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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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