Middle-earth in video games
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While an immense number of computer and video games were inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's works and the many other high fantasy settings based upon his, relatively few games have been directly adapted from his world of Middle-earth. From the early 1980s to the present, several video game series have been developed based upon Tolkien's writings, including titles by Electronic Arts, Sierra and Melbourne House.
In 1982, Melbourne House began a series of licensed LoTR graphical interactive fiction (text adventure) games with The Hobbit, based on the book with the same name. The game was considered quite advanced at the time, with interactive characters that moved between locations independent of the player, and Melbourne House's 'Inglish' text parser which accepted full-sentence commands where the norm was simple two-word verb/noun commands. They went on to release 1986's The Fellowship of the Ring, 1987's The Shadows of Mordor, and 1990s The Crack of Doom. A BBC Micro text adventure released around the same time was unrelated to Melbourne's titles except for the literary origin. In 1987, Melbourne House released War in Middle-earth, a real-time strategy game. Konami also released an action-strategy game titled Riders of Rohan.
Other early efforts included Shadowfax by Postern (1982), a simplistic side-scrolling action game for the Spectrum, C64, and VIC-20, in which Gandalf rides the titular steed while smiting endless Nazgûl. Suspiciously similar in appearance to Activision's Stampede. The Lord of Rings: Journey to Rivendell was announced in 1983 by Parker Brothers for the Atari 2600, but was never released. The prototype ROM can be found at AtariAge.
In 1990, Interplay, in collaboration with Electronic Arts (who would later obtain the licenses to the film trilogy), released Lord of the Rings Vol. I (a special CD-ROM version of which featured cut-scenes from Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation) and the following year's Lord of the Rings Vol. II: The Two Towers, a series of role-playing video games based on the events of the first two books. A third installment was planned, but never released. Interplay's games mostly appeared on the PC and Amiga, but later they did a Lord of the Rings game for the SNES, which played nothing like their PC games and instead was more like The Legend of Zelda.
Film trilogy revival
Thereafter, no official The Lord of the Rings titles were released until the making of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy for New Line Cinema in 2001-2003, when mass-market awareness of the story appeared. Electronic Arts obtained the licenses for the three films, Sierra Entertainment obtained the license to produce games based on the books from Tolkien Enterprises - this gave rise to an unusual situation: Electronic Arts produced no adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, but produced adaptations named The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (video game) (which covered events of both the first two films) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (video game), whereas Sierra only produced a game covering the first book of the trilogy, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game). While Sierra Entertainment's access to the book rights prevented them from using material from the film, it permitted them to include elements of The Lord of the Rings which were not in the films. EA, on the other hand, were not permitted to do this, as they were only licensed to develop games based on the films, which left out elements of the original story or deviated in places.
In 2003 Sierra produced an adaptation of The Hobbit, aimed at a younger audience: The Hobbit (2003 video game), as well as a realtime strategy game The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring both based on Tolkien's literature.
Further spinoffs from the film trilogy were produced: A real time strategy game The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, and turn based role-playing game The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age were released in 2004, and a PSP-exclusive title, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics in 2005.
In 2005, EA secured the rights to both the films and the books, thus the The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II incorporated elements of the film adaptions, and the original Tolkienesque lore. EA also began work on an open world role-playing video game called The Lord of the Rings: The White Council, development of the game was cancelled in 2007.
A MMORPG by Turbine, Inc., entitled The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar and endorsed by Tolkien Enterprises was officially launched on 24 April 2007. Initially, the game only covered the region of Eriador, from the Grey Havens to the Misty Mountains, and about as far north and south, but subsequent updates and expansion packs have more than doubled the game world, including areas such as Moria, Lothlórien, Mirkwood, Isengard and Rohan. The game is based on the books and Turbine's license explicitly prohibits them from including any story or design elements unique to the movie adaptations. On the other hand, this allowed game designers to include lesser-known areas and references to the events, which are absent from the movies. The first expansion to The Lord of the Rings Online was released on 18 November 2008, entitled Mines of Moria. The next expansion, Siege of Mirkwood, was released on 1 December 2009. The third expansion titled Rise of Isengard went live on 27 September 2011 and included the area's of Dunland, the Gap of Rohan and Isengard where the tower of Orthanc is located. The fourth expansion, Riders of Rohan, was released on 15 October 2012, featuring The Eaves of Fangorn and eastern part of Rohan up to the East Wall. The fifth expansion, Helm's Deep, launched in November 2013 and added the remaining of Rohan landscape.
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest produced by Pandemic Studios using the Game engine used in Star Wars: Battlefront was released in early 2009 on consoles, PC and Nintendo DS. The console and PC versions received generally negative reviews, the DS version received average reviews. The game also marked the end of Electronic Arts license, which had already been extended some months so that the game could be completed. Subsequently the license, obtained via Tolkien Enterprises passed to Warner Bros.
Aside from officially licensed games, unofficial games have also been made. Some of the longest-lasting are Angband (1990), a roguelike based loosely on The Silmarillion, Elendor (1991), a MUSH based on Tolkien in general, and MUME (1992) and The Two Towers (1994), MUDs based on The Lord of the Rings.
Many Tolkien-inspired mods and custom maps have been made for many games, such as Warcraft III, Neverwinter Nights, Rome: Total War, Medieval 2: Total War, Warlords 3, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mount&Blade and Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings.
Some of the more prominent are:
- Third Age: Total War, which is a mod of Medieval 2: Total War, is currently ranked as the 4th best mod at the Mod DB website and has competed for the "Mod of the year" award at 2nd, 3rd and 7th place. It allows player to choose one of the 14 factions and fight for the Middle Earth on the huge interactive map.
- Fourth Age: Total War, a popular modification of Rome: Total War, based on the Fourth Age of Middle-earth and more geared toward the Tolkien purists.
- The Last Days of the Third Age for Mount & Blade
- Full Invasion 2 Survival Mod for Mount & Blade: Warband
- Middle Earth Roleplaying Project for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Cancelled due to copyright claims by Warner Bros.)
As well as maps in games, many lord of the Rings fans have made modifications for the popular The Elder Scrolls Series for the PC, including a total conversion as well as a range of items and armour.
The roguelike NetHack also has many allusions to The Lord of the Rings, with references to creatures and sayings (i.e. 'Elbereth').
List of video games
- The Boggit
- Bored of the Rings (1985), based on the parody adaptation of the same name (1969).
- Spitti's Search (Spittis Search) (1988–1989)
- Metacritic results : "Lord of the Rings: Conquest" (links) metacritic.com