Where are all the Lord of the Rings RPGs on consoles?

The Lord of the Rings: Friendship of the Ring GBA Cover
Image: Vivendi

That year is 2002. Peter Jackson is about to release the second part in Lord of the Rings trilogy, EA already has the rights to the video game adaptations of the movies, and Vivendi is set to release its own console adaptation, not owned by New Line Cinema, but adapted directly from the whether the source was penned by Tolkien.

It’s hard to say that the motion picture trilogy is great. The fellowship was flawless, Howard Shore’s score is today considered one of the greatest of all time, and each film effectively serves Tolkien’s originality through its scope of construction. build their world. Even with a short run of 12 hours (expanded versions, of course), the films were never really able to capture the entire world of what Tolkien wrote.

This poses a significant challenge not only to filmmakers but also to video game developers, whether they adopt a film’s origin treatment or direct direction explicitly for rights reasons. profit. Vivendi (published under the label Black Label Games) needed to make a game that did Tolkien’s world justice. While the larger versions of Lord of the Rings: Friendship of the Ring on Xbox, Playstation 2, and PC following the usual action-adventure route, some serious tweaking was required to accommodate the Game Boy Advance’s dramatically reduced hardware capabilities. Vivendi needed a smaller game style to match Tolkien’s vast world and – with the direction of developer Pocket Studios – tackled an RPG with turn-based battles.

There is no doubt that with the dominance of action games at the time, the team would not hesitate to make a ‘The Lord of the Rings: Legolas’ Archery Battle FPS if they have the means. However, considering the prominence of role-playing and D&D in fantasy settings, and the success the GBA will have with titles like Fire Emblem, Sword of Mana And after that) Final Fantasy VI Advance, the decision to switch to RPG for mobile games seems obvious today. A cast of nine heroes sent on a journey through a vast world rich in lore and battles? Of course, an RPG is the way to go! Turn-based combat can only benefit this system further, showcasing each character’s unique skills and potential. Heroes close enough introduce us to a skill card at various times in the movies for crying out loud: ‘We dwarves are very dangerous for a short distance!

And yet, as we look back at the franchise’s console games on the 20th anniversary of Vivendi’s Fellowship of the Ring (GBA and Xbox versions), we can’t help but ask, where are all the LOTR RPGs? ?

Perhaps the GBA Vivendi game has finally freed the developers of console titles that are uncomfortable with the idea. Role-playing games seem like the perfect format for a series on paper, but – as this writer noticed when trying to personalize his GBA with biro in the early 2000s – Game Boy is not paper.

Relying (through necessity) on source material, GBA’s Fellowship of the Ring was supposed to provide a Tolkien fan interpretation that many felt the films failed to capture. This count, it failed. Full of bugs and with a combat system where players must watch each of their sides make a slow journey from the starting position, to the enemy, and back again before taking the next step Their game, to put it simply, is broken. (Watch the end of the video above to see what we mean.)

But this is not to say that there are not many good ideas in the GBA title. Turn-based combat is perfectly suited to a group of nine well-defined heroes, and the characters’ ability to upgrade their stats is right in the wheel of Tolkien’s fantasy – Mithril anyone?

Looking back 20 years, perhaps navigating the Lord of the Rings setting to create a great RPG on the Game Boy Advance would have been as difficult as the Hobbit’s trek through the snowy peaks of Caradhras. EA has licensed the movie-to-video game, and it’s taking a very different approach, with hack-and-slash style gameplay. A more accessible gameplay and clear links to big-screen stories – not to mention a much better quality production – means EA’s The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (released in the same year) and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was received much better commercially and critically on both the GBA and the GameCube, promoting real-time action-focused gameplay like the Middle-earth approach in video games.

One can still feel the stickiness of this method on consoles today, with 2014 Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor and 2017 Shadow of War continues EA’s swinging action into the world of Tolkien, with an intricate and innovative Nemesis system that helps set those games apart from more typical action killers. Heck, there’s even an argument made that people who like Skyrim and Elden Ring continues this exploration-based fantasy game model, wearing their Middle-earth connections proudly on their leash-covered sleeves.

However, even considering its mainstream success with more action-focused games, EA itself couldn’t resist the appeal of the turn-based format and released The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age on GBA and GameCube in 2004 and the like The Lord of the Rings: Tactics on the PSP in 2005. As a tactical RPG, EA’s two post-movie releases have substituted exploratory value for a more strategic paradigm (see video above). This means that while the game may not completely tied to the story of the film (you could play the Sorcerer King Angmar in Helm’s Deep), it proved that the battles of Middle Earth were a dream coupled with a penchant for planning, Trial and grotesque of the RPG(S) creature RPG.

EA’s RPG efforts have been better received than Vivendi’s Fellowship, and capitalize on something that seems obvious: Middle Earth is ripe for turn-based potential, tactical or otherwise.

Turn your leprechaun’s eye over the state of the game on LOTR consoles today, and the post-Shadow of Mordor RPG drought is evident, though the time to craft a game has never been better. The genre has never been more popular, The Lord of the Rings continues to go huge – Thank you, Bezos! – and turn-based combat has evolved far beyond the pitfalls of attack, *expansion animation*, receive, *expand animation*, repeat. Fellowship developers may have looked to Dragon Quest, or Final Fantasyor EarthBoundor any of the classic ’90s RPGs for pointers, but then we don’t imagine Pocket Studios has as much time or a Bezos-sized budget to work with.

Maybe now Embracer Group owns the rights to the Lord of the Rings total * creepy * change may occur. It is true, seeing a giant IP such as Middle Earth replaced by a consortium structure is not necessarily pleasant, however, as Gandalf poignantly noted, “It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the ending overcome all doubt. We don’t.” Perhaps open Middle Earth’s rights to Embracer’s 127 game companies (according to Wikipedia’s last count) will encourage dynasties to change and move away from EA’s less risky approach.

The pattern is already there if you look at the wider game world. Since the release of Pocket Studio’s Fellowship, the tactical gameplay yes were applied to Middle-earth by Cave Troll payloads, although they drove off the console like Nazgûl to the water. The Lord of the Rings: War, Journey in Middle-earth and countless others who have continued The Third Age’s tactical approach to the mobile franchise, and The Lord of the Rings: Online brings the open world aspect to PC in a complete MMORPG.

Looking at the shards of Narsil, it’s clear that there is a great sword somewhere, although in its current state you wouldn’t want to bring it into battle. So we can also look at these other non-console titles alongside Vivendi’s old GBA Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring – all the pieces are there to make a great Middle Earth RPG, all that is required is the skilled hand of an fairy swordsman (or game developer, the earliest capable) to transform it into something new. And, preferably available on Switch.

Just like Gandalf, looking through his scrolls in the wizard-y ring revision, we can consider something like Live A Live as a prime example of what a Fellowship-inspired Middle Earth game could look like in 2022. The turn-based battles, using Live A Live’s combo grid system, will leave Fellowship members to the fore. amazing. Wielding swords and torches while fighting Nazgûl on Weathertop? Yes, please! And the HD-2D style can be the perfect way to reference the original game while removing all its flaws – that is, if you want to polish up a game that wasn’t loved 20 years ago. Hey, redoing is all rage, isn’t it?

But why not push this idea further? Frodo did not reach the flames of Mount Doom by dreaming small, oh no, let’s think about the bigger picture here. What about a push into SRPG territory, where you play as King Theoden and take control of the battlefield in the battle of Helm’s Deep? With a boom in mainstream tactical RPG production following the rejuvenating success of Fire Symbol: Awakening In the West, you would think that a Lord of the Rings strategy game would be a dead thing by now.

Alas, on consoles they are few and far between. It could be the failure of Fellowship or (more likely) the success of Shadow of Mordor, the genre that LOTR Candlestick marriage has long been left at the bottom of the Middle-earth River, waiting for a curious hand to brush over it.

But what do you do about all this? Is The Lord of the Rings in dire need of a console RPG? Or will it make the musk material even better? Need more LEGO LOTR?

Fill out the polls below with your thoughts and then leave a comment to share what you think the game(s) will be like!

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