The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring impressions

We check out Liquid Entertainment's real-time strategy game based on Tolkien's novels.

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Liquid Entertainment, the development team behind Battle Realms, was on hand at the recent Vivendi Universal pre-E3 press event to show off its latest project, The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring. As the name suggests, War of the Ring is a real-time strategy game set against the backdrop of Middle-earth. As such, the game features many of the characters from Tolkien's novels, including Aragorn and Legolas, both of which are hero units that possess special abilities that the generic units don't have.

For example, Legolas has a special long-range attack called true shot that lets him fire a single arrow at an enemy that pushes the enemy back when it makes contact. This particular skill proved to be useful in one scenario we were shown, in which Legolas and a group of elves ran into a small gang of goblins while they were tracking down Gollum. By using true shot, Legolas pushed individual goblins into a small body of water located just behind them, killing them in the process. In this same mission, Legolas came across an assortment of rather large spiders that had captured some rangers. Not only did he have to destroy the spiders and the hatching spider eggs, but he also had to rescue his allies.

One of the other missions in the game sets a relatively large army of elves and humans against a group of trolls and orcs. The main objective of this mission isn't to obliterate the enemy army, but rather to buy enough time to allow some of your units to destroy a large bridge. This is a little more difficult than it may seem, because not only do you have to deal with individual enemy units running across the bridge, but you also have to watch out for boulders being thrown by trolls by from the cliffs above. Earlier missions in the game won't be quite as complicated, but it appears that quite a few of them will require you to destroy a specific enemy object before being able to move on to the next area.

Interestingly, War of the Ring has been designed with simplicity in mind. However, the game has all the conventions of a standard real-time strategy game, including structure and unit construction and resource gathering. Most of the simplicity is found in other aspects of the game, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the game will be easy or short. In fact, there will be two single-player campaigns in the game--one focusing on good and the other focusing on evil. Each campaign will have around 10 to 15 missions. One particularly cool part about the evil campaign is that you can summon various sorts of creatures, including the enormous flame-engulfed balrog, which cracks the ground with every step it takes.

The balrog also shows off some particularly nice smoke effects, which are just a couple of the many visual touches that Liquid Entertainment is including in the game. When characters walk through tall grass or water, these environmental objects will change dynamically to reflect that. In general, the environments and the characters are all very colorful and vibrant, almost giving the game a visual style similar to that of Warcraft III. There's still some work that needs to be done on the engine, including some optimization, but otherwise it looks as though the game is pretty far along from a visual standpoint.

We'll have more on The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring in the coming weeks. The game is currently scheduled to ship in Q1 2004

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