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Liquid Entertainment



T (Teen)



Q4 2003



- Solid Gameplay

- Good Graphics

- Good voice acting

- Decent storyline



- Short Tech Tree

- Little variation in objectives

- Not quite challenging enough

- A very vanilla RTS game



Review: WarCraft III (PC)

Review: Disciples II (PC)

Review: C&C Generals (PC)

Review: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (XB)



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Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring

Score: 7.9 / 10


Although War of the Ring (WOTR) is not tied in directly with the movies, it does sport the official Tolkien product badge. This means that it is an officially licensed game based on the books. As Iíve never read the trilogy, Iíll not be able to comment on the accuracy of the events in the game, but this game is less about retelling the books than it is about providing a solid gaming experience.


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WOTR is split up into a good and evil campaign. There is an initial mission map where the player is presented with their choice of a few missions, so if you want to start with the dwarves or humans over the elves, you can. After each mission is complete the gamer is taken back to this screen, and they can choose to jump to any of the open scenarios in the game. The story for the good campaign follows how each of the different factions of good came together to form the fellowship before the meeting with the elves. If you havenít seen the movies or read the books, just understand that the story is a prequel of sorts.


The evil campaign is more linear and shows how Sauronís forces came to threaten the rest of Middle Earth.  The difficulty level is also slightly higher in the evil campaign, but never reaches a difficulty that will be unmanageable for most 




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gamers. Seasoned strategists will likely breeze through both campaigns within a few solid gaming sessions.


The game sports a look and feel that reminds me very much of the beloved Warcraft III, which is kind of strange as it is powered by the same engine as the aged Battle Realms.  Nevertheless the game looks good, and has a very intuitive method of gameplay.  The camera is maneuverable and allows you to zoom in for a closer look at the action.  


Most gamers will probably find that the default view is plenty good though.  The rest of the gameís production values are also quite good as the voice acting isnít half bad and the music does quite a good job of setting the mood.


The mission objectives essentially call for you to gather resources, build up a force, and then take out the enemyís forces.  Each mission may mask this greater objective with more minor detailed objectives such as controlling certain waypoints on the map, but each mission essentially plays out in the same way.  This is disappointing as early in the game some promise is shown in the dwarf campaign.  In one of the dwarf missions, you have the option of reaching certain areas of the map where you can push boulders over the edges of cliffs on to the orc encampments below.  There is another mission where you must take control of a huge catapult in order to rain down huge flaming boulders onto the orc camp on the other side of the map.  This mission concept does offer an interesting option in the multiplayer game as there is a scenario where you try and take control of such a catapult so that you can decimate your opponentsí structures very quickly.


Alas, the rest of the missions do not offer as much creativity or variety as these two and gamers will probably still find themselves finishing the campaigns fairly quickly as they arenít very long or very difficult. The tech trees do not offer a lot of depth either for each of the races.  Rather, over time, as the different forces of evil and the different forces of good start to join with their respective sides, the units available to each side increases.  However, the overall tech tree remains fairly shallow with most upgrades reaching no higher than three levels. While this simplicity isnít necessarily a bad thing in the single player campaign, in the multiplayer game, the lack of a tech tree reduces the strategic levels that gamers will have to work with. 


One thing that the game does sport is the inclusion of hero units.  Much like in Warcraft III, your hero units have special powers and are generally more powerful attackers. This does add some variety to your garden variety orcs, and gondor swordsmen but it is very easy to finish the various mission without using your hero units at all.  One feature that does add to the Lord of the Rings experience is the use of fate points. These points are received for slaying the other sideís units and these points are used to perform different actions such as summoning a giant Ent or a Balrog (large powerful units for those two of you not familiar with the series).  More actions are made available as you progress through the campaigns and these points can become more valuable in turning the tide of a battle in the higher difficulty setting.  


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As a whole, War of the Ring offers a solid if not original effort through the much trodden RTS genre. The short technology tree doesnít offer the gamer a whole lot to look forward to, and the missions arenít very challenging either.  The single player campaigns offer an entertaining story though, and fans of the books will likely want to play through them just for that. Overall, War of the Ring is a very vanilla offering, but will still likely hold the attention of most RTS gamers who want a quick Lord of the Rings fix after watching the movies.


- Mark Leung

(January 19, 2004)

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