All the reasons we've had so few great Lord of the Rings video games

All the reasons we’ve had so few great Lord of the Rings video games

Middle-earth has made the rounds of video gaming with as much success as it has failed. And it’s not easy to make a game faithful to the universe created by JRR Tolkien. We review some of them to understand what values ​​a game set in this universe should have.

the series of power rings is just around the corner, and yet the closest thing we’re going to get (at least for now) in video games is a mobile title by Electronic Arts it does nothing to arouse our desire to get lost in Middle-earth. But the truth is that creating a game in the universe of JRR Tolkien It’s not as easy as it might seem at first glance. How?, you may ask. What can go wrong in a world full of beautiful, dark places and fantastical creatures? Well, anything can go wrong, unfortunately.

You see, despite the fact that video games have a long tradition with fantasy worlds and that The Lord of the Rings is the genre’s forerunner (at least the modern forerunner), our medium hasn’t been nurtured by Tolkien as much as it seems . Middle-earth is a place that has a very defined mythology and, especially, in the Third Age, the most fantastical elements of it are very minor. Although the concepts of Tolken’s fantasy have been explored in literature in a thousand different ways, the real inspiration for video games lies more in pen-and-paper role-playing games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, than in fantasy novels.

Our psychic has always gotten along better with the stat tables, hit and life points, variety of enemies and spells these rules offer, than with stories that exploit magical elements in more subtle ways. . And it turns out that The Lord of the Rings has a feature that a lot of people don’t think much of until they’re told: yes, magic in Middle-earth, and particularly in the Third Age, is virtually non-existent. You can count on your fingers the magical creatures left in this world.

How many wizards are there down there? For remember the words of Gandalf: Saruman the White, Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown, and the two Blue Wizards who traveled East and never returned. Keep in mind that the Third Age, in which The Lord of the Rings takes place, is a twilight period, during which magic leaves the continent. That’s bad fuel for a video game, honestly. I would wager that in the design meetings of the studios that created a production based on the franchise, that was always the main issue. Of course, the developers wanted to take this into account, but how could they miss the opportunity to create spectacular spells and creatures?

They can be good games, but they always tend to overdo the rules Tolkien created.This is one of the issues I’ve seen in many games based on the universe. They can be good games, but they always tend to overdo the rules that the English author has created because they need to create a lot of mechanics and magic is the best way to do that. So, for example, we have The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. A very interesting title, from an Electronic Arts that will never come back, and very inspired by Final Fantasy X. By not following the adventures of the Fellowship of the Ring, but rather a group of heroes who join it (lol) , we have a full cannon break who manages to create characters like Idrial, an elf in the service of Galadriel who acts like a witch almost more powerful than a real magician. Already on the cover we have him summoning lightning, wow.

Something similar happens with Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (and the war). It’s the classic example of “good game, bad adaptation”, because it’s clearly an interesting production, which even brought the Nemesis system as a complement, but which created a bizarre story in which a ranger killed in battle merges with Celebrimbor (the maker of the power rings) to fight Sauron. Again, this gives Monolith the excuse to come up with interesting, albeit non-canonical, mechanics.

The Two Towers and The Return of the King are noble games for more civilized timesAnother example would be the lesser known The Lord of the Rings: War in the North. Undoubtedly the most curious example of all because it shows that its creators, Snowblind Studios, wanted to deepen the universe of Tolkien. The game, despite a very action-oriented system, has been able to find its breaks to talk at length with the characters (almost like a Mass Effect) in which you will find familiar faces from the films that they develop very well the stories that are not told in the films, in particular of Númenor and the Second Age. And yes, eagles talk; a canonical detail well brought. The problem? Still the magic. Again, we have an elf, Andriel, with impossible magic abilities and even a dark lightning-casting Numenorean. Even orc wizards!

Maybe it’s the EA PlayStation 2 games based on The two towers Yes The king’s return some of the best known among fans. And they’re not bad games at all, especially for their time, but they are noble games for more civilized times, as Obi-Wan would say. The problem today is that doing simple hack and slash like these titles wouldn’t work commercially.

All the reasons we've had so few great Lord of the Rings video games

I think it’s possible to make good (and triple A commercial) games while sticking to the canon. But, for that, it would be necessary to put more the feet on the ground, never better said. Forget the temptation to include a thousand spells and a multitude of monstrous enemies and focus on the values ​​of Tolkien’s universe. Understand also that magic in this world is strange, mysterious, often subtle and rare; and use it to your advantage.

I think it’s possible to make good games (and triple-A commercial games) by sticking to the canonI think, in modern video gaming, a game could be made in the style of Horizonin which the true protagonist of the adventure is Middle-earth and the journey through a vast and spectacularly recreated universe. Through side quests, witness the conflict and troubles between the different races and the emerging threat of Morgoth or Sauron. I think the Second Age, like the future series, is more likely to include fantastical (and canonical) creatures, some (contained) magic, and enough space to work on plots and universe. And if the studios really want to unleash the magical and wacky possibilities of the Lord of the Rings universe, no problem: make a game with Tom Bombadil as the protagonist.

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