With The Lord of the Rings: Gollum set for release in 2021, let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of the hits…and misses of the franchise’s ventures into the world of video games so far.
1. LEGO The Lord of the Rings
Definitely a hit. Whilst being family friendly, this title captures the magic of J.R.R. Tolkien’s world and is a perfect introduction to the franchise for little ones.
Beautifully blending the humour and classic puzzle solving/platforming gameplay of the LEGO games and the huge scale and wonder of Middle-earth, developers Traveller’s Tales really did a brilliant job of creating an experience for young and old gamers alike.
The open-world style of this title added a lot to its success, allowing the player to explore LEGO’s unique interpretation of this fantastical world.
2. Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
A revolutionary Nemesis System really helped this game feel alive, and the enemies that you faced were constantly evolving and getting more and more challenging.
Shadow of Mordor was not a game that many had spectacular expectations for, but for what it was, it was pretty faultless. The combat was complex enough to be engaging and challenging but not overly complicated. The world design was mostly in keeping with the world’s style, and the story was well written and made good use of the game’s unique mechanics.
For me this title outshone its successor, Shadow of War, as I felt it became one big grind, but that comes down to preference.
All in all, a big hit.
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Okay, maybe I’m looking back on this game with my nostalgia glasses on. However, this arcade-style movie tie-in game is an absolute classic.
I can’t specifically tell you what it is that makes this game great, but trust me…it is. Endlessly replayable and ludicrously good fun, if you haven’t played this game – play it. If you have, well, play it again!
Sometimes the gameplay and level design can become a little repetitive, but in my opinion, the game is not long enough for it to become too stale and actually be an issue. The option to play the levels through with different characters also adds some variety to the levels.
The game also features a sort of zombies’ style survival mode that can actually become quite challenging after a few waves of enemies.
4. The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth II
It is the only RTS game on this list but is thoroughly deserving of its place.
Released in 2006, this title massively improved on the promise shown by the original Battle for Middle-earth coming packed with a fantastically immersive campaign that let us get to know our favourite characters even better.
Skirmish mode was as great as ever with even more factions to choose from, and you could create your own generals, which was an interesting – yet overpowered – feature.
In addition to all of this classic RTS goodness, Battle for Middle-earth II also included both multiplayer and local multiplayer modes, which is still popular to this day, although it now has to be played on unofficial servers.
5. The Lord of the Rings Online
A step into the unknown for the franchise that actually ended really well, MMORPGs tend to be a love it or hate it genre. It’s fair to say the vast majority of players loved it.
This game really immersed the player in the vast world of Middle-earth, giving you the ability to roam the world freely, exploring all of the regions to your heart’s desire. For a fan of LOTR who wants a completely fresh perspective of the world, this is a must play.
Even now 13 years on from its initial release, it is the 26th most played MMORPG with over 50,000 daily players, testament to the amount of effort developers Standing Stone Games put into developing content for the world.
That’s it for the hits, now let’s take a wander past some games that are probably best forgotten.
1. The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest
If any of you have ever played this game, then you will understand how truly dull it is.
Incredibly confusing, repetitive and ultimately…boring. The gameplay and graphical design seemed to be aimed at a young audience; however, the story was convoluted and only made any sense if you had read the books and watched the films, which clearly did not fit the model of the game.
This left the game in a strange place in that it was too complicated for children and too dumbed down for adults. This one really is best forgotten.
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
A game that we were all excited for but that never left the Shire.
In a time period where it was raining LOTR games, this one managed to stand out for all the wrong reasons.
Poor voice acting, clunky combat and strange story choices really let this game down. Not to mention the fact that this game was outperformed in almost every single way by The Two Towers game that came out the following month.
Regardless of its many physical limitations, it could still have been a success if it had captured the atmosphere of Middle-earth. Unfortunately, it didn’t. The soundtrack, dialogue and overall world design just felt wrong, and its cartoony style did not suit the tone of the game. So, for me…it’s a miss.
3. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Brought to us by the same studio that gave us Star Wars: Battlefront, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest promised so much.
Upon release, however, it seemed that Pandemic (the studio behind the game) didn’t really create a new game, they had just reskinned Battlefront. As a result, we were left with combat that really didn’t work and a graphical style that didn’t suit the game at all.
This was an extraordinarily lazy effort by Pandemic to an insulting level. Miss.
4. The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
An entry into this list that many would’ve just missed when it first hit the shelves as it released around the same time as the behemoth that is Skyrim.
So, you’re thinking you’ve missed out on something special? Nope, be happy that you dodged this bullet.
A mind-numbingly repetitive and boring combat style and an experience marred by many game-breaking bugs and glitches waits for those foolish enough to attempt this.
It really is a wonder it got through testing. Miss.
5. The Hobbit
The final entry in the list was clearly developed by people with zero imagination: a word-for-word retelling of the book with no room to manoeuvre complete with linear level design with little to no challenge.
Although the game is aimed at children, the constant hand-holding throughout is completely unnecessary and leaves the whole game feeling like a tutorial.
The main problem with this game is that it just seems rushed. Given that it released just two months before the final film in the trilogy, I have a sneaking suspicion that this game was pushed through early to capitalise on the movie’s hype.
So, there you have it. Any I got wrong? Any I missed out? Let me know in the comments below.