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.
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 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, 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.
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 efforts
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. 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. 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 The 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.
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.
Many Tolkien-inspired addon mods, custom maps and total conversion mods have been made for many games. An overview of some notable examples:
|Warcraft III||Warcraft III Tolkien mods|
|Total Annihilation: Kingdoms||Conflict of Arda|
|Rome: Total War||Lord of the Rings: Total War|
|Rome: Total War||Fourth Age: Total War|
|Medieval II: Total War||Third Age: Total War|
|Mount & Blade |
Mount & Blade Warband
|The Last Days (of the Third Age of Middle-Earth)|
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 games
- ↑ Thorsen, Tor (October 26, 2005). Report: Peter Jackson displeased with Lord of the Rings games. Retrieved on 2006-05-23.
- ↑ Paulsen, Jakob (June 3, 2003). War of the Ring impressions. Retrieved on 2006-05-23.
- ↑ Adams, Dan (December 3, 2004). The Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle-earth. Retrieved on 2006-05-23.