The Struggle To Bring The Lord Of The Rings To Video Games

Re-imagining Middle-earth.


In 1951, fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote a letter to his friend at Collins Publishing expressing his goal to create a "body of more or less connected legend." It would be a world with myths and folklore of its own, comprising thousands of years of imagined histories.

Today, we know that place as Middle-earth. During Tolkien's life, he witnessed many attempts to adapt his fantasy universe to other media--poets, illustrators, stage actors, and filmmakers all had their own vision for The Lord of the Rings and took their own artistic liberties while bringing it to life. Tolkien liked some, despised others, and at the time of his death in 1973, had seen the the influence of Middle-earth leave England and spread across the world.

Now here we are today, days before the release of Middle-earth: Shadow of War. It's a sequel in a series and the third Lord of the Rings game Monolith has made. While adapting Tolkien's world to fit a medium that barely existed when he was alive, Monolith has had to tackle their fair share of obstacles, straddling the line between making a fun game and remaining faithful to the source material. The line wasn't always clear.

During our recent trip to Kirkland, Wash., we sat down with several members from the Shadow of War team to dive into that adaptation process. They discussed the creative liberties they took with The Lord of the Rings license, why they chose Mordor as the setting for their open-world sandboxes, and how their famed Nemesis System sets these entries apart from the slew of Tolkien-licensed games that came before them.

This feature video is one of several planned from GameSpot in the coming days. Stay tuned for a more in-depth History of The Lord of the Rings games, as well as our review for Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and more.

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