The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring Review
War of the Ring is a competent, if lackluster, effort that will probably appeal to Middle-earth fans and casual gamers who haven't played a lot of real-time strategy before.
Frodo? Check. Gandalf? Check. Balrog? Big check. It looks like the entire gang made it for The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring, Vivendi Universal's real-time strategy game set in J.R.R. Tolkien's seminal Middle-earth. It's not hard to imagine that Vivendi and developer Liquid Entertainment hoped to cash in on the Lord of the Rings craze with the release of this game. Unfortunately, despite the presence of some recognizable characters, that's what the game ends up feeling like. War of the Ring has gameplay that could have been lifted straight out of any generic fantasy-themed real-time strategy game from several years ago.
War of the Ring is split into two 10-mission campaigns, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the epic conflict from both sides. Playing the good campaign explains how it was that Legolas, Gimli, and Boromir all managed to show up at Rivendell just in time to join the Fellowship of the Ring. Meanwhile, the evil campaign tells how the forces of Sauron managed to break out of Mordor and besiege the city of Minas Tirith.
The game conforms to the traditional real-time strategy model that you've probably seen and played before. You start off with a handful of units and must immediately establish a base and begin collecting the game's two resources: wood and ore. Then you start churning out units while you pursue the upgrade path on the research tree. When you've finally amassed a large enough force, it's time to venture out and attack the enemy. It's a tried-and-true formula that does offer visceral thrills when you crush your opponent, and, if done right, it's a formula that can be very challenging and rewarding.
The problem is that War of the Ring suffers from a limp artificial intelligence and bland level design. In essence, the easiest path to victory is to simply outproduce your opponent. The end result is that beating most missions involves hunkering down in a defensive position and researching all the upgrades you researched in the last mission just so you can pump out the game's uberunits. Churn out about a dozen of these, lasso them with the mouse, and click on the enemy's base. Sit back, relax, and repeat the process in the next mission.
At the default difficulty level, the AI is ridiculously easy to beat in the good campaign. For the majority of the missions, all it does is send token raiding parties your way every few minutes, just to keep you honest. These raids are easily beaten back, and they never escalate in scale or threat to you. This behavior is puzzling considering that in skirmish mode, the same default AI is actually pretty aggressive and will stomp you if you're not careful. You can't help but get the feeling they've nerfed the good campaign so that it appeals to casual players. However, if you want more of a challenge, you have to play the evil campaign, which was made for veteran players. There the levels are designed in a way that force you to venture out early to locate and secure secondary outposts that you must then defend. More importantly, the AI plays a much more aggressive game. The end result is that you experience some very harrowing missions, especially a defend-the-Alamo-style battle where your orcs have to repulse consecutive waves of Gondor horsemen.
The developers did add a twist to the real-time strategy formula, which they called "fate." Basically, this can be thought of as a karmic system of sorts. The more damage you inflict on the enemy, the more fate points you're rewarded. You can use individual fate points to acquire bonuses for your heroes, like getting Frodo his sword Sting, or you can even use them to recruit a new hero, like Aragorn. The real treat happens if you save up a large reservoir of fate points. Then you can cast some epic spells that play a decisive role in combat, such as the "murder of crows" spell, which summons a swarm of the black birds to encircle your units, absorbing all missile attacks. By using another spell, you can summon a gigantic creature, like the Balrog.
- Player Reviews: 35
- Game Universe:
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (XBOX, GBA, PS2, PC),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PS2, GBA, XBOX, GC),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (PS2, XBOX, GC, PC, GBA),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (PS2, GC, XBOX, GBA),
- The Lord of the Rings, The Battle for Middle-earth II (PC, X360),
- The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (X360, PS3, PC, DS),
- The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest (WII, DS, PSP, PS2, PS3),
- The Lord of the Rings: War in the North (PS3, X360, PC),
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (MOBILE),
- The Lord of the Rings Online: Rise of Isengard (PC)
- Online Modes:
Competitive, Cooperative, Team Oriented
- Number of Players: