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Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Vivendi
Developer: Liquid Entertainment
Release Date: Nov. 4, 2003

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


PC Review - 'Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on Nov. 5, 2003 @ 2:47 a.m. PST

The quest to destroy the One Ring continues in the first real-time strategy game based on The Lord of the Rings saga. Massive battles erupt as the peoples of Middle-earth fight for control of Tolkien's World. Play as the forces of good and valiantly fight for the One Ring's destruction or play as the forces of evil to claim control over Middle-earth forever

Buy 'LORD OF THE RINGS: War of the Ring': PC

More and more games have been appearing that let you play the greatest story ever written, trying more to cash in on the movie trilogy's success rather than bring a genuine Lord of the Rings game to the table. The main problem is that many of the LotR games that have come out recently boast voiceovers from the actors in the films and actual video footage, but seem to forget the fact that there is much more in the LotR universe than what is only in the movies. Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring is based on the literature itself, and while pure in its faithfulness to the material other aspects in the game differ a bit.

Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring is set in the world crafted by the legendary author J. R. R. Tolkien, a place of both virtue and despair as the fate of the world is in the small hands of Frodo, a hobbit who must destroy a powerful ring before it falls into the hands of evil. In War of the Ring you play as one of two sides of the struggle, on the side of good you command elves, dwarves, humans, and other races to ensure that the evil plaguing the land is eliminated and the ring is destroyed once and for all. On the side of evil, your goal is to overrun the petty forces of the light and acquire the ring for Sauron, the great evil entity behind it all, all the while sending your orcs, goblins, and other forces to push deeper into the lands of Middle Earth.

War of the Rings' strict adherence to the Lord of the Rings canon is evident, from the battles you fight in, to the design and actions of the units, to some of the heroes you can command (Such as Legolas and Aragorn). Even the landscape itself has a fantasy feel to it, which fits well with the subject matter. Since the game follows the books rather than the movies, the voiceovers for the heroes are not the same as those who acted the parts in the movies, nor do the look quite the same as the characters do in the movie, they do follow the descriptions given in the book to an extent.

Gameplay wise, War of the Ring doesn't seem to bring the epic feel of the books to life. The subject matter allows for a massive amount of creativity since in neither the books nor the movies there are no real specifics on how the battles were fought, or what powers aided the fighting armies, but this geyser remains untapped in War of the Ring. Rather, the gameplay in War of the Ring is fairly standard RTS fare with a bit of spice added with the Fate system. When fighting battles you gain Fate points, which can be spent on acquiring skills for your hero units to use (Much like the skills of heroes in Warcraft III) as well as spent to wield powerful magic on a group of enemies or reveal a portion of the landscape. The rest of the gameplay remains unchanged from nearly any other RTS on the market, while this isn't a bad thing in any regard as it is a well crafted gameplay engine and has no real flaws to speak of, one tends to wish for something a bit different and/or better when you look at the subject matter. Combat in game can reach a much larger scale than seen in some RTS games, with anywhere from 6 to 60 units duking it out at once. Battles like this are admittedly hard to fight since so much is going on at once, but it does make the battle seem more like a war than a skirmish between two small forces.

War of the Ring's gameplay is easy to pick up and play to anyone who has played some form of RTS or another, but there are a few notable differences. In some missions you can use objects to your advantage, such as rolling boulders down onto enemy strongholds. Hero units are much more powerful than regular units, and even hero units in other RTS games. However, if you do manage to get one surrounded and he/she dies you have to spend Fate points to revive them. If you don't have any Fate points you simply have to fight without them until you do, which can be rough. For those who are absolutely new to RTS games there is a tutorial that does a wonderful job of explaining the basics. The delivery of the tutorial is notable, a dwarf and an elf that don't exactly like one another's presence lead it and guide the player through basic building and combat skills.

War of the Ring does have a degree of beauty to its looks, though it doesn't immediately reach out and grab you. The major things such as the units, buildings, and especially the landscape itself all look very nice, the real beauty lies in the effects such as smoke, tall grass waving in the wind, and the bit of blood let out by a goblin that's taken one hit too many. Water in the game looks way better than in most RTS games and even some games in other genres as well, with realistic ripples and waves detailing its surface. Units walking across shallow water make waves as they march through, and if you move your cursor over the surface of the water it will leave a wake.

The music and sound effects in War of the Ring is probably the game strongest point, creating a vibrant array to really bring the Lord of the Rings universe to life. The music is orchestral for the most part, with the dark side getting a bit more moody themed music than the light side's heroic and airy melodies. The voiceovers may not be performed by the actors from the movie but they still sound very much in place with the characters in the game, humans sound like a human should, dwarves have their characteristic rasp, and elves have their own brand of suave speaking skills. Battle sound effects are similar to what you would hear in other RTS games, such as the sound of sword meeting shield and a thrown hammer hitting its target, but they don't sound exactly like anything you've heard before, nor do they feel overused or recycled.

When it's laid out on the table, Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring is indeed a great RTS when it's all said and done, but it stands on the shoulders of other RTS games who are just as great. War of the Ring does do the subject matter justice and brings the epic battles of Lord of the Rings to life, which will undoubtedly be a huge factor for those who are looking to command their own armies in Middle Earth. However, War of the Ring just doesn't have enough flair to really bring it to the next level and may not seem different enough to someone who already owns other RTS games such as Warcraft III and Battle Realms. In a nutshell, if you even have the slightest desire to play a RTS game set in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe, War of the Ring only stays true to the source material but also delivers solid, compelling gameplay that may not raise the bar for future RTS games, but it easily meets it.

Score: 9.1/10

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