PC/Mac/Linux
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System requirements: OS: Windows 98/2000/ME/XP CPU: 800 MHz RAM: 256 MB HDD: 2 GB Video: 32 MB AGP DirectX 9 Compatible NVIDIA GeForce or ATI Radeon Sound: DirectX 9 compatible sound card Age: Teen

War of the Ring is a strategy game based on the highly popular Lord of the Rings books by J. R. R. Tolkien. Unlike other Lord of the Rings games based on the new movies, War of the Ring was made by Vivendi Universal, which has rights to the book. In this game, you play two campaigns, one as good, one as evil. War of the Ring provides you with beautiful graphics and environments, as well as nice music to accompany the gameplay. However, the game doesn?t differ very much from other strategy games. But we?ll weigh out the pros and cons of this game and see if its standard strategy game feel is redeemed by its other qualities.

Gameplay

War of the Ring was a very enjoyable gaming experience for me. The game offers a decent amount of units, each one specializing in a certain tactic. You can use fast Warg Riders for a hit-and-run attack on an enemy base, or use invisible Elven Archers for an ambush. Another variable that will come into your battle plan is the Weapon Wheel. Piercing is good versus blunt, blunt is good versus cutting, cutting is good versus piercing, and hero weapons are good against all. Certain abilities will come in handy in battle as well. My personal favorite is the spiders? ability to paralyze with every attack. As mentioned, certain units can become invisible to. You?ll have to counter these units with detectors. A well-rounded army, along with a few special strategies, is the best army in War of the Ring.

One thing about War of the Ring I found was that numbers aren?t as important as good units and planning. The population cap seems to fill up pretty fast, and I often find myself planning out my whole army ahead of time to fit in the limit. If you build a bunch of Gondorian swordsman, and only that, you?ll have some trouble. If you build too many powerful, high population-consuming units, you?ll run low on people. The population cap is one of my bigger complaints about the game, but it isn?t that much of a problem. An interesting feature in War of the Ring is ?Fate?. Fate is acquired by battling. Every time your units battle with the enemy, you?ll get little bits of fate which eventually add up into Fate Points.

You can do three things with Fate Points: summon heroes, teach hero abilities, and activate Fate Powers. The majority of your available heroes will cost fate. All heroes start with one ability, but the rest cost fate points. These abilities are definitely worth purchasing. One of Aragorn?s extra abilities is ?Anduril?, which gives him +10 attack. As you see, these abilities are very useful. Fate Powers give you an advantage on the battlefield, and are sort of like extra-powerful hero abilities. Fate Powers vary in cost and power, from the cheap ?Summon Bog?, which slows down your enemies, to the expensive ?Summon Giant Ent?, which calls an enormous, super-powerful ent to fight for you. Fate Powers can change the outcome of a battle if used correctly. As well as fighting over resources, you and your enemy will battle over ?Places of Power?, which give you a slight edge. When controlled by a player, that team gets an advantage specific to the Place of Power. You may get +1 attack or cheaper upgrades. While Places of power are not extremely important to the game, they add a little spice to the game. As you play through the campaigns, you may grow tired of the slight repetitiveness of the missions. Most are your average build-a-base-an?-blow-?em-up levels. Although some levels will vary a little, it?s pretty much standard skirmishing. One level, however, that I found was quite a challenge, was in the Good Campaign. It involved defeating a Balrog, a giant fiery demon. It gave me a run for my money and took a few times to beat.

Graphics

War of the Ring has SPECTACULAR graphics. If you?ve played Battle Realms, you?ll recognize some similarities. Both games were created by Liquid Entertainment. I think this is one of the most beautiful strategy games I?ve ever played. Every level reflects Middle Earth with stunning trueness to the books. Mirkwood is dark and filled with enormous trees. Lothlorien is bright and beautiful. It features platforms that your units can climb and fire from. One terrain I enjoyed was the Iron Hills, home of the dwarves. It was steep and rolling, and had boulders on cliffs that could be pushed down onto enemy bases. I think the most well-done map was Osgiliath, which was a war-torn city. Orcs hide in buildings, firing from the upper-floors. Not only were the specific locations nice, everyday details were pretty. Some areas had tall grass that swayed and brushed aside as your units walked through. The water is great as well, and it even has little fish swimming in it! The units are very well-done too. They fidget and do little animations too. Dwarf Shieldbreakers pound their shields with their hammers, and Warg Riders bang their clubs together. The units also look great in battle. I zoomed down to one of my Orc Archers and watched him pullout an arrow, aim, and fire in smooth motions. I think the graphics are probably one of the best things in War of the Ring.

Sound

Sound in War of the Ring is pretty good too. The clang of swords and weapons adds a realistic feel to the battles, as well as the yells of the units. Sometimes when you tell a group to attack, they?ll shout a warcry. Once they?re fighting, they do what I call ?battle-talk?. Orc Slashers yell ?What?s inside it?s belly??, and rangers will say ?So fall the corrupt!?. A nice soundtrack accompanies the game as well, featuring music that resembles that of the films. You may not notice it much as you play, but if you stop to listen for a minute, you?ll find it?s pretty nice.

Appropriateness

Alright, here?s where most games meet their downfall in CCGR reviews. Now, if you?ve got any clue what Lord of the Rings is, you?ll know there?s going to be violence. There is, as well as blood. Units will fall over when they die and sink into a pool of blood (not always red, however). On every unit, there?s a kill list. If that unit has at least one kill, they will have specks of blood on their weapon. The good thing about this all is that you won?t notice most of it in the heat of battle, as well as the fact that the units are pretty small. The violence didn?t really bother me, but I felt I should put this in, because there?s a considerable amount of it. Another aspect that may bother some people is the evil side of the game. Tolkien was a devout Christian (Catholic to be exact), but he portrays evil rather, well, evilly. You can use Nazgul, corrupt humans who were tricked by Sauron into taking rings of power. They are now his evil servants, neither living or dead. Orcs also, are pretty nasty. They are stunted, evil-looking beasts that hate all things good. The Orc Slasher will sometimes say ?I crave flesh!?.

There is also magic in the game, but nothing particularly evil or occult-like. I don?t know if this bothers people, but I decided I put it in. If you know a lot about Lord of the Rings, it shouldn?t bother you too much. Another thing I might add is the evil Fate Powers. One is ?Murder of Crows?, in which crows defend your units from ranged attacks by taking the attacks. Another is ?Obelisk?. This one kind of puzzled me, as it was never mentioned, nor anything like it portrayed in the book. When you use it, a giant obelisk spikes out of the ground and absorbs your units? damage. There is nothing sex-related in war of the Ring. However, one evil hero, Saleme, wears a kind of tight top, but there is nothing revealing.

Stability

The game runs pretty smoothly. It never froze on me, but it does get a little choppy in some levels. I had it on high settings though.

Conclusion

War of the Ring is an overall good game. What it lacks in originality it makes up for in graphics and enjoyable gameplay. The online play doesn?t have a whole lot to offer, as there are not very many people online. I however, love playing the game with my friends. If you?re looking for a whole different kind of strategy game, I wouldn?t recommend this game. But if you just want to have some fun, or if you are a fan of Lord of the Rings, I think you?ll enjoy this game.

Final Ratings

Gameplay: B++ Graphics: A+ Sound: B Interface: B- Appropriate: C+

Overall B

About the Author

Cheryl Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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