Under the Mallorn Tree with Elbren - Upcoming Middle Earth Games and Adventures Past

Today is a great day. A GREAT day, mellyn! Today, my nephew asked ME for help with a computer game. Now, maybe only gamers (and possibly parents) will really understand my exalted GLEE at this request, but I'm gonna tell you about it anyhow.

My nephew began his gaming career at a wee young age thanks to yours truly. As soon as he could sit up in my lap, we were at the computer saving the universe together, (consoles, such as XBox and Playstation, had not yet been released, though we gave the old Atari PONG game a good go or two!)

As you can guess, in the last few years, (my nephew is now 15), I've been asking HIM for aid with game puzzles, secrets, or just gameplay in general. Eru bless him, he's always been willing to help me out, even after an afternoon full of incessant phone calls from Auntie Elbren! (He has, on occasion, suggested that perhaps I should purchase the game guide :).

So, today, I received a phone call where he was in need of my aid! I was grinning like a cheshire cat as I explained, in detail, what he needed to do in order to progress in the game. In fact, I repeated myself to make sure that he had gotten it. This, as you might guess, annoyed him a bit; one thing with gamers, especially young gamers, is that, unlike household chores or homework assignments, you only need tell them ONCE what to do in regards to gaming.

So, how is this related to Tolkien or Middle Earth? Well, my nephew isn't just my electronic gaming apprentice, (although he is now often the Master), he is also my LOTR apprentice. Our shared love of Tolkien and Middle Earth has also brought us together, more than once, in the new and fantastic world of Middle Earth gaming. I mean, for most of BOTH of our gaming careers, the selection of Middle Earth games has been, at best, scanty and poorly done, (largely due to the limitations of techonology).

And now, thanks in large part to Peter Jackson's movies, we have GREAT Middle Earth electronic games to play!  However, player beware:  Middle Earth, even in electronic medium, is still a dangerous place:  Case in point--I recall my family's horror at something that I did during our first play of Vivendi Universal's The Fellowship of the Ring XBox game: I was reviewing the game for Tolkien Online, our first time playing it, and when it became my turn, I had Frodo put on the One Ring while a Nazgul was nearby. I was doing this to see what would happen as part of the material for my review article. Well, let me tell you, the howls of disbelief that erupted not only from my nephew, but also from my onlooking niece and sister, were terrifying!


"Uh...I just did it to see what would--"


The controller was promptly whisked from my hands, and I was forbidden from playing Frodo again.

I am still scarred from the episode.

But it did teach me a lesson; mainly, don't play LOTR games around my screeching sister and her family. However, it also taught me that EVEN Midde Earth gaming is something akin to "hallowed" ground for Tolkien fans.

In the upcoming months, in fact, we have quite a few MORE Middle Earth electronic games to keep us adventuring away in Middle Earth. I've already played the demo and written a review for (what promises to be yet another spectacular) Electronic LOTR game: The Return of the King. This game will cover ALL gaming platforms, (PC and console), and will once again take full advantage of the digital images from Peter Jackson's LOTR films.

I will also have a VERY sneak preview of the post ROTK adventure game from EA very soon! I've been given the privilege of interviewing EA LOTR Game Director, Steve Gray, and I intend to take full advantage of my time with him! For those not aware, the next game after EA's Return of the King was to be entitled Trilogy, and Neil Young spoke to me about it last year; but, things have changed in a year's time and Gray now tells me, "It's going to be much more of a pure game, and not so much of a movie game. However it will very much be based in, and look like, Peter Jackson's vision of Middle earth. It will have many new features ...."

Sorry, I can't reveal those features just yet....soon, I promise!!  And you WILL drool!

I've also played the demo for Vivendu Universal/Sierra's new game, War of the Ring. The concept art is gorgeous, as is the official website, http://www.warofthering.com/, and the game is supposed to be "book based". Now, VU took A LOT of criticisms last year when they released their Fellowship of the Ring game that had some very-not-so-book-based elements, but, really, all in all it was a good game. They have a VERY highly anticipated MMORPG in the works that is to be called Middle Earth Online, but I haven't been privy to the gameplay of MEO itself.

Yet, that is.

War of the Ring is indeed VERY "Warcrafty"; whereas that's a problem, it seems, for some Tolkien fan gamers, it was not and is not for me. I like Warcraft. The music for War of the Ring is good, the atmosphere feels very Middle Earth-y to me, and I even like the war cries of your heroes in the demo, (Legolas, "LET FLY!")

 With Legolas, you are in Mirkwood searching for the recently escaped Gollum. Yep, you guessed it, lotsa spiders. The Elven archers are quite powerful and handled the spiders with few losses; we ALMOST got hold of Gollum, but I understand that we can't well do that...it would be going against the canon of the books! Yea, VU!

The Dwarven adventure was a bit tougher for me, and I kept hearing the voice tell me that "Your Dwarves Have Failed". Yes, I'm a Gimli Killer, it seems. The Dwarven adventure is a little...non-bookish in that you're having to recover and repair a powerful Dwarven siege weapon and then go and wipe out a buncha orcs that have set up camp near the Lonely Mountain. With the Dwarves, you get to build some things, and yea, it's very Warcrafty.

The point is, though, I think, we have some GREAT Middle Earth games to play now! Even better, we have games to look foward to playing! Heck, if they keep making'em, we'll keep buying'em; and if we keep buying'em, they'll keep making'em! How great is that?

Well, as my nephew would tell me, it rocks.

VU/Sierra's War of the Ring: http://www.warofthering.com/middleearth.jsp

EA's Return of the King: http://www.eagames.com/official/lordoftherings/returnoftheking/



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