The rest of the game consisted of two areas--Lorien and Dol Guldur--and I confess that I rushed them a bit. There were just a few too many encounters and puzzles.
When we exited Moria, almost immediately Frodo got whisked away by the Witch-King through some unclear mechanism. Someone remarked that he was probably taken to "Dol Guldur." Sam also disappeared. I assume if someone else had been carrying the Ring, that person would have been taken instead. I gave the leadership to Aragorn and continued onward.
|"One of you remarks" is the game's lazy way of not plugging in a text string variable based on who's currently in the party.|
Lorien consisted of a fortified inner area surrounded by a bunch of minor encounters in the fringes. To get into Lorien proper and see Galadriel, I had to get past Haldir at the gates. Just trying to walk by him led to my party being pumped full of arrows. Arwen had assured me that her token would do the trick, but I couldn't get that to work. Haldir suggested that if we were there on behest of some elven lord, that would be enough, and he let me by when I said ELROND.
|Not the best security system.|
It took me a while to find Galadriel's hut among the trees. She said I could leave whenever I wanted via a ship on an eastern shore, but she suggested I wander around and collect five objects of power first: a crown of elanor, a scabbard, a silver horn, an elfstone, and the light of Earendil's star.
|The game's version of Galadriel. I think Cate Blanchett is prettier.|
Much of the rest of the map consisted of wandering around talking to NPCs about these various objects and trying to find them. I eventually got them all (the "star" was found by filling a bottle of water by moonlight, the horn was buried in a ruin, etc.), but I have no idea what they did. Not even a walkthrough really helped. They didn't seem to raise my stats, I couldn't wield them, and I didn't employ them anywhere during the rest of the game.
Given their lack of utility, I feel particularly bad about the crown of elanor. I found an elf maiden who had made one, but she said she was waiting to give it to Legolas (I guess if I'd brought him with me, the dialogue would have been very different). She said if she gave it to me, she would be "fated to never know love!" and asked if I'd take it from her and deny her love forever. I felt bad saying yes.
|Could you just . . . I don't know . . . make another one?|
Galadriel also had me meet her at her magic mirror, where we saw a vision of Frodo being held by the Witch-King at Dol Guldur. She said that even though the chief Nazgul had Frodo and the Ring, all was not lost, because he was waiting for an army from Mordor to come escort him. She told me I could recruit any of her commanders and suggested I explore a cave nearby for some assistance. I ended up recruiting Celeborn and someone named Malkir.
The caves were the ones that connected to Moria, and it turns out I couldn't have exited this way from the mines, as I would have eventually found myself against a locked door that I needed Galadriel's key to open. Anyway, in the mines, I found a statue of a giant eagle, which I freed (somehow) by giving it a set of wings I'd found in a nearby cave. The eagle gave me a word of power--THORONDOR--that turned out to be crucial for the endgame.
|The Fellowship at last encounters Middle Earth's "aquila-ex-machina."|
I also found the entrance to the other side of Redhorn Pass, assuming that from this side, I could clear the snow blockage and wander all the way back to the Shire if I wanted. But I came up against the same snowdrift and couldn't get by. After I won, I consulted a walkthrough, and it turns out I needed to use the "perception" skill at some random place in the corridor to find an offshoot tunnel, where I would defeat the spirit of Caradhras and banish the cold. Oh, well.
When I felt I was ready, I got a bunch of lembas from Galadriel and boarded a boat that took me across the lake and to the environs of Dol Guldur, which I guess is the tower in Mirkwood that Gandalf visits in The Hobbit. All of this is only in the game, of course; in the book, Frodo never gets captured by the Witch-King and the rescue mission is unnecessary.
|Wait. I have to ride in that?|
Near where I arrived in the last map, I found a structure with a bunch of imprisoned animals. At the top was a wizard claiming to be Radagast the Brown, but a brown bird chirping in a nearby cage made me suspicious. I ended up attacking "Radagast," who revealed himself as a werewolf. Once I killed him, I freed the real Radagast, who told me that it was his spirit who had been in all of those birds I'd been encountering throughout the game. He joined my party.
|My suspicions paid off.|
Shortly after that, I found Gollum wandering along a road. The game suggested I try to capture him, and after a bit of experimenting and reloading, I found that the way to do that was with a rope. His main contribution was to suggest I avoid Sauron's forces on the road and enter a hedge maze instead. From everything I read post-game, this is exactly what I was supposed to do. But I wanted to see what happened if I kept walking down the road, and I somehow missed tripping a game-ending encounter and managed to just walk up to the fortress, avoiding a long and annoying hedge maze.
|Gollum tries, and fails, to provide some useful advice.|
The front gates were guarded by a force of Nazgul and Olog-hai, which I couldn't defeat without losing a bunch of people, so I sought another entrance. I eventually found one by a standing stone. Gollum ditched me as I entered.
As I later discovered, I missed a ton of stuff in the lower levels of Dol Guldur, including a bunch of combats and traps, a couple of NPCs who would have joined the party, and the chance to rescue Sam. Instead, I just pushed upwards, assuming that the final encounter would be at the top of the tower. There were some minor battles and encounters along the way, but for the most part I made it to the top in quick order. The only puzzle I had to pass was a force field on a stairway. I used "Countermagic" to get by, but apparently I could have used some keys (which I never found) instead.
|A penultimate battle with a group of sorcerers was reasonably difficult.|
In the final room, the Witch-King was preparing to take off with Frodo in a sack. I invoked THORONDOR and summoned the giant eagles, which prevented him from flying away. He turned and attacked the party, but he was alone, so it wasn't a tough combat. Satisfyingly, Merry was the one to make the killing blow.
|He did it with an arrow instead of a sword, but let's not split hairs.|
The long end sequence started with a clip from the cartoon in which Boromir tries to take the ring from Frodo. It seemed a little out of place. I guess maybe in the game's version of the story, after rescuing Frodo, we wandered outside, and the riverbank encounter happened as in the book. In that case, the game ended just before the climactic battle with the Uruk-hai, including Boromir's death. I'm curious if the next game begins with that.
There followed a series of screens that told the fate of some of the people and places. The forces of Dol Guldur tried to invade Lorien three times during the War of the Ring, but they failed each time, and Galadriel eventually destroyed the fortress.
The game also recounts the fight between elves and orcs in the Woodland Realm, ruled by Legolas's father, but ends by noting "all of this is yet to occur." It also notes that Sauron is amassing his forces and moving west, but that "Sauron is not the only one who wants the Ring." The cut scenes end with a shot of Gollum saying "precious."
A few notes before I wrap up:
- Sam's "spider sword" only hummed in one location where it was pretty obvious I was going to be attacked by spiders. It didn't give me any warning in dozens of other locations where I was attacked.
- Durin's Axe turned out to be a decent axe, but probably not worth all the trouble to find it.
- At the end of the game, I still had a ton of mystifying items in my inventory, including a spiritcharm, all that mithril I mined in Moria, the elanor crown, Galadriel's token, Tinalin's cape, the scabbard, the silver horn, the Horn of Gondor, the elfstone, the Smith Ring which a smith in Lorien had turned into "reforge-ring," a black key, Arwen's token, and the leaf belt. Without exception, I have no idea what these items are for.
- However, I obviously didn't hit every encounter on the maps. Moreover, it became clear that some of these items have a passive effect, with certain encounters triggering differently or not triggering at all, and others are alternate solutions to puzzles I solved a different way. In general, the game was quite good about this, allowing multiple combinations of skills, spells, and items to solve its puzzles.
- I had a repeated problem with the interface when it came to the book paragraphs. Every so often, I'd walk into a square that triggered a paragraph, but since I was holding down one of the movement keys when I entered the square, the game immediately sensed the keypress as a desire to close out of the book. I had to mince around and reload a couple of times to be sure I could actually read the text before it disappeared.
- For the record, my party upon exiting Moria was Frodo (leader and Ringbearer), Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gimli, Druin, Aragorn, Glorfindel, and Boromir. My party upon winning the game was lacking Frodo and Sam, but with the addition of Malkir and Radagast. (Celeborn and Gollum joined briefly but left.)
Although I rushed the end stages a bit, I really found myself enjoying the game by the end. I look forward to writing the GIMLET.