Reminiscing About Video Games Based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Vol II

A while back I waxed nostalgic about some of the video games I’ve enjoyed in the past that were set in the fantasy world created by my favourite author, J. R. R. Tolkien, and as a playful nod to the fact that both the SNES game The Lord of the Rings, Vol I and Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings animated film never got their promised sequels, I titled the post Reminiscing About Video Games Based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Vol I. Wouldn’t it be funny, I thought to myself, if I never got around to writing a Volume II? But then I remembered that I don’t bother making meta jokes anymore. Nobody ever gets them.

So here’s Vol II. I hope you enjoy this post as much as the first one. But if you didn’t bother reading that one and don’t intend to, let me just preface this with a repeat of the disclaimer: There have been a lot of these, and there may even be one or two I don’t know about, so I’m not going to endeavour to cover them all. Instead I’ll just invite you to add your own in the comments if I left any of your favourites out. Also, I’ll be talking about the PlayStation 2 versions of these games, since that’s the console I played them on.

[image description: screenshot of gameplay in the PS2 version of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Frodo Baggins fights Old Man Willow. His health meter is on the top left, his purity meter on the top right. (Fair Use)]

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2002)

Even though this game was released well after the first film in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it isn’t related to the movies, instead being based on the book. This is because, according to Wikipedia, “at the time, Vivendi, in partnership with Tolkien Enterprises, held the rights to the video game adaptations of Tolkien’s literary works, whilst Electronic Arts held the rights to the video game adaptations of the New Line Cinema films”. This is one of the game’s definite strong points. For one thing, we get Tom Bombadil! And while the plot necessarily deviates from the one in the book at times, mostly by adding conversations that never happened, it isn’t peppered with huge nonsensical changes such as the ones that plagued the Peter Jackson films. It’s really like stepping into the book and becoming Frodo Baggins on the eve of his departure from the Shire, and as I recall I got a lot of enjoyment out of exploring the gameworld, interacting with all of its characters, and just basking in the general feeling of immersion in this detailed fantasy world I’ve loved since I was a child.

I also really enjoy games that require stealth, ever since Thief: The Dark Project, so I was able to appreciate the parts in which Frodo and his companions are obliged to sneak past the Black Riders. Unfortunately, the game received mixed reviews, and though a second and even third title were planned, these were eventually nixed, turning this into yet another one-shot that never got its promised sequel. And why? Because of the enormous popularity of EA’s The Two Towers and later The Return of the King, which were based on the New Line Cinema films. And I’ll discuss those next, together rather than separately since they are so similar, but frankly they weren’t anywhere near as good, being for the most part just boring repetitive hack-and-slash action games rather than the kind I prefer, which offer a healthy balance between roleplaying/exploration and action/adventure, like this one.

One of the more interesting features of this game is the Purity Meter which accompanies the Health Meter. While the latter does what you’d expect it to do, depleting when Frodo is subject to attacks that wound him and filling up again when you receive some sort of healing, such as in the form of edible mushrooms, the Purity Meter is affected by such actions as putting on the One Ring. It’s basically a measure of how much the power of the Dark Lord has corrupted the Ringbearer, and can only be restored under certain circumstances, such as encounters with non-evil magical beings like Bombadil, who wields a power in opposition to the Shadow. If Frodo’s Purity Meter does happen to be drained, he will become a wraith. The result is that his use of the Ring is very limited, making it so he can’t always put it on in order to turn invisible and thereby escape the servants of the Enemy, or if he does, he can only do so for a short amount of time.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring [FULL GAME]
[image descripton: cover art for the EA video games the lord of the rings: the two towers (2002) and the return of the king (2003). Copyright EA Games. (Fair Use)]

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003)

I’m afraid I don’t have much to say about these games that I haven’t already said. Obviously loads of people enjoyed them and I must admit it was exciting at first to be able to play characters from the Peter Jackson films. But it quickly became disappointing when it all just boiled down to constantly fighting off seemingly endless waves of enemies, requiring some serious button-mashing that could only be kept up for a limited amount of time before all of the muscles and bones in my hands and wrists began to ache and my fingers started to cramp and stiffen up, until finally I just couldn’t continue playing anymore and had to rest for days. And just in case you think I might be exaggerating, I hereby offer into evidence Exhibit A:

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Game – Expert Difficulty Playthrough
[image description: the hobbit (2003) video game box/cover art copyright Inevitable Entertainment and Vivendi Universal. (Fair use)]

The Hobbit (2003)

I have a distinct memory of trying this game out at least once when it first came out, but I don’t think I ever owned it. You see, back then you could still rent video games from Blockbuster, and I’m pretty sure that’s what I did in this case, which is why I can only recall the very beginning of the game. I remember finding it a bit ridiculous, which would explain why I didn’t end up purchasing it.

The Hobbit (2003) Full Game Playthrough
[image description: cover art for the 2004 EA video game the lord of the rings: the third age. Copyright EA Games (Fair Use).]

The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (2004)

If you love roleplaying games like Final Fantasy, you’ll probably enjoy The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. Much of it consists of third-person exploration in an immersive 3D environment, but with turn-based combat encounters. In my opinion it remains to this day one of the best video games based on The Lord of the Rings, and certainly the best one based on the Peter Jackson films (that I’ve actually played). Just writing this makes me wish I could play it again, just for the sheer joy of immersion in its beautifully rendered, well-developed three-dimensional world; especially since I have so many fond memories of playing it with my mother, may she rest in peace.

Oh yeah, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before… she may have started late in life, but my mother was an avid gamer, ever since she bought me my first console (a ColecoVision with the Atari 2600 expansion). Among her favourite games were Lady Bug, Ms. Pac-Man, Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, and Majora’s Mask, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance I & II. We used to play the latter two together cooperatively, but I also had a separate save for each that I could use if she was sleeping or otherwise unavailable for play, because that’s how much I loved those freaking games. A similar situation arose with The Third Age. I loved that game so much at first that I couldn’t always wait for my mother to join in for our usual cooperative gameplay, and yet I couldn’t very well advance our shared game without her, so eventually I started over by myself using a separate save file. Then one terrible morning–I recall it all too vividly–I accidentally saved over our shared game with the new solo one I’d started!

[image description: animated gif of a horrified child screaming]

I couldn’t believe it. I could’ve kicked myself. We’d gotten so far, and now it was all gone in an instant! In my defence, in most games the latest save is always at the top of the list, and that’s what I was used to. In this one, however, the saved games were always presented in the order they were originally created, making it all too easy to just automatically click through the save menu unthinkingly and thus inadvertently save over the wrong (and in this case always the oldest) save file. Anyway, despite being a grown man in my thirties, when I had to break the news to my mother about what I’d done I was practically in tears. But she just laughed and said, “It’s okay. We’ll just have to start over again from the beginning.” So we did, and eventually we made it back to where we were and beyond, and had a lot of fun along the way. I don’t remember when I stopped playing or why, but I think it finally became too frustratingly difficult for me. However, I do recall–because she would never let me live it down–that my mother went on to beat the game all by herself.

The Lord of the Rings – The Third Age – Disc 1, Part 1

Published by striderlee

Dungeon Master, homebrewer, foodie, bibliophile, and fantasy author. He/Him

2 thoughts on “Reminiscing About Video Games Based on The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Vol II

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