Review: War of the Ring (PC)

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Posted by Sulkyblue (12th Mar 2004, 17:28)

I bought this game (as I suspect many others will, and as the marketers hope you will) because I'm a sucker for anything with Lord of the Rings on it. I figured that the combination of familiar 'characters' and a good game manufacturer like Sierra would mean a good game. Seems that I was wrong.

First off the big note is that it's Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, NOT Peter Jacksons. Not that this matters a huge amount, just that you won't be hearing familiar voices or seeing familiar creatures. Second note is that I played this immediately after playing Warcraft 3: Frozen Throne, meaning that it had a tough act to follow.

I've spent about 4 hours playing so far and have completed about 5 missions. Most of these are standard "build a base, send troops to destroy the enemy" affairs, which would be fine if there were interesting troops to build. However I tended to find that I was being offered 2 or 3 variations on the same character, the only thing that varied was the stats, ie some had more armour but less attack and vice versa. They all seem to move at the same speed and very few of them have any actual abilities. Your bases tended to drift towards just churning out a huge army of the same creatures. There tended to buildings where you could purchase upgrades, but again they tended to just increase stats, or give bonuses. In later missions you get to play with several different races together, eg in Lothlorien, you have gondorians, elves, drawves, huorn and beornings. At which point you need to build several different buildings to upgrade the different races, build a second base fund the upgrades and before you know it you're over run with orcs and the most random collection of non-functional soldiers ever seen.

Due to the uninteresting supporting characters you tend to play focussing on the heroes... only compared to the Warcraft heroes, these guys really aren't very exciting. I'm hoping Gandalf shows up at some point with some neat tricks because Aragorn's Healing ability and Gimli's 'hit the earth with his ax making all the enemies momentarily forget what was going on' really didn't interest me that much. There's an additional selection of abilities that seem to be some kind of gift from above, but they're slow to recharge and fiddly to use.

Fiddly would be a key word of much of the game controls imho. Controlling groups is made difficult because each unit can only be in one group at a time. My workers *insisted* on wandering off after orcs by themselves and I continually had difficulties doing things like setting rally points. The game menuing system is frustrating as well, just little things such as not automatically returning to the game after a save, but needing 2 more menu clicks to get back. Nothing terminally wrong, but really noticable after the slickness of Warcraft.

In terms of game engine, it seems to run fine on my machine, but then mine's well over spec for it, in full grass waving, bunnies hopping technicolour. The game as a whole however tends to suffer for the common affliction of brightness alergy. The mirkwood levels in particular were horribly difficult to play just because I couldn't see what was going on even with gamma correct all the way up. The landscaping is very pretty, but there's just too much prettiness to make it clear where your characters can and cannot go. The mission in Osgiliath on the other hand was a beautiful level to play, with lots of detail, but none of it interferring with gameplay. Based on the Command and Conquer: Generals engine I suspect that it's fairly inevitable that the architectural levels will be better, shame that the Tolkien universe is somewhat incompatible with that.

I admit that maybe I haven't given it a fair go. The Lothlorien level I've just tried seemed far more interesting and challenging (I'd walked through the previous 4 levels with no problems even on highest difficulty level) as I actually need to completely restart the level. It still has problems - the storyline appears to skip forward a huge section to this point, and you've suddenly acquired Aragorn and the 4 hobbits from nowehere. Also I apparently took too long trying to work out which races to focus on and hence got over-run with orcs, on a level that didn't claim to have a timelimit. These facts irritated me on my first play of it last night, but I'm willing to give it another try.

This probably isn't a bad game. It's got it's problems, but it's not bad. The problem is that it just isn't on the same level as Warcraft 3. If you want a good real time strategy game, play Warcraft. If you want a good game based on Lord of the Rings books for novelty value, you might like this one. I personally found it very disappointing.

(This review was bought to you courtesy of an outstandingly boring afternoon at work)

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read biography for - Siberman

 Siberman ( 12th Mar 2004, 18:54, Rank: Mentat )  reply

Very few of the 'good' side missions are any different. theya re all very similar. the first few 'evil' missions are a bit different, but again the rest are all of a type.

none of the units are particularly subtle; the best units are obvious.

The Heroes for the good side are a bit bland, although the evil ones are more useful. particularly the witch king and saruman (saruman is very annoying to fight against in skirmish mode when he's in the hands of a hard ai) the fate powers are a bit useless; save up and buy a balrog/ent depending on your side.

I agree that it is very disappointing. The unit limit is annoying, as is the fact that none of the units do anything special. i suspect that it would be alright to play against other people, but then I'd rather play something else.

read biography for - dormouse

 dormouse ( 13th Mar 2004, 17:52, Rank: Jedi )  reply

arg... now i have urge to play starcraft. interesting though, thanks :)

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