The Lord of the Rings

Title           The Lord of the Rings
Game Type       Adventure
Publisher       Electronic Arts (1991)
Players         1
Compatibility   OCS/AGA
HD Installable  Yes
Submission      Catherine Macdonald Profiled Reviewer

The theme of this game will be known to those familiar with the works of
J.R.R. Tolkien. However, for the two of you out there who aren't, it takes
place in the mythical world of Middle Earth, inhabited by diverse beings
such as little Hobbits, middle-sized Dwarves, (mostly) tall Humans and the
demi-Human Wizards, very tall Elves, variable-sized Goblins, Orcs and the
like. The major quest centres on an extremely powerful magical ring, part
of a set forged by ancient Elven smiths, for rather complex reasons. This
One Ring must be destroyed in Mount Doom, in Mordor, before the Dark Lord
Sauron gets his claws (probably literally) on it. This is the ultimate
object of, well, Part III of the game. As this is only Part I, I'm not
going to deprive you of the joys of discovery by telling you the object of
this part.

You start off with a Hobbit in The Shire, where there are plenty of tasks
to make you explore and deal with initial sub-plots. This is to let you
get the hang of how the game works. Be warned - this is the easiest bit
and it just gets harder. You control movement of a party of good guys -
The Fellowship of The Ring. These start out as 1 or 2, but can number up
to 10 at one time as you recruit, lose or dismiss characters. There are
many characters whom you cannot recruit (npc's) and many whom you'd rather
not try. So, adding to your party is not always that easy. Take good
care of the ones you have. The view is overhead as per e.g. "Ultima".
Movement is controlled by mouse or cursor keys (I prefer the latter).
Actions, use of skills etc. is icon-controlled with mouse or key. Areas
of travel/exploration are roads/paths, grasslands, woods/forests, bridges,
underground, undermountain and within buildings. If one member has the
skills, you can jump or climb many less accessible areas. You are usually
given some hint that this is an option, for example at ladders - or the
edge of pits!  Useful items are often rather difficult to obtain, and tend
to be integral to the many sub-plots. As is usual with adventure games,
you need to be patient with conversations, when you feel you're banging
your head against a stone wall meeting too many folk who seem to have
nothing worthwhile to say - take care not to miss those who do!  By far
the hardest thing to get is money, but once out of Bree and surrounding
villages, you don't need it. (There is the chance to effectively mug a
pair of Robbers just outside of Bree, if you're hard enough - and haven't
been eaten by Wolves. Didn't I mention Wolves? Wargs are worse. And there
are far worse things than Wargs.)

As far as making-friends-and-meeting-people is concerned, you'll find
Hobbits mostly friendly but of limited use (out with the 4 diminutive
heroes of the quest - read "Lord Of The Rings" the Book) Dwarves of
variable mood but mostly useful, very few Men (Humans) of use but the
important ones stick with you, a number of Elves who are very useful and
all Elves, apart from 1 or 2 grumpies in Lothlorien, are very, very nice.
As for the bad guys (Wolves, Wargs, Robbers, Barrow-wights, Goblins,
various Orcs, Trolls, Spiders (Giant variety) Sorcerers, Nazgul (Black
Riders or Ring Wraiths)) well, apart from a couple of Snaga (small Orcs)
just kill, kill, kill if you can. If you can't, then try to run away,
though this can sometimes be tricky. Oh, yes, we mustn't forget poor
Smeagol (aka Gollum) must we? (no, preciousss, we mussstn't - read the
Book). If you can catch him (you don't have a rope?  tsk, tsk) he is very
useful for a one-off to get you out of a fix. Then he nips off without a

So, how was it to play?  The difficulty level becomes pitched
moderate-to-high quite quickly. Combat can be a bit hit-and-miss (well,
OK, it would be wouldn't it?) - I mean you can miss close-up but hit from
2 paces: unpredictable at times. There is also quite a lot of wandering
around in some parts. The graphics for the characters work fine, you can
easily distinguish between types and the animation is smooth. Background
graphics, however, could use more variety - for example all woodlands tend
to look the same and can become monotonous to navigate. (Given that
Electronic Arts were the makers of "DeluxePaint", a bit more effort in the
graphics department is not unreasonable.)  There were few places to go
without event or encounter, though some did seem to be a pointless waste
of effort. This can be irritating, especially when the game is already in
a difficult phase. Oh, that reminds me of a major gripe I have - there
are only 2 save slots. Given the complexity of this game, I feel this is
unreasonable, when you've reached somewhere like Moria, for example, which
is full of perils and is tricky to navigate. Also, if you inadvertently
press the wrong key to the request for old/new game, on each start, you
lose both saved games!  Advice: have a few aptly-named directories on your
HDD to store a few past (and latest!) games. Also, be careful when you
save. You may find yourself at a point of no return (without restarting
the game from scratch - aaaaarrrrggghhh!!!!) if you've missed something
that you had to get in the previous area. For example, you're in Dol
Guldor and it's in Moria or Lothlorien. The manual warns that apparent
disaster is not necessarily a bad thing. Don't get too cosy with that -
there are enough disasters you can hit which do mean "Game Over, Man!"

Overall? A pretty tricky, but very absorbing game. At least it avoided
being too linear: You could complete the quest without having to do
things/meet people/go places in a strict order - well, mostly. If you can
stick with it, it's a cracker. Just a pity Part I closed with Electronic
Arts' departure from the Amiga.

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