Monday, 16 December 2013

10 Lord of the Rings games that will get you pumped for The Hobbit

After returning to Middle Earth after the success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King), Peter Jackson gave us the first instalment of The Hobbit series last year with An Unexpected Journey. Now, with the promise of Smaug the dragon, elves, Orcs, familiar faces and the rise of the "Necromancer" at Dol Guldur, the latest film has finally hits theatres. However, while there aren't many games based upon The Hobbit yet, there were plenty based on The Lord of the Rings. So, with the fact that Middle Earth is back in our lives once again, here's 10 Lord of the Rings games that will get you pumped for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

I remember reading about this in a magazine prior to its release. "This isn't going to work!", I thought. I mean lets be honest, the idea of turning The Lord of the Rings into a hack-and-slash game sounds a little crazy, right? Then I played the demo. Wow. While the narrative of the film remains intact thanks to excellent inter-spliced film clips, the game plays like a dream as you hack your way through goblins, orcs, Uruk-Hai and even the more exotic creatures throughout the film. Additionally, the following game, The Return of the King, which again follows the exact same concept as this game, is even better. Blending all of the elements that made the films epic, these games from EA remain one of the best and most authentic film-to-game adaptations to date.

The War in the North is another title that brings the hack-and-slash genre to the world of Middle Earth. However, this time it's a little more visceral, bloody and violent. The game doesn't follow the story of the film trilogy, but instead focuses on the northern regions of Middle Earth, and has the player undertake tasks that will aid in the War of the ring. It got a bit of a clobbering on release from the critics, but anyone willing to give it a go will find a fun game with stunning visuals, slick bloody combat and a more mature take on the franchise. It also contains cooperative multiplayer, which is incredibly fun when working together to take out an armoured cave troll!

Lego The Lord of the Rings - PS3/Xbox 360/Wii/PS Vita/DS/3DS/PC/iOS

After a whole slew of "Lego" games, it was The Lord of the Rings' turn into the world of block building. Helmed by TT Games, Lego The Lord of the Rings follows the story of all three films in the trilogy perfectly, and even uses the real casts dialogue right from the films. From exploring Hobbiton and destroying wooden carts to the epic battle of Helms Deep that results in smashing hundreds of Lego Uruk-Hai, Lego Lord of the Rings is a fantastic title that shouldn't be overlooked. Like the Lego games before it, you can also use various Lego pieces to make your own characters, and this leads to a massive amount of customization. Also, despite its completely Lego presentation, Lego Lord of the Rings looks, feels and sounds very authentic.

In my opinion this is probably the most under appreciated Lord of the Rings title. How The Third Age approaches exploring, battles, spells, weapons and armour customization is identical to what you've seen in Final Fantasy- identical. The story itself places you in a secret fellowship whose mission is to stay one step behind the fellowship that we see in the films. You're there to watch over them, and if need be, provide some assistance. This assistance happens now and again, and intersects directly with the plot of the films. The best example of this is when you help Gandalf try and defeat the Balrog, deep within the bowels of the mines of Moria. The fight in insanely epic, and with the authentic film soundtrack pumping through your speakers, you'll feel as if you're taking part in the film itself. It's basically The Lord of the Rings: Final Fantasy, and that alone should be enough for most of you to want to play it right now.

Aragorn's Quest didn't really get much press upon release. While it isn't exactly a fantastic game, it is quite an overlooked gem. The game opens with an older Samwise Gamgee sitting down with his children Frodo, Merry, Pippin and Elanor, and telling them the tale of Aragorn, who at this point is known as King Elessar. The game then flashes back to the events of the film trilogy, with gameplay being a blend of light exploration and sword fighting. Compared to the rest of the games on our list, Aragorn's Quest is a little lighter both in tone and visuals, but while it was aimed towards a younger audience, there's a lot of fun to be had here for all ages.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest - PS3/Xbox 360/PC/DS

At release this was the game on our list that was probably shit-canned the most. I don't get it though, as The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is actually pretty fun and lets you take control of all the different races of Middle Earth. Conquest is purely based on fast combat ranging from many different types of classes from quick and nimble Scouts, purely combat based Warriors, to Mages who are perfect for long ranged attacks. The battles you take part in are loosely based on the films, but much like the films each battle is expansive, hectic and thrilling. The game shines with the absolutely excellent battle of Pelennor Fields, which is on a pretty large scale and ends up being quite faithfully adapted as to what we saw in the film.

You've probably never even heard of this. This little gem was released on the PSP to no fanfare, cheap box-art and graphics that were a little substandard even for the PSP. However, it's actually a pretty great game that everyone has overlooked. Like most games based on The Lord of the Rings franchise, the player has to take part in certain key battles during the trilogy. But in Tactics the battles take place on a grid overlaying each level, and moving your characters around this grid, building up a defence and ultimately attacking equates to a game that feels like chess. It's slow paced, but you'll find yourself planning routes, working out which enemies to dispatch first and enjoying the change in pace compared to other games on this list.

This is an interesting one. Before EA got their shit together and started cashing into the film franchise, Surreal Software quickly put into development a game adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring. However, it wasn't based upon the first film in the Peter Jackson trilogy, but instead based upon the original novel by Tolkien. It's a completely different take on gameplay compared to everything else featured on this list, but it successfully combines exploration, action and stealth into a nice- if flawed- little package. It's also very overlooked which is a shame, as there's fun to be had, if even for the beautifully crafted world that's presented here and the music that breaths life into it.

I hate real-time strategy games. Well, apart from the obvious exceptions (Command and Conquer I'm looking at you!), I find them quite tedious and boring. So I approached The Battle for Middle Earth with some hesitation. However during the first mission, which opens with a narration from Gandalf himself, my opinion completely changed. The Battle for Middle Earth is absolutely incredible, and lets the player partake in the War of the Ring; various campaigns and battles in a bid to destroy the forces of Mordor. The player can also take part in a completely separate campaign in which they take control of the forces of Mordor itself. These two campaigns are extremely different, and give the game a great sense of re-playability. And yes, you get to attack The Shire during the evil campaign, a mission in which you drive out or kill the hobbits and morph the once sleepy town into a landscape the dark lord himself would be proud of.

And lastly, did you ever want to actually be in Middle Earth? Did you ever want to stroll through Hobbiton or reach the cold heights of the Misty Mountains? Well now you can. Aside from The World of Warcraft, The Lord of the Rings Online is one of the best massively multiplayer online role-playing games out there, and lets you venture through the lands of Middle Earth, all the while interacting with countless players from across the world. The best part about it? It's completely free to download on the developers official website. There are expansion packs to buy such as The Mines of Moria, but even at its most basic The Lord of the Rings Online is a treat any Middle Earth fan shouldn't pass up.

Denis Murphy

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