Lord of the Rings Games That All Fans Should Experience
The world of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is large and sprawling. It is without a doubt one of the most readily exploitable settings when it comes to video games, due to the large amount of lore and eras that have been established throughout the series’ continuity. So here’s a list of some Lord of the Rings games that you should definitely check out.
Spoiler alert–you won’t find Shadow of War or Shadow of Mordor on here. What can be said about those games has likely already been said elsewhere.
Lord of the Rings Conquest
Do you remember playing Star Wars Battlefront 1 or ? The good ones I mean, from 2004 and 2005 respectively.
If you do, you might recall how it felt to to run along the upper layers of Cloud City while raining shots down on C.I.S Droids or Imperial Stormtroopers while pushing ahead to capture territory. This is exactly what Lord of the Rings Conquest delivered to players back in 2009, letting them take to the streets of Minas Tirith for close quarters combat or the plains of Pelennor Fields for a rampaging battle outside the walls of the white city. Players would take control of basic grunt units like Swordsmen, Scouts, Archers and Mages before unlocking more powerful hero units like Gandalf or Aragorn. Players can play through one of two campaigns which will take them through important battles in the story or they can engage in PVE where enemy forces are controlled by bots to keep the action flowing when there aren’t other players about. And it has couch co-op by way of split-screen play.
I really wish more games would include this feature nowadays.
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II did what Halo Wars and Supreme Commander wanted to do, but did it years before either title ever got the chance.
Battle for Middle-earth II took a Real Time Strategy game and made it work properly on a console control scheme. Published by EA and acting as a sequel to The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, this game puts players in control of a mighty leader who grows a warhost to tackle the forces of good and evil. The game was divided into two campaigns, with the good side being led by Glorfindel and the evil side being led by the Mouth of Sauron and his Nazgul. Making an RTS compatible with a console is no small feat. To alleviate the stress of not having a mouse and keyboard for fine control, complex commands were mapped to simple button presses and units were given an aura that you could hover into to select them without needing to be overly precise in your positioning of the joystick. But PC players could still execute keystroke combinations for more nuanced control over their units, which ultimately made little difference.
Despite being playable on both PC and Xbox 360, the game was simple to play and easy to control, irrespective of the chosen platform. EA Los Angeles, now DICE Los Angeles, created a true gem when they made this game.
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North
War in the North is a strange beast.
On one hand, I absolutely hate every single character involved in the game without exception. On the other hand, I’ve finished this game in split-screen co-op a minimum of five times.
It’s an action RPG (some sites bill it as a hack and slash, but you’ll lose quickly if you play it that way) with a focus on three characters, an Elf, a Dwar,f and a Human. They set off on an adventure that will pit them against Sauron’s legions and Agandaûr, one of Sauron’s most trusted generals. As you battle your way through the oncoming hordes, you’ll meet up with characters from the series’ lore, like Elladan and Elrohir, and visit a few locations that enthusiasts will recognise, the Barrow-downs for example. Each kill nets you a small amount of experience that you will use to level up and sink points into new skills like improved sword and shield combat, improved archery, stronger axe swings, or improved magical powers. It’s no exaggeration when I say that every level gained matters, because this game can be brutal in its gameplay. Blocking, parrying, evading and using every skill in your repertoire is essential should you hope to make it out the other side. Add to this an element of loot gathering and a stream of in-game vendors, and you’ll find yourself making your way through a stylish and thoroughly enjoyable experience, provided you look past the paper thin characters and wooden voice acting.
I highly recommend playing in co-op however, forming strategies on the fly with a friend is much easier than putting faith in your computer controlled allies.
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
The Third Age is one of my favorite turn based role playing games ever. From the characters, to the adventure you’ll take part in, from visiting iconic locations you always wanted to explore, to fighting foes of immeasurable strength, there are few role playing games that can elicit the same sort of sheer joy from me.
It’s not without its flaws; the game has a damn near vertical difficulty curve and it never lets up on the pressure, pushing you from one conflict to the next with little respite in between, but that’s part of the fun in this case. For example, you make your way to the Doors of Durin and do battle with the very same Watcher that fights The Fellowship before moving through the mines while being assailed on all sides by waves upon waves of Goblins. Then you’ll battle the Balrog before escaping into the light of day, at which point you’re beset by more foes who are stronger than everything you’ve faced to date!
Playing this game in co-op with a friend is great because you can share in the misery of being pummeled by a troll or the heart sinking feeling that only comes with whiffing a killing blow on a Goblin mage, but the game is entirely viable as a challenging and enjoyable single player RPG. Growing your party’s ability pool and creating tactic loops that you’ll pull out of the bag when you encounter certain enemies is nothing short of an adrenaline shot to the base of the spine.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers & The Return of the King
Okay, I’ll admit that this is a little bit of a cheap entry, putting two games into one place, but anyone that has played these games can attest to the fact these hack and slash adventure RPG’s are best played sequentially to get the full experience. While they haven’t exactly aged like wine and can at times feel a little clunky, these two games do a great job of setting you out along a set series of missions (with side missions becoming unlockable).
You play as Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, and occasionally the Hobbits, in a loose adaptation of the events seen in Peter Jackson’s movies with some original content sequences thrown in for the sake of the gameplay experience, like Gandalf the White fighting atop the walls of Helms Deep. Each character plays uniquely, but retains a familiar trait across all playstyles. Each character has fast and heavy attacks, a ranged attack, a parry ability (highly explotable as Legolas) and a wide array of special combos which will steadily expand as you get further into the game. Levels are largely linear in nature, with the player starting at point A and fighting their way to point B, at which point there’s a boss battle, but the constant combat and frequent dialogue between characters help to move things along a bit, and the co-op options for the game also definitely spice things up a bit.
Special shout outs:
The Lord of the Rings Online – This game can currently be played for free on steam and is, as best as I can tell, a fairly good MMO. However, I’m not a tremendously big fan of MMO’s, and thus I never played too much of the game, so I will recommend the game to MMO fans based purely on its largely positive reputation.
The Lord of the Rings Lego games – If you’ve played a Lego game, then you know what to expect from this one. Cute, colorful, simple gameplay and a collectathon motivation. It retells the original trilogy of movements with Lego-esque alterations and does a good job of it.
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