The game features a horde of different warriors that can be employed by one of the two available faction, Free Peoples and Minions of Sauron, referred to as Good and Evil in the game. Environments range from Mirkwood to the barren stretches of Mordor, and each contain numerous settings, including ruined cities, Elven forests and Dwarven mountains. Despite its mystical appearance, and fairly diverse three dimensional environments and buildings, the game has been the subject of some criticism, due to the fact that its style of play is highly similar to that of Warcraft III. Its production being received by fans as mediocre, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, which was considered a major hit, followed closely in its footsteps.
The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring is a 2003 real-time strategy game (RTS) developed by Liquid Entertainment, the makers of the previous Battle Realms and its expansion, Winter of the Wolf. It was published by Sierra Entertainment. Set in Middle-earth, it expands upon the events of the War of the Ring as told in The Lord of the Rings. Unlike the later The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth by Electronic Arts, War of the Ring is based solely on the books, not on the films by Peter Jackson. Thus, characters such as Frodo and Aragorn look and sound different from their counterparts depicted in the films.
The game plays much like Warcraft III with added features, some previously used in Battle Realms. A similar layout and control system is used, and the player gets to control hero units with special abilities. Most regular units also have abilities of their own. The game also follows standard RTS conventions by having rally points, unit creation, and purchase of upgrades at certain buildings, etc.
Some features from Battle Realms that were carried over include toggleable walking and running for units and the ability to set buildings on fire. The game also emulates Battle Realms’ yin and yang system, where combat experience (or special actions) would provide a special resource that could be used to buy upgrades or units. This resource is called Yin or Yang in the previous game, depending on the faction being used, and is called Fate here. The player can use Fate Points (gained in combat) to summon Heroes, purchase their special abilities, and activate special faction-specific Fate Powers that will aid him or her in gameplay such as summoning an Ent or a Balrog. Some influence from Warcraft III can also be seen, with the Minions of Sauron corrupting land with War Posts before they can build upon it — very similar to Warcraft's blight.
Unique to the game are the Places of Power, monuments that award bonuses (e.g., increased armor or attack) if controlled by the player. The player takes control of one by either finding on the map (by having a unit go near it) or wresting it from the foe (killing guards, if any, or else taking it when left unguarded).
The game features two factions to choose from: The Free Peoples of Middle-earth (the Good side) and the Minions of Sauron (the Evil side). The Free Peoples include Men – Men of Gondor and Rohan, the Dúnedain of the North – as well as the Elves, Dwarves, Beornings and Huorns. Playable heroes on this side include the Fellowship of the Ring, as well as others such as Faramir and Erkenbrand. The Minions of Sauron include the various kinds of Orcs and Goblins, Warg Riders, Trolls, the Haradrim, and Giant Spiders. Playable Evil heroes include Gollum, Saruman, and the Lord of the Nazgûl.
The game features a Good and an Evil campaign, in which one fights the War of the Ring from opposing sides. The game does not dwell on prominent battles apart from the Battle of the Hornburg in the Good campaign, but rather presents scenarios based upon Tolkien’s writings with varying degrees of license taken. For example, the Good campaign starts with Gimli and the Dwarves fighting the Orcs in the Iron Hills, and one Evil mission has Grishnákh destroying the warning beacons of Gondor. A relatively more faithful scenario is Boromir and Faramir leading Gondor forces to defend Osgiliath before Boromir leaves for Rivendell.
The game also features a multiplayer mode of gameplay, where players fight against either the computer (skirmish) and/or other humans (via network) on preset or user-created maps. Like Battle Realms, this mode includes several variations like Razing and Survival.
The entire game is divided into several playable categories. Players have the power to chose from playing a single skirmish game as either Good or Evil, a campaign game as either Good or Evil, or an online game with other players as Good or Evil. In addition to these, the player may also take the tutorial, a preset game that explains the way to move, attack, and give orders to your units. Playing the skirmish game is the simplest of the three main options, as no storyline is involved, and thus the player can utilize the full array of units, abilities, and buildings available. Playing a campaign game is very different, as a storyline is involved, and the player must follow that predetermined storyline in order to advance to the next stage of the campaign. Online play is the same as the skirmish, with the exception that you play against another player rather than a computer.
Whilst playing, you will order a variety of units around using the mouse, these units will vary depending on your faction, and use them to fulfill the predetermined victory condition, usually the destruction of your enemy faction. Occasionally, units you control will come into contact with enemies, and battle will be optional. During battle, units' health will be reduced with each blow from the enemy, although this can be altered with healing or protecting spells. When a unit's health is fully reduced, it dies, or in the case of Heroes, vanishes in a beam of light. Heroes that have been killed may be regenerated at the camp, though losing one in a campaign may be a losing condition. At the camp, units are created from a number of buildings, provided there are sufficient resources with which to do so, which range from barracks to stables, and, as with troops, are destroyed when under prolonged attack from enemies. Spells and sorcery also come into play, and can boost the efficiency of units or cause damage to enemies.
Spells can only be cast once sufficient Fate has been gathered, and depending on the strength of the spell, the amount of Fate required increases. Fate is gathered by performing acts of great damage on enemies, and the destruction of something such as an enemy camp will provide a fair deal of it.
Units from both factions vary, some possessing powers that help troops around them, or themselves, and fit into a number of different categories, infantry, archers, cavalry and monsters.
Listed below are the available units for the game and their respective powers and abilities.
|Hero||Campaign Only||Fate Points||Attack||Armor||Special Abilities|
|Boromir||Yes||N/A||30||12||Horn of Gondor: Knocks back enemy units around him.|
|Faramir||Yes||N/A||30||11||Trueshot: Fires arrows with knockback effect.|
|Erkenbrand||Yes||N/A||30||12||Might of the Rohirrim: Boosts nearby ally mounted units' attack power.|
|Man Worker||No||N/A||Worker||Collects resources and builds buildings|
|Rider of Rohan||No||16||4||Mounted|
|Wild Man (NPC)||Yes||23||3||Melee|
|Ranger||No||11||3||Detector||Can become invisible but must remain stationary|
|Dwarf Axethrower||No||12||3||Ranged||Throws flaming axes|
|Dwarf Shieldbreaker||No||13||4||Melee||Reduces armor class of enemy units|
|Elven Archer||No||17||3||Ranged||Can become invisible|
|Elven Lightbearer||No||11||0||Ranged||Casts spells with the Light of Eärendil|
|Beorning (man form)||No||10||3||Special||Heals ally units|
|Beorning (bear form)||No||20||5||Special|
|Huorn||No||17||7||Special||Immobilizes enemy units around it but must remain stationary|
|Ent||No||45||4||Special||Costs 7 Fate Points to summon; throws rocks at enemy units and buildings|
Minions of Sauron
|Hero||Campaign Only||Fate Points||Attack||Armor||Special Abilities|
|Lord of the Nazgûl||No||3||30||7||
|Goblin Worker||No||N/A||Worker||Collects resources and builds buildings|
|Goblin Slavemaster||No||3||1||Worker||Increases population capacity by 12 per Slavemaster just like Zerg Overlords in StarCraft|
|Orc Bowman||No||11||3||Ranged||Shoots flaming arrows|
|Wraith||No||7||2||Detector||Blinds enemy units around it|
|Black Rider||No||18||1||Special||Creatable by the Lord of the Nazgûl's Bind Shadow ability at one Fate Point per unit (up to a maximum of eight); poisons enemy units with his Morgul-blade|
|Giant Spider||No||9||4||Ranged||Stuns enemy units with venom|
|Haradrim Slayer||No||17||4||Melee||Can become invisible; shoots poison darts|
|Uruk-hai||No||17||4||Ranged||Shoots arrows with knockback effect|
|Troll Stonethrower||No||18||3||Special||Throws rocks at enemy units and buildings|
|Troll Bonecleaver||No||22||5||Special||Has a sweeping attack which damages enemy units in front of it|
|Barrow-wight||Yes||7||2||Detector||Similar to Wraith but cannot be upgraded|
|Balrog||No||65||7||Special||Costs 7 Fate Points to summon; wields a flaming sword that sets enemy buildings on fire; has a ground slam attack that knocks back enemy units in front of it|
Buildings and structures
- Stronghold: The first building that must be built; stores resources; produces Workers and Heroes; can be upgraded to Level 5.
- Mill: Built over a well; for collecting food.
- Foundry: Built over a pile of ore; for collecting ore.
- Camp; Increases population capacity by 11; can be upgraded to a War Camp for a population capacity of 15.
- Watchtower: Automatically fires projectiles at nearby enemy units; can be upgraded to a Ballista Tower for greater range and attack power.
- Barracks: Produces Gondor Swordsmen and Rohan Riders.
- Ranger Post: Produces Rangers.
- Dwarf Hall: Produces Dwarf Axethrowers and Shieldbreakers.
- Elven Sanctuary: Produces Elven Archers and Lightbearers.
- Nature's Haven: Produces Beornings and Huorns.
- Forge: Provides upgrades for Gondor Swordsmen, Rohan Riders and Dwarves, and all buildings.
- Wilderness Outpost: Provides upgrades for Rangers and Elven Archers.
- House of Lore: Provides upgrades for Elven Lightbearers, Beornings, and Huorns.
- Iron Blades, Steel Blades, and Dwarf-forged Blades: +1 attack for Gondor Swordsmen, Riders of Rohan, Dwarf Axethrowers and Dwarf Shieldbreakers per level.
- Iron Plating, Steel Plating, and Dwarf-forged Plating: +1 armor for Gondor Swordsmen, Riders of Rohan, Dwarf Axethrowers and Dwarf Shieldbreakers per level.
- Razor Edge: Allows the Dwarf Axethrower to hit multiple targets.
- Flaming Axe: Allows the Dwarf Axethrower to throw flaming axes that can set enemy buildings on fire.
- Shield Break: Allows the Dwarf Shieldbreaker to reduce enemy units' armor class.
- Dwarf Masonry: Increases buildings' hit points.
- Lookout Tower: Increases Watchtowers' range of sight.
- Ballista Tower: Equips the Watchtower with a ballista for greater firepower.
- War Camp: Increases the camp's population capacity to 15.
- Etched Blades, Mystic Blades, and Runic Blades: +1 attack for Rangers and Elven Archers per level.
- Improved Leather, Hard Leather, and Studded Leather: +1 armor for Rangers and Elven Archers per level.
- Concealment: Allows the Ranger to become invisible but he must remain stationary.
- Eagle Eye: Increases the Ranger's range of sight.
- Elven Cloaks: Allows the Elven Archer to become invisible.
- Eagle Fletching: Increases the Elven Archer's attack range.
- Strength of Nature, Strength of the Claw, and Strength of the Wild: +1 attack for Beornings and Huorns per level.
- Nature's Protection, Nature's Defense, and Nature's Shield: +1 armor for Beornings and Huorns per level.
- Bear Form: Allows the Beorning to shapeshift between bear and man forms.
- Savage Blow: Gives the Beorning a knockback melee attack.
- Tree Form: Allows the Huorn to entangle enemy units around it but the Huorn must remain stationary; the Huorn's regeneration rate also increases.
- Dispel: Allows the Elven Lightbearer to negate the effects of enemy spells.
- Light of Lothlórien: Allows the Elven Lightbearer to cast a spell that damages all enemy units within an area.
- Blind (2 Fate Points): Blinds enemy units, making them unable to see anything at a distance.
- Brambles (3 Fate Points): Grows a thorny patch of brambles within an area that will damage enemy units passing through it.
- Heroic Legacy (3 Fate Points): Increases a Hero's attack and armor, but the Hero cannot be summoned again at the Stronghold if he dies.
- Blessed Wind: (3 Fate Points): Adds knockback effect to the attack of ranged units.
- Summon Giant Ent (7 Fate Points): Summons an Ent (only 1 at a time).
- War Post: Corrupts the land so that Evil buildings can be built on it; can be placed by Goblin Slavemasters only.
- Goblin Hovel: Stores resources; produces Goblin Workers, Slavemasters and Spearmen.
- Slaughterhouse: Built over a well; for collecting food.
- Smelter: Built over a pile of ore; for collecting ore.
- Fortress of Mordor: Recruits Heroes; necessary for producing certain units and upgrades; can be upgraded to Level 5.
- Tower: Automatically fires projectiles at approaching enemy units; can be upgraded to fire poison-coated projectiles.
- Orc Mound: Produces Orc Slashers and Bowmen, and Uruk-hai.
- Beast Lair: Produces Warg Riders and Giant Spiders.
- Shadow Lair: Produces Wraiths and Haradrim Slayers.
- Troll Den: Produces Troll Bonecleavers and Stonethrowers.
- Dark Arsenal: Provides upgrades for Goblin Slavemasters and Spearmen, Orc Slashers and Bowmen, and Towers.
- Breeding Pit: Provides upgrades for Warg Riders, Giant Spiders, and Trolls.
- Black Vault: Provides upgrades for Wraiths, Haradrim Slayers, Uruk-hai, and Black Riders.
- Curved Blades, Serrated Blades, and Wicked Blades: +1 attack for Goblin Spearmen, Orc Bowmen and Orc Slashers per level.
- Iron Fittings, Forged Fittings, and Steel Fittings: +1 armor for Goblin Spearmen, Orc Bowmen and Orc Slashers per level.
- Savage Influence: Allows Slavemasters to crack their whips and cause nearby ally units to move faster and fight harder, but at a small expense of the unit's health.
- Goblin Frenzy: Upgrades the moving speed of Goblin Workers, Goblin Spearmen and Goblin Slavemasters.
- Raven Fletching: Increases the Orc Bowman's attack range.
- Flame Arrows: Allows the Orc Bowman to fire flaming arrows that can set enemy buildings on fire.
- Poison Arrows: Allows the Tower to fire poison-coated projectiles.
- Fearsome Strength, Overwhelming Strength, and Monstrous Strength: +1 attack for Warg Riders, Giant Spiders, Troll Bonecleavers and Troll Stonethrowers per level.
- Ritual Tattooing, Ritual Scarring, and Ritual Branding: +1 armor for Warg Riders, Giant Spiders, Troll Bonecleavers and Troll Stonethrowers per level.
- Paralyze: Allows the Giant Spider to stun enemy units.
- Spray Venom: Allows the Giant Spider to spray venom and stun all enemy units in front of it.
- Target Practice: Increases the Troll Stonethrower's attack range.
- Unstoppable Force: Allows the Troll Stonethrower to inflict collateral damage on nearby enemy units and buildings.
- Sweeping Axe: Gives the Troll Bonecleaver a knockback melee attack.
- Jagged Point, Hooked Point, and Barbed Point: +1 attack for Haradrim Slayers and Uruk-hai per level.
- Alloy Mail, Shadow Mail, and Dark Mail: +1 armor for Haradrim Slayers and Uruk-hai per level.
- Greater Perception: Increases the Wraith's range of sight.
- Darkness: Allows the Wraith to slow down enemy units around it.
- Perpetual Darkness: Allows the Wraith to slow down and blind enemy units around it. (Replaces the Darkness upgrade.)
- Poison Dart: Allows the Haradrim Slayer to fire a poison dart.
- Assassin's Cloak: Allows the Haradrim Slayer to become invisible.
- Morgul Blade: Allows the Dark Rider to poison enemy units.
- Summon Bog (2 Fate Points): Turns an area into a festering bog that will slow down all enemy units passing through it.
- Murder of Crows (3 Fate Points): Summons a flock of crows to surround and protect ally units from enemy ranged attacks.
- Vile Surge (3 Fate Points): Increases the health of all ally units within an area.
- Summon Obelisk (4 Fate Points): Summons an Obelisk onto the battlefield to absorb damage done to nearby ally units until the Obelisk runs out of power or is destroyed.
- Summon Balrog (7 Fate Points): Summons a Balrog (only 1 at a time).
- The Grey Ledge (TA 3018): Gimli leads the Dwarves to repel an Orc invasion of the Iron Hills. They roll off large boulders from the cliffs overlooking the Orc camps and destroy them.
- The Siege of the Iron Hills (TA 3018): Gimli leads the Dwarves to defend Thorin's Gate, which is under siege by Orcs. Gimli also finds a Beorning by chance and recruits him. The Dwarves discover a partially built giant catapult, finish building it, and use it to destroy the Orc camp near the Gate.
- The Pursuit of Gollum (TA 3018): Legolas leads a group of Elven archers into Mirkwood in pursuit of Gollum. They defeat Giant Spiders, save some Rangers under attack by the Spiders, and discover an Orc camp deep in the woods.
- The Bridge of Osgiliath (TA 3018): Boromir and Faramir lead the Men of Gondor to defend Osgiliath from Mordor forces and save some Men archers trapped in the ruined city. They destroy the eastern bridge to prevent the Mordor forces from gaining a foothold in Osgiliath.
- Orcs in Mirkwood (TA 3018): Legolas leads the Elves to attack and destroy an Orc camp in Mirkwood.
- Assault on Dol Guldur (TA 3018): Legolas discovers that Dol Guldur is the source of the evil presence in Mirkwood. He leads the Elves to attack the fortress and drive away Sauron’s forces led by Khamûl.
- Lothlórien (TA 3019): The Fellowship (excluding Gandalf) take shelter in Lothlórien after escaping from Moria but the Orcs track them down. They meet the Elves, who tell them about the great Mallorn trees whose golden light can repel evil. They also save a Huorn under attack by Orcs. After resisting a massive wave of attacks by the Orcs, the Fellowship and the Elves defend the Mallorn trees and rekindle their power with the presence of goodness. The Orcs eventually retreat back to Moria.
- The Liberation of Upbourn (TA 3019): Erkenbrand and Gandalf the White lead the Rohirrim to liberate the Rohan town of Upbourn, which has been occupied by Orcs. They also cleanse the corrupted barrows, and save some horses from being slaughtered by the Orcs.
- Helm's Deep (TA 3019): Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli join King Théoden and the Rohirrim in defending the Hornburg from Isengard forces. At dawn, Gandalf and Erkenbrand show up with reinforcements, while the Huorns of Fangorn also join the battle. They defeat and eliminate all the Isengard forces.
- Minas Morgul (TA 3019): Aragorn leads the Free Peoples to attack the Nazgûl’s base in Minas Morgul. Along the way, they also defeat Troll reinforcements traveling on the Morgul Road. After destroying the Orc camp outside the city, the Free Peoples capture the two orbs enhancing the tower’s sorcery and cleanse the tower of its evil presence. The city is then restored as the former Minas Ithil.
- The Pass of Cirith Gorgor (TA 3019): Aragorn leads the Free Peoples to attack Sauron’s forces, who have built three Claws of Gorgoroth. It turns out that Sauron has summoned a Balrog, whose powers are enhanced by the three Claws. The Free Peoples capture the three Claws, defeat the Balrog, and destroy the final Orc camp.
- The Mouths of Entwash (TA 3018): Grishnákh orders his Orcs to escort some Goblin workers through the Wetwang to the frontline in Rohan. They defeat some Rangers, Beornings, and Gondor soldiers along the way.
- The Beacons of Gondor (TA 3018): Grishnákh leads Mordor forces to destroy a Men camp in the Anorien Valley. The warning beacons of Gondor are alerted to their presence and start signaling for help. Grishnákh and his army manage to hold off eight waves of reinforcements from Gondor.
- Clearing the Way (TA 1050): The Lord of the Nazgûl leads an army through Mirkwood and destroys an Elven camp along the way.
- Darkness Returns (TA 1050): The Lord of the Nazgûl and his army defeat the Elves of Mirkwood and take control of five ancient Elven temples near Dol Guldur before capturing the fortress.
- Sweep of the Trollshaws (TA 1999): Sauron sends four Black Riders to "persuade" the reluctant Trolls in Eriador to join him. After sustaining some losses at the hands of the Black Riders and their army, the Trolls yield and agree to serve under Sauron. They join the Mordor forces in destroying a Dwarf camp, a Men camp, and a Beorning haven.
- Saruman's Uruk-hai (TA ~3001): Saruman gets the Haradrim to help him slay some Wild Men in the Drúadan Forest. He then creates Uruk-hai by combining Orcs and Barrow-wights (ghosts of the Wild Men) in a pit inside the forest. After repelling attacks on their camp by Elven and Men forces and Huorns, they destroy the Elven camp and Men camps.
- The Pass of Cirith Ungol (TA 2000): The Lord of the Nazgûl leads Mordor forces to destroy a Men camp and capture the Tower of Cirith Ungol. They accidentally lure Shelob out of her lair, and she inflicts some damage on both sides before retreating back into her lair.
- A Hidden Plan (TA 3018): Saleme leads Mordor forces to attack the Rohan town of Upbourn. They destroy a Men camp outside the town and send cloaked Haradrim assassins to kill Wulfhelm, the Captain of Upbourn. If the assassination attempt fails (i.e., Wulfhelm detects the assassins and takes shelter inside the Great Hall), they will have to take Upbourn by force (i.e., eliminate all opposing forces in the town).
- The Morgul-Road (TA 2000): After capturing Cirith Ungol, the Lord of the Nazgûl leads Mordor forces toward Minas Ithil by traveling along the Morgul Road. With the aid of an Orc army which set off earlier, they trap and eliminate the Gondor soldiers who are fleeing west after the fall of Cirith Ungol.
- The Sacking of Minas Ithil (TA 2002): The Lord of the Nazgûl leads Mordor forces to attack Minas Ithil. After destroying the three camps guarding the city, they capture and corrupt the tower, and claim the Palantír in the tower for Sauron. Minas Ithil becomes Minas Morgul and would remain under Mordor control for the next 1,000 years.