The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring has only been in development for around seven or eight months, but at a press event in Berlin this week we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the game in its current state. In fact, what we saw of the game amounted to little more than a single map on which the forces of good and evil were busy doing battle, but this was more than enough to arouse our interest.
The map itself was relatively featureless at this stage of development but boasted some great grass textures and trees, which were occasionally shadowed by the suggestion of clouds passing overhead. More impressive still were the character models on display, which, although unfinished, bore more than a passing resemblance to the colorful, stylized units of Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
There are basically only two factions in War of the Ring–good and evil–and we were lucky enough to see a few units from each in action, including dwarves, dark riders, and a character able to transform into a bear. In the single-player game, choosing to assume control of the forces of good will mean playing Warcraft III-style missions in which you have to complete objectives using a largely predetermined party of characters. The evil campaign missions, however, will incorporate more traditional RTS gameplay as you set out to amass a large army and then put it to good use.
According to Marcus Lindblom, the game’s producer, War of the Ring isn’t being designed as a hard-core real-time strategy game, but rather more as an RTS that will be accessible and fun for both strategy fans and fans of The Lord of the Rings who might never have played a strategy game before. With this in mind, Liquid Entertainment hopes to incorporate a variable difficulty level for the single-player game in which the strength of the enemy will be automatically determined by how well you are doing and, for example, by how quickly you are managing to build units.
Every unit in the game will gain experience points as they participate in battles, and all are based on characters that can be found in Tolkien’s Middle-earth, even if they’re mentioned only once in the books. This is also true of some of the missions in the game, with epic battle scenes being based on, in some cases, no more than a single sentence from Tolkien. In multiplayer games it will be possible to pit the forces of good and evil against their own kind, but in order to stay true to the books there are apparently a number of events that will never be allowed to transpire–hobbits attacking other hobbits being one of the examples mentioned.
The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring is currently scheduled for release in 2004. We’ll bring you more information on the game as it becomes available.