If watching “The Hobbit” feels like a video game, do we need another “The Hobbit”game? Maybe we could just watch the movie :/. Mr.Bilbo already had a video game to fill his typical hobbit pride. The –original- name of the game was The Hobbit. Bilbo is there a red head. I’ve always knew hobbits don’t have souls. Get ready to see a lot that acronym, LOTR. While digging the archives (gaming archeology can be interesting, and not only while gog.com sales are doing their –cheap- show), I’ve figured out that game was released just before “The Return of the Ring” and was based on the book license and NOT the movie license. The machines were PCs, gamecubes, PS2 and even Game boy advance. These were good old times. That game has probably lost a lot of interest nowadays however, as the big New Zealander blockbuster is heading in our direction. In those days it was just filling a need some Tolkien’s fans probably had in their hearts. It was an interesting Zelda derivation. Today it’s just outdated.
Three movies are already on the grill… That basically means that we will have some nice hobbit video games soon out, and the free IOS’ game “Hobbit: King of Middle-Earth”, is leading the way, with a nice STR touch, towards awesomeness … or something more disappointing. A few days ago, a multiplayer online battle game for PS3 and XBOX360 (don’t search anything close to a story in such a thing) called “Guardians of Middle-Earth” is permitting us to unleash our end-year fury in arenas. It looks fun.
A little retrospective is necessary. There are several “Lord of the rings” games, some based on the books, other on the games. It’s time to clean that wilderness. Are the games based on the movie interesting? Do they give that same epic feeling as the movies? To what point do they transcript the journey, details and settings of the original books?
The first games in the middle-earth background have been on the market in 1988:”LOTR: The Shadows of Mordor” is a RGP game based on the second film “LOTR: The Two Towers” and “LOTR : War in Middle Earth” is a RPG game where you embody the different warlords who lead their troopers to the battle in the final film, “LOTR : The Return of the King”. RPGs were the main asset of LOTR, but it was a long, long time ago, as gandalf told me.
Then a fallow time occurred until 2002, in which Vivendi dropped the first modern The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring game for consoles based on the books and not on the movie . The game is average and lacks the adventure side that defines so much the fantasy world, and things are not going to get better during the 2000’s. All the Lord of the Rings universe or close will be crunched, with a double hit for the games that found their inspiration in the movies, instead of the books. Imagine the copy of a copy, for plastic surgery for example. Even a top model would get his face demolished.
In 2003 and 2004, EA strikes back with releasing, in a row, beat’em all adaptations for Lord of the Rings The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King“The Third Age” is another attempt of EA to make a more oriented –RPG game. They will introduce the concept of “corridor RPG”, which is as efficient as using a laxative to heal gastroenteritis. I won’t lie, I’ve played those games. I was so much in need of LOTR universe that I just couldn’t wait for something better to come in my line of sight. LOTR obsession can be really serious when you are young.
That borked epopee will stop for EA with the release of something that will finally pay tribute to their name.” The lord of the rings: Battle of Middle-Earth” is a non-typical strategy game, with a sequel (add a 2 to the title) and even one add-on. The story of the “Battle for Middle-Earth 1” follows the main story of the film and is decorated with several spin-off close ups on secondary characters. That scheme in fact comes back a lot into LOTR games… I would prefer to play something entirely new, or that would reveal a big fold of the universe. For example: Easterlings and Oliphant! I guess they must have had their heroes before the last battle, and an interesting -unexplored- culture, like hobbits, or Rohan people…
Weirdly, the STR games are the most gifted LOTR games. The video game <The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Ring, out in 2003, is a forerunner to “LOTR: Battle of middle-Earth”. It’s entirely based on Tolkien’s writings.
Let’s notice that since The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth 2 story has resulted from an agreement between Tolkien enterprise, the Saul Zaentz Compagny and EA to use elements from Tolkien universe and not only from the movies. EA has now a wider playground! New places, new heroes, new… bugs. And it’s not a Faustian pact. EA can do good things too. I’m sure. 110%.
In 2009, The Lord Of The Rings: Conquest action and hack and slash episodes, you have new graphics, better sword movements, more blood… And, surprisingly, an alternate ending that gives the ring back to Sauron. It’s a kind of “LOTR: Battlefield”. The game is finally taking liberties with the movie and the book, of course this is hardly a surprise. This is the last LOTR EA game, and the rights nowadays belong to Warner.
Warner’s Lord of the Rings: War in the North [Download] is a bit more interesting. It features several characters we never saw in the movies (nor the books if I’m right), who fight a war under bad’n’cold weather conditions to help the ring carrier. The story is unpublished. A hack’n’slash RPG, but that brings at least a bit something new in the LOTR progeny.
“Lego’s Lord of the Rings” has been released recently. With Lego graphics, it’s an entire and accurate reproduction of the movie LOTR.
Last but not least, one of the most successful Tolkien’s spin offs is the MMO “LOTR online” and all his add-ons. Based on the books, the atmosphere is really well restored, and is the best way to dive in the LOTR universe.
The question is: do we need a hobbit game based on the movie or not? Will we have a teeming mass of games set in that new timeline like after the three first movies? I don’t know. At least one game retracing Bilbo’s adventure is probably in Warner’s starting block, ready to be developed if the movie “The Hobbit” is a success. So if you want a new hobbit game, go see the movie, and bring your family, your neighbors, everyone!
But finally the most faithful game that could have transcribed the lord of the games with freedom, realism and interactivity never went out. It was supposed to be called “LOTR:The White Coucil”. That name comes from a gathering of elves and wizards, to decide things like “how they must bake the next batch of lembas”. We will see them in action in the next 3 Bilbo movies. So that game should have been released by EA redwood shores, the architects of dead space. The (ex-) game’s executive producer told us :
“The action takes place in a massive open world where you can go anywhere you want, and the characters in this world are powered by an incredible simulation AI based on the same technology used by the makers of The Sims 2. The story of the game is built around a series of Story Quests. You can choose to follow specific Story Quests, embark on a range of other types of quests, or set off on your own adventures in the massive open world environment.”
On one hand: An open world with total liberty, a bunch of quests, crazy AI. That’s SOMETHING.
On the other hand: Well, Skyrim did it, and …. Have you just read makers of the Sims 2?
EA has blurred the question of the whereabouts of that game. It’s probably a dead project.
And I’m still waiting for that ONE game that will give me the same feeling I got while I was reading the three LOTR novels for the first time . A big mix of emotions, poetry, adventure, liberty and action. There are lots of possibilities and opportunities. LOTR games would have certainly to gain for a more introspective view of the characters they control, like the feelings expressed by an Easterlings‘ soul coming close to Sauron, his feared master. That would make a
LOTR RPG LOTR action games more interesting. I still wonder if the Hobbit is going to give games a better setting for adventures. Maybe a bit more “historical” liberty in the Tolkien’s movie universe will set up a new deal without losing coherence.
To summarize : “Battle for Middle earth 2″, “LOTR online” and to a lesser extent “War of The North” or “Guardians of Middle-Earth” are great -Christmas or not- presents for a LOTR fan. You can find the links right in the article (little trick to make you read ).