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Middle-earth in video games

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While an immense number of computer and video games owe a great deal to J. R. R. Tolkien's works and the many other works making up the high fantasy settings based upon them, relatively few games have been directly adapted from his world of Middle-earth. From the early 1980s to the present, several video games have been developed based upon Tolkien's writings, including titles by Electronic Arts, Sierra and Melbourne House.

Official gamesEdit

Early effortsEdit

In 1982 began a series of licensed LoTR graphical interactive fiction games with The Hobbit, based on the book of the same name. They went on to release 1986's The Fellowship of the Ring, 1987's The Shadows of Mordor, and 1990's 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 turn-based strategy game, followed by its sequel Riders of Rohan.

In 1990, Interplay, in collaboration with Electronic Arts (who would later obtain the licenses to the film trilogy), released The Lord of the Rings Vol. 1 (a special CD-ROM version of which featured cut-scenes from Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation) and next year's Lord of the Rings Vol. II: The Two Towers, a series of role-playing games based on the events of the first two books. A third installment was planned, but never released because Interplay couldn't decide whether to do it as an RPG like the first two, or as a strategy game. Interplay's games mostly appeared on the PC and  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 revivalEdit

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, although they only produced games for The Two Towers and The Return of the King. Sierra Entertainment, having lost out on the film licenses, obtained the license to produce games based on the books (as opposed to the film trilogy) from Tolkien Enterprises instead, entitling them to use the story, but not material from the film.

This gave rise to an unusual situation. Electronic Arts produced no adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, but Sierra did. However, they did produce adaptations of The Two Towers and The Return of the King, whereas Sierra did no such thing. This produced a "complete trilogy" of games (albeit unofficial). This "complete trilogy" of games hold true only in titles, as the game plot of The Two Towers includes The Fellowship of the Ring as well. Sierra's entry to the series received average reviews, and Electronic Arts' entries received rave reviews, although Peter Jackson has criticized EA for leaving him out of the development process and has declared that he is unhappy with the quality of the titles.[1]

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 books that 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. Fans' opinions differ on the better of the two styles. Some prefer EA's action-oriented hack and slash-style games, which tend to pass on large segments of the story and place a reliance on film clips and the film's music, citing the almost cinematic quality that the game produces as similar to the film. Others preferred the Sierra adventure title, which, while featuring less action and epic battles than the EA title, cover the story in greater detail and offer a more cerebral challenge.

Sierra's consequent adaptation of The Hobbit also received average reviews. It is unknown which developer/publisher would assume the task of adapting a film version of The Hobbit to a video game, especially since Jackson chose to work with Michel Ancel and Ubisoft on King Kong in light of his displeasure with EA.

Eventually in 2005, EA was able to secure the rights to both the films and the books, thus the Battle for MIddle Earth II, incorporates elements of a Northern Campaign only alluded to in the books.

Post-film trilogy effortsEdit

The popularity of real-time strategy (RTS) titles led Sierra and EA to independently produce two RTS games. Sierra produced The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring in 2003, based on the books. The title was well received by the press, but some criticized the derivative nature of the game.[2] Some fans also took issue with the many liberties taken with the source material. A year later, EA released The Battle for Middle-earth, based on the films. The title was given rave reviews in the gaming media and sold well.[3] However, as with War of the Ring, some fans took issue with the liberties taken with the books.

EA then released a console RPG in 2004 entitled The Third Age, based on the universe portrayed in the films, though not the original story. It was based on an original story that runs parallel to the events of the movies. The game received average reviews, with many quoting the poor quality of the story in relation to its source. The game also contains a range of unrelated situations that divert from the original plot, such as the final melee combat versus the Eye of Sauron.

In July 2005, EA was granted the rights to develop games based on the books, alongside the separate agreement for games based on the New Line Cinema films. EA released Battle for Middle-earth II on March 2 2006. While it sold well, some fans, as ever, took issue with the liberties taken with the books, as with its predecessor. That November, EA released a PSP-exclusive title, The Lord of the Rings: Tactics. In October, 2006, an expansion pack for The Battle for Middle Earth II was released called "Rise of the Witch King" that focused on events before the books when the Witch King ruled the Northern country of Angmar.

A MMORPG by Turbine, Inc., entitled The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar and endorsed by Tolkien Enterprises was released on April 24, 2007.

Future gamesEdit

Unofficial gamesEdit

Aside from officially licensed games, unofficial games have also been made. Two of the longest-lasting are Angband, an open-source game based loosely on the Silmarillion, and MUME, a MUD based on The Lord of the Rings.

Another is Shadows of Isildur, a free to play RPI MUD. Having started in the year 2460 of the Third Age, SoI allows its players to become a character on the side of either Gondor, or Mordor.

Many Tolkien-inspired mods and custom maps have been made for many games, such as Warcraft III mods and Rome: Total War. Lord of the Rings Total War and Forth Age Total War are some examples. It is important to note that legal action was threatened against MERP (Middle-Earth Roleplaying Project), a mod designed to convert the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim into Middle-Earth, suggesting a future game on the same scale as Skyrim may be released.

List of video gamesEdit

Title Year Publisher Developer Platforms
The Hobbit 1982 Melbourne House Beam Software Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC (no graphics), Dragon 32, Oric Atmos, MSX, Apple II, IBM PC
Lord of the Rings: Game One (AKA: The Fellowship of The Ring) 1985 Melbourne House Beam Software ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, BBC, Dragon 32, Apple Macintosh, Apple II, IBM PC
The Shadows of Mordor 1987 Melbourne House Beam Software Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Apple II, IBM PC
War in Middle-earth 1988 Melbourne House Melbourne House C64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Atari ST, IBM PC
The Crack of Doom 1989 Melbourne House Beam Software Commodore 64, IBM PC
The Lord of the Rings Volume 1 1990 Interplay,
Electronic Arts
Interplay, Chaos Studios (Amiga) Amiga, IBM PC
The Lord of the Rings Volume 2 1991 Interplay Interplay IBM PC
Riders of Rohan 1991 Konami, Mirrorsoft Beam Software, Papyrus IBM PC
The Lord of the Rings Volume 1 1994 Interplay Interplay Super NES
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2002 Vivendi Universal Games Surreal Software MS Windows, PlayStation 2
The Whole Experience Xbox
Pocket Studios Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002 Electronic Arts Stormfront Studios
Hypnos Entertainment (GCN)
PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Griptonite Games Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003 Electronic Arts
Aspyr (Mac OS X)
Electronic Arts,Hypnos Entertainment (GCN & Xbox)
Beenox (Mac OS X)
MS Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube, Mac OS X
Electronic Arts Griptonite Games Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring 2003 Sierra Liquid Entertainment MS Windows
The Hobbit 2003 Sierra Midway Austin MS Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
Saffire Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age 2004 Electronic Arts Electronic Arts PlayStation 2, Xbox, Nintendo GameCube
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (GBA) 2004 Electronic Arts Griptonite Games Game Boy Advance
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth 2004 Electronic Arts EA Los Angeles MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings: Tactics 2005 Electronic Arts Amaze PlayStation Portable
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II 2006 Electronic Arts EA Los Angeles MS Windows, Xbox 360
The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king 2006 Electronic Arts EA Los Angeles MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar 2007 Turbine, Inc., Midway Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings Online: Mines of Moria 2008 Turbine, Inc., Midway Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest 2009 Electronic Arts Pandemic Studios Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, MS Windows, Nintendo DS
The Lord of the Rings Online: Siege of Mirkwood 2009 Turbine, Inc. Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest 2010 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Headstrong Games
TT Fusion
Wii, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3
The Lord of the Rings: War in the North 2011 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Snowblind Studios PlayStation 3, MS Windows, Xbox 360
The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard 2011 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
The Lord of the Rings Online: Riders of Rohan 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Turbine, Inc. MS Windows
Guardians of Middle-earth 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Monolith Productions Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC (Steam)
LEGO The Lord of the Rings: The Video Game 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Traveler's Tales Microsoft Windows, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Xbox 360
The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-earth 2012 Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Kabam Android, Apple iOS
The Hobbit: Armies of The Third Age 2012 Kabam

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ReferencesEdit

  1. Thorsen, Tor (October 26, 2005). Report: Peter Jackson displeased with Lord of the Rings games. Retrieved on 2006-05-23.
  2. Paulsen, Jakob (June 3, 2003). War of the Ring impressions. Retrieved on 2006-05-23.
  3. Adams, Dan (December 3, 2004). The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth. Retrieved on 2006-05-23.

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