The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth Review – Not Quite Epic

The Good

No deep rule set to master.

Combat can be skipped.

The Bad

Does a poor job explaining some of the mechanics.

Requires grinding for progress to be made.

Combat isn't exciting.

On the 25th of October in the year 3018 of the Third Age, at the Council of Elrond, Boromir of Gondor, Lord of Winterfell and betrayer of James Bond, sagely spoke, “One does not simply walk into Mordor.” Well, I’m almost positive that is exactly what I am doing in The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth. Collecting a handful of Tolkien-inspired heroes, my party and I are trekking from Hobbiton and heading westward, probably to Mordor.

Notice I said, “probably.” I actually had no concrete idea what my objective was as I started my journey in The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth. Gandalf was around at the beginning, giving his best impression of Clippy, but after about ten minutes he vanished and I was on my own. The Help section in the settings presented me with a few definitions for the game’s vocabulary, but nothing vital like what the difference between Enhancing and Evolving is.

The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth Review

I took my curiosity with me to the game’s store page and discovered that the game currently only allows me passage through Eriador, (a region that encompasses the Shire, Rivendale, and Bree-land— thanks Wikipedia) and that Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor will be introduced sometime in the future.

But that still does not answer my original question: what am I doing? Do I have the One Ring and am I on my way to destroy it? Am I just recreating the events seen in The Lord of the Rings, but with my own fellowship? It’s a little odd that this was never defined, seeing as how the game is self-describing itself as the “The official game for The Lord of the Rings™ Trilogy”.

Mystery story aside, The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth involves putting together a fellowship of unlikely adventurers, who are on a quest to do something important. Players start out by selecting their leader and from there they pick up stragglers that they find while journeying westward. Humans, Elves, Dwarves, and Hobbits all can be found and added to the roster of heroes.

Most characters I did not recognize; some because they are obscure characters from the novels, and others because they do not exist outside of the game. The rare and powerful characters are the ones fans are largely familiar with: Frodo, Merry, Pippin, Boromir, Arwen, and so on. These characters are unlocked using Summon Stones (very slowly earned) or Mithril (which is purchased using real-world currency). Summoning Charms (earned much easier than Stones) can also be used to summon lesser heroes.

For every two-thousand Summoning Charms, players get ten randomly selected heroes. I received eight one-star heroes, one two-star hero, and one three-star hero during my first transaction.

By comparison, Merry and Pippin (my only two rare heroes), are four star heroes.

The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth Review

The game is broken into regions that players adventure through by way of a slowly progressing series of 3D foregrounds, placed in front of a static image of blurry background scenery. It looks as awful as it sounds. Every “step” forward down the pathway depletes a bit of stamina, and each movement comes with the risk of an enemy encounter or the chance at coming across a new hero.

Combat involves your fellowship going head-to-head against the enemy party. Your team will go first, any character combos (based on who you select to be in each team) get thrown up first, before the basic attack occurs. Then the enemy attacks in typical RPG fashion. The combat animations leave a bit to be desired, but when the developers have decided to work with static imagery, there is only so much that can be done. Hearthstone does a nice job with static combat animations…Legends of Middle Earth does not: your team darts forward, there is a spark on the enemy team and their damage meter slides down a few numbers. That’s as exciting as it gets.

Eventually, you’ll hit a roadblock in the form of a boss. To move on to the next region the boss must be slain. I had no trouble with the first region’s boss, but the second region’s boss has me stuck. I zipped through every enemy encounter (which you can skip altogether to save time…it’s almost as if the developers pitied the player knowing how dull the combat encounters are) up until Grishnakh the Orc.

The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth Review

After being brutally slain, I went back through all the previous areas and picked up the heroes I missed on my first run-through. Any double heroes I evolved together, and any weaker heroes I used to enhance some of my medium-powered heroes. Then I went back to face Grishnakh: he still one-shot killed every team I had.

I went back again and farmed the previous regions for experience (every step nets a bit of experience) and to collect doubles of heroes so I could further power them up. I did this for a good chunk of time, enhanced and evolved my team, and still no luck — though I did manage to get Grishnakh down below half-health, which is progress.

It appears that the way to play Legends of Middle Earth is to focus on farming a region for doubles of the heroes you have in your fellowship teams (you can have up to three teams of four heroes), enhance, evolve, rinse, and repeat.

The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth Review

The player-vs-player arena mode offers a decent distraction from the grind of questing, but the excitement is short-lived when you realize that you’re usually outmatched two-thirds of the time and need to go back to farming for experience and doubles. Though the Arena mode is a good way to test out how different character combinations work together.

If you love Lord of the Rings and can put up with the grind that is needed to get an A+ Fellowship, then you’ll probably have a decent time with The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth. As much as I love the Lord of the Rings, I just wasn’t having that much fun with the game. A license like The Lord of the Rings demands an epic experience. Legends of Middle Earth is far from epic. It’s simply ‘okay.’

Need some help making your way through Middle-earth? Be sure to read Gamezebo’s The Lord of the Rings: Legends of Middle-earth Tips, Cheats and Strategies.

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