When it comes to Lord of The Rings games, there sure a lot of them out there. Right now, a lot of people are focusing on the recently released sequel Shadows of Mordor. In fact, the original Shadows game was lauded as the best LoTR game upon release. When it comes to officially licensed LoTR games, I think I’d have to go with Lord of The Rings Online. That game just felt so unique yet captured the feel of old-school MMOs so well. It contained a good mix of both old and new elements, and really let you get into the LoTR world and be the character you wanted to be.
Of course, licensed games aren’t the only Lord of The Rings games there are. There are plenty of unlicensed fan-made games, the most notable of which is Angband. This game was unique in that it was one of the first Roguelikes ever made. Originally released in 1990, Angband received various updates and became one of the most well-known fan-made games ever to be associated with the brand. It also inspired a ton of fan-games, including Tales of Middle-Earth.
You heard me right, there are fan-games of fan-games out there. Now we’re really getting complex! Tales of Middle-Earth took the original setting of the series and turned it on its head. It introduced more fantasy tropes, such as the ability to toss fireballs or travel through time. These elements clashed greatly against the universe LoTR was set in. Not only that, but the creator of the game (Who tends to go by the alias “Darkgod”) had to deal with copyright issues. Copyright issues are unfortunately the death of many a fan game.
However, DarkGod continued to work on the game and retooled into its own property that was free of copyright limitation: Tales of Maj’Eyal. Now free of the burdens of being a fan-game based off a copyrighted property, Tales was free to be its own game. This game was a fantasy nerd’s dream. It brought in so many fantasy tropes, and combined them into one game. Featuring a large open-world to explore, modes that let you turn off the perma-death option, many different bosses and enemies to encounter, as well as over 25 different character classes. Maj’Eyal might be one of the biggest RPGs ever, especially due to the fact that it has never been 100% completed.
The achievements for this game are so ludicrously difficult to obtain, to the point where no one has ever gotten close to completing it. It’s not impossible, but it’s a feat that is definitely hard to accomplish. It isn’t the challenge or the prospect of a game that can’t be 100% completed that brought me to it. No, it’s the large support behind this game. This game has such a large, yet strangely underground fan-base. There are a ton of glowing reviews for this game on Steam and people to this day still rave about how great it is.
After playing it for myself, I have to agree with them. There are so many options for making the kind of character you want. You want to be a mage? Go for it. How about a wizard who can manipulate time itself? Go for it. Wanna be a dwarf who is dual-wielding two different shields? Go for it, you magnificent crazy person. This is the kind of game that lets you do whatever you want, but within reason.
The game doesn’t shovel all its 25 classes onto you at once. You are given a fair bit out of the gate and have to unlock the rest later. Couple this with a Diablo-style combat system, and a surprisingly memorable soundtrack, and you get a game that really helps set itself apart from the rest. I want to do a proper review of this game one day, but not until I feel I’ve played enough of it. I’ve sunk maybe 8-10 hours into it, and I feel that’s not nearly enough for a game of this size and scope.
I want to get into this game during the summer and really play through all it has to offer. The concept of creating a character and having him fight through all these challenges with only one life (or many, depending on the mode I choose) to spare. In short, I want to get ready before I take my epic journey across this copyright-free Middle-Earth.