I’ve always been a big fan of Lord Of The Rings since I was read the Hobbit (at least I think I was, I might have just watched the cartoon) when I was little. I’ve always loved video games ever since I got my first Nintendo when I was 6 or 7 and the obsession’s been strong from there. I also had a PC at the time, but I was never as big on PC games when I was little. So putting together Lord of the Rings and video games should be a beautiful combo for me. Unfortunately it’s been a lot of hit and miss over the years.
I remember the first one though clear as day, War In Middle Earth. We were over someone’s house and they showed us the game. The battles were jaw dropping for the graphics in the day. The chills in my spine the first time I got to the Ford of Rivendell/Bruinen and suddenly there were 9 Nazguls staring down my poor Hobbits and Strider. It was certain death until the wave came and overtook them. Or the joy the first time I finally got the hobbits over the mountains and into Mordor. It was probably one of the first grand strategy games ever. Sure some of it was boring and slow, and a lot of the graphics looked the same, but for the day it was great. I kept the disks around for the longest time and would play them from time to time.
So when a LOTR game came out for the SNES, a system I loved, I thought it was going to be great. Thankfully I had the bright sense to rent the game before buying it. I spent 4 hours wondering around caves confused as all hell before finally giving up. Apparently I wasn’t the only one as the whole game was nothing but fetch quests and other people complained about the never ending caves. It’s amazing how a great epic game like Zelda could come out for the SNES, yet people wouldn’t think to simply rip it off for the LOTR license. That’s one of the reasons that Willow for the NES was a great game, it was pretty much just an updated Zelda game.
So that brings us to the movie adaptation games. Now I never played the one for Fellowship of the Ring, but I did play the two EA games and spend a bunch of time watching a buddy play them. The one cool thing about them was that since the games were released before the movies, you could get some sneak peeks at scenes and behind the scenes stuff by completing different sections of the game. While it was a good game, especially for being a movie tie in, it was rather simple. It was a beat’em up, which is nearly impossible to screwup. But you were limited to the scene/area you were in and couldn’t really explore. Also giving it minus points is that Gimli was just an unlockable instead of playable from the beginning unlike the overrated Legolas.
It’s been an amazing trip, but the game that’s really blown me away (at least for the first time since War In Middle Earth) is LOTR: Online by Turbine. Since it’s recently become Free To Play, I’ve been playing the hell out of it. Everything you could have imagined of Middle Earth is there and free to explore. Although there are no Nazguls the first time you get to the Ford, the cutscenes for the epic storyline which intertwines with the overall LOTR story. The beauty and work put into some of the places you see and visit is amazing. While not 100% interactive (you can’t go in and out of EVERY house) it’s enough so to be a more then faithful adaption. Wandering through the Old Forest and stumbling upon Tom Bomadil’s house was fun, and so is revisiting many of the scenes from the movie. While it is based on the movie, don’t expect the same likenesses as from the movie. Otherwise though I fully recommend getting the game and giving it a try. You can get all the way to level 30 without buying anything, and by then you will know how much you want to spend on the game.
If there’s one last game I want to mention here, it’s the wonderful Lord Of The Rings:Confrontation. Sort of like stratego but deeper and quicker to play, it involves trying to get the ringbearer across the map, while Sauron is trying to capture the ring. Each piece has a different combat rating, while you have 3 magic cards and 4 number cards which can help you in battle. When me and my roomie first played the game we went through 8 or 9 plays without realizing how fast time was flying by. It is a wonderful pickup if your a fan of LOTR and want a quick tabletop game.