrilled to hear that it’s to be based on the tabletop Middle-Earth role-playing system. Which combats the problem of making something open-ended out of an inherently linear setting.
It’s unlikely we’ll see the PC titles before the end of this year, but hopefully Universal will get them out in time to surf the wave of hype that’s set to follow the release of the second film. No escape for hobbithaters then.
Download The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
This December, millions of people will descend like crazed orcs upon cinemas across the globe to watch the third and final instalment of The Lord Of The Rings. To the utter glee of game publishers, a good percentage of these hungry consumers will also purchase a game based around Tolkien's masterpiece.
Vivendi Universal's The Lord Of The Rings: War Of The Ring is one of the games on offer and despite having absolutely naff all to do with the latest film, it's in the right place at the right time.
War Of The Ring is a fast-paced arcade-style RTS covering 21 of the greatest battles of Middle-Earth's Third Age. Credibility-wise it would be easy to dismiss it simply because it's not a glamorous EA film licence, but the truth is quid Entertainment's mastery of its art has conjured up what is one of the most imaginative uses of the LotR book licence to date.
Lord Of The Realms?
Liquid's interpretation of Middle-Earth is not so much a good game though, as a good expansion pack for Battle Realms. WotR boasts beautifully vibrant landscapes, excellent use of elevation and a very easy-to-use interface. In fact the only real difference between BR and WotR is that instead of sumo wrestlers with cannons embedded in their stomachs and exploding undead, we have trolls, orcs, elves, dwarves and those hideous humans.
Also present are the nine fellowship members. These one-of-a-kind 'hero' units (did you honestly think you'd be able to create an entire army of Frodos and rush Mordor?) possess unique abilities ranging from Sting (Frodo's sword) being more effective against orcs, through to Gandalf spearing the dark hordes with his trusty lightning bolts. Hero units also gain experience during a battle so the longer they stay alive the deadlier they become.
Alternatively, you can forget this entire goody-two-shoes lark and embark on the evil campaign where you can put the withering special abilities of Mr Nazgul and co to work instead.
Generally speaking, WotR sticks to the book's description of the battles, which means it's rare for more than two or three heroes to be together on any one level. Just as well really, because WotR is easy enough as it is without having nine superheroes winning every battle. And while we're having a bit of a whinge, it's worth noting that up close the units are exceedingly unpleasant on the eye and it's not just the orcs.
Overall, though, WotR is a pretty accomplished game. OK, it's not the greatest RTS ever made, but if you're a Tolkien fan who's fed up with third-person hack'n'slash action games, this pleasingly original take on the book could well be the pipeweed for you.