Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The Two Towers: Bored of the Rings

The Ringbearer hasn't left the same perilous countryside since the game began.
        
Lord of the Rings, Vol. II simply doesn't work. I'm sorry to have reached that conclusion. I had enjoyed the first game well enough and had been looking forward to the sequel, even though I knew there would be no Vol. III. Now I feel that if Interplay was going to leave fans hanging, they should have left them hanging after Vol. I instead of proceeding with this lackluster title.

The yanking around from party to party got worse--laughably worse--after the last session. I began this session with Frodo and Sam, and I'd barely done more than wander through the marsh for five minutes and fight one battle with some orcs, when the game decided it was time to switch the action to Edoras. There, Aragorn et. al. did nothing more than approach the gates of the city before we were off to check in on Merry and Pippin. Then, for some reason, those two had an absurdly long session, ignoring several obvious transition points, culminating in the destruction of Isengard by the Ents. It feels like their story is over before Frodo even got near the Black Gate.
       
One of my three parties now has nothing to do but wait.
      
But the problems with Vol. II run much deeper than that. Its core problem is that it is satisfying neither as a Lord of the Rings game nor a standard RPG. If you were a fan of the original books, I can't imagine that you'd find this game a good representation. The characters are mute and bereft of any personality. Epic moments are rendered in banal, bloodless manual text or on-screen exposition. The little side quests that the developers threw in to lengthen the plot and make it more like a standard RPG simply slow down and confuse the main story.

Even worse--and I don't often criticize games on these grounds--the graphics fail to evoke any sense of the kind of awe and wonder you should feel when exploring Middle Earth, running up against its most famous landmarks, and meeting its most famous denizens. I wasn't one of them, but I can imagine a Lord of the Rings fan, having read the book umpteen times, conceiving in his imagination "the green shoulders of the hills" and the "wide wind-swept walls and the gates of Edoras." Let's recall how Tolkien describes the Black Gate:
           
This was Cirith Gorgor, the Haunted Pass, the entrance to the land of the Enemy. High cliffs lowered upon either side, and thrust forward from its mouth were two sheer hills, black-boned and bare. Upon them stood the Teeth of Mordor, two towers strong and tall. In days long past they were built by the Men of Gondor in their pride and power, after the overthrow of Sauron and his flight, lest he should seek to return to his old realm. But the strength of Gondor failed, and men slept, and for long years the towers stood empty. Then Sauron returned. Now the watch-towers, which had fallen into decay, were repaired, and filled with arms, and garrisoned with ceaseless vigilance. Stony-faced they were, with dark window-holes staring north and east and west, and each window was full of sleepless eyes.

Across the mouth of the pass, from cliff to cliff, the Dark Lord had built a rampart of stone. In it there was a single gate of iron, and upon its battlement sentinels paced unceasingly. Beneath the hills on either side the rock was bored into a hundred caves and maggot-holes: there a host of orcs lurked, ready at a signal to issue forth like black ants going to war. None could pass the Teeth of Mordor and not feel their bite, unless they were summoned by Sauron, or knew the secret passwords that would open the Morannon, the black gate of his land.
            
Even I, as a non-fan, have to admit that this is pretty powerful stuff. And here is the Black Gate in-game:
         
One of the two Teeth. There's a mirror about one screen to the east.
         
Say what you want about the recent Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War series, but at least they did (in my opinion) graphical justice to the setting. Here, no matter what Tolkien intended, the architectural style favored by the game for just about every building is "aluminum airplane hangar." The setting's most fearsome foes and most majestic allies are impressive in neither icon nor portrait. 
        
Every building looks like the same temporary shelter with no door.
        
As an RPG, meanwhile, the game fails in almost every category. Character development occurs solely at plot intervals and is remarkably impalpable. The skills system, by which characters can actively use certain skills and attributes, goes back to Wasteland but is ill-used here. Among the individuals in each party, you never lack the necessary skill, and it's always perfectly obvious where to use it. It might as well have happened automatically. The basic equipment list is unexciting, and the combat system--by which you select "attack" and choose from a list of indistinguishable foes--is even less so.
         
The game's relatively boring inventory system.
        
Many of these problems were present in Vol. I, too, so you will naturally wonder how I can justify giving that game a relatively high score and a positive review. To be fair, I did levy some of the same criticisms about how the game fared as an RPG, but beyond that . . . I don't know . . . the game just somehow felt fresher. I recognized that it wasn't perfect, but it was doing something new and original and I was more willing to give it a chance. I expected the developers to have learned some lessons between Vol. I and Vol. II and thus have corrected some of the engine's weaknesses. If anything, they went backwards.

The lack of cut scenes is a particular blow. The first game had some original artwork at set intervals that served to keep the characters' personalities embedded in your mind, and that kept you on track with the source material. (The remake replaced this artwork with scenes from the Ralph Bakshi film, which I liked less, but was still better than nothing.) The fall of Isengard ought to command more than a single paragraph of exposition next to a couple of goofy little icons that are supposed to be Ents.

Feeling as I do, I was going to try to push through to the end of the game for this entry, but I didn't quite make it. Perhaps I didn't even come close--I have no idea how this game is going to stretch and warp the book's events. I'll recap the progress of the characters, but to avoid exposing you to the same constantly-jarring changes in perspective that I experienced, I'll just relate each group in turn.

Frodo, Sam, Gollum, and Gilglin started at the edge of the Dead Marshes, essentially where they'd started the game 7 hours prior. They'd had the vampire interlude and were looking for something called the "star ruby" before making their way to (or past) the Black Gate. Gollum warned us not to follow the lights in the marsh (I wonder what would have happened if we'd never enlisted him).
          
"Do not follow the lights. They lead to . . . [hiss] . . . Cleveland."
        
Systematically exploring the marshes, we soon fell into a barrow in the ground and met an elf named Nendol. He had sworn to never leave the side of a Numenorean named Vorondur who had saved him in combat--a vow that he soon regretted when Vorondur was cursed by undeath and sentenced to wander the marshes as a shade. Nendol asked if I might be able to release him.

We climbed out of the barrow but soon fell into another one where a ghost, in exchange for some rations (which he mimed eating), allowed us to take the Star Ruby. Back at the vampire's tower, the Star Ruby banished the undead who wanted it. I think it probably would have helped me against the vampire, but who explores the map in such an erratic fashion that they'd find the ruby first? 
         
A magic ruby for some Lembas bread that you can't even eat. Seems fair.
        
We found a group of ghosts hanging out in the marshes, and one of them was Vorondur. Since we had already killed the vampire and received the "spirit key," all we had to do was give it to Vorondur, and he and the other ghosts were able to pass on. Nendol rewarded us with a dagger, some food, a prybar, a shovel, and leather armor. This was good since Gilglin had joined us with no equipment and had been beating orcs with his fists.
            
This was a fun encounter, but some bug put the text all over the place.
         
We finally made our way through the marshes and south to the Black Gate. There was one encounter where we had to hide from some passing orcs using the "Sneak" skill. As we approached the gate itself, Gollum gave his canonical speech about we'll all die that way and he can show us a secret path instead. Just for fun, I pressed forward and got a scripted ending. Reloading, I followed Gollum's directions, and Frodo's part of the adventure ended as he crossed the border into Ithilien.
           
West of the sea, everything's cool.
          
Merry, Pippin, and their two Ent friends resumed their adventures in Fangorn Forest. They had been tasked with finding two Ents--Leaflock and Skinbark--and watering them so they could rouse themselves and get to the Entmoot. I already knew their locations, and my travel was facilitated by the wandering Ent named Longroot, who will carry the party from place to place if they're lucky enough to encounter him. Leaflock and Skinbark both responded to Entwater, and both gave the party some kind of password to use, although there was never a place that I used them. I also don't think I fully explored the ruins or solved the quest involving the seed and the Entwash source. Oh, well.

Back at the Entmoot, the Ents agreed to march on Isengard, and action transitioned to the next map, with Treebeard joining the party (now composed of more Ents than hobbits). Rather than head directly for the fortress, I steered them around the edges and through a mountain pass that led to a village of Dunlendings. They demanded that we leave the village, and when we refused, they attacked us in force and slaughtered us.
          
To be fair, they are marching to Isengard, not Dunland.
          
On a reload, I went directly to Isengard. As we approached the gates, we got a textual notice that orcs and men were emptying the fortress, marching off to war somewhere, leaving a skeleton force behind.

Since the party had prematurely cleared out a couple of battles in the previous session, we had an easy time on this visit. After a single battle against a few orcs, the game informed me that the Ents were destroying the fortress, Saruman was in hiding, and there wasn't anything left for Merry and Pippin to do but go wait by the gatehouse for the rest of the Fellowship to show up. I don't know how the book is paced, but this seemed an awfully early ending to this thread.
          
The film version was slightly more epic.
         
Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, and Gandalf had barely set foot into Rohan before they were set upon by a band of Rohirrim and escorted to Edoras. Most of the buildings were empty, the occupants fled, so the party made its way to the Golden Hall. There, as in the book, Hama insisted that we divest our weapons, but he grudgingly allowed Gandalf to keep his staff. I had to play this encounter twice because the first time, I didn't realize that Gandalf's "Glamdring" was a sword, not a ring, and I didn't drop it before entering the hall.
         
This felt wrong, and it turned out it was wrong.
         
Inside the hall, the dialogue between Gandalf, Grima Wormtongue, and the possessed Theoden played out as in the book. When it was over, I used Gandalf's staff, Theoden returned to his senses, and Grima fled the hall.
            
Paraphrased dialogue from the book.
          
In a divergence from the book, it now transpired that Grima and his allies had set traps all around the multi-leveled Golden Hall, and somewhere had secreted four ancient artifacts: Helm's Horn, the Cup of Rohan, a bridle, and a scepter. Some prophecy said that Rohan's armies would never be successful lacking these items, so we had to find them before anyone would ride to war. The party had to wander the rooms and corners of the four levels, using "Perception" and "Disarm Trap" frequently, until we recovered all items. (Some notes in a box that Grima left behind gave us clues as to where to find the items.) There was one battle with a spider in the basement. 
           
Finding the bridle.
        
When we found the scepter in the attic, Saruman oddly appeared and attacked us. We exchanged a few blows and then he disappeared. I don't know what that was about.
         
That was briefly satisfying.
       
We briefly met Eowyn in one of the bedrooms and recovered Theoden's sword, Herugrim, in another, although oddly the game wouldn't let us give it to him. A found note gave a clue as to a side-quest: Saruman had tasked Grima with finding some magical gauntlets near Helm's Deep. We looted some magic armor and a magic sword from the armory, which turned out to be fortunate because when we left the Golden Hall, the game said that Grima had stolen Anduril in his flight.
   
I'm surprised that Eowyn won't join the party. Shoot--maybe I didn't try.
              
When the party left the hall, the Rohirrim were yelling things like "For the Mark!" and "Forth Eorlingas!," so I assume they're on the move. I end this session with Aragorn and company exploring the area surrounding Edoras to see if they can recover Anduril and/or meet up with the hobbits at Isengard.
          
Is Anduril even supposed to be reforged yet?
        
Having not made it past the first 40% of Lord of the Rings, I'm extremely fuzzy on where this installment is likely to end. (Fuzzy and slightly curious; in fact, vague curiosity about how this game ends is really all I have left to look forward to.) I think I remember someone telling me that the film of The Two Towers ends well before its point in the book, but I could be wrong. As far as I know, Merry and Pippin have nothing left to do. Aragorn and his party still have to go to Helm's Deep, which I assume will be the climax of the game. As for Frodo and Sam, I suspect they need to meet Faramir (though I understand events play out very different in the book than in the films) and then find the secret tunnel. Will they run into Shelob? I guess we'll soon see. One more entry should do it.

Time so far: 12 hours

53 comments:

  1. "West of the sea, everything's cool."

    You joke, but west of the sea is basically a literal Heaven on Earth, the place the elves and ringbearers are headed to at the end of the third movie. Even winning total victory in Middle-Earth, Sauron would be unlikely to pose a threat to that place.

    The book version of Two Towers is split into two. The first half follows Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, and ends after the Battle of Helm's Deep, in a pretty similar place as the movie. The second half follows Frodo and Sam, and ends after Sam has driven off Shelob but the orcs have captured Frodo and taken him to the Cirith Ungol guard tower. The entire interlude at Osgiliath, which serves as climax to Frodo's end of the plot in the movies, is totally absent from the books. Faramir is an unambiguously good character who just sends Frodo, Sam, and Gollum on their way when they pass through Ithilien.

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    1. The movie's treatment of Faramir--which lacked the tragedy of the good brother being dismissed by the father--was a huge disappointment and pointless change IMO.

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    2. a huge disappointment and pointless change - as if it was the only one.

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    3. While I very much agree about Faramir, I liked movie Boromir more than novel Boromir.

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    4. One does not simply like the movie Boromir! ;)

      (and yeah, the Faramir change was absolutely terrible - it destroyed his character)

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  2. This all does sound rather odd, but well, there is the source material. I actually like the Anduril twist, as in the books, IIRC, Aragorn is very reluctant to leave it behind for safekeeping.
    But always remember, there is U7:BG looming ahead on the horizon!

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  3. I think you are ultimately 100% correct in criticising The Two Towers for things that you didn't mind or even liked in Vol. 1.

    Interplay's two LotR games can only be considered in the context in which they were released, namely the contrast between these two titles, and their Ultima equivalents from Origin.

    Interplay released Vol. 1 within a couple of months of Ultima VI. The Two Towers comes out within a few months of Ultima VII. But while Ultima VII is a tremendous step forward from Ultima VI - new engine, new perspective, completely new interface, and so on - The Two Towers is practically identical to Vol. 1. Same engine, same perspective, only slightly improved interface. The implementation of the story, by contrast, seems outright inferior, especially because of the lack of cutscenes.

    I can't help wondering: knowing that Interplay's financial situation was not great at this time, and knowing that they had been disappointed by the relatively poor commercial results of Vol. 1, which is the more probable option? That cutscenes and other improvements had been planned, but cut to reduce development time? Or that Two Towers had from the start been planned for a smaller budget? I'm leaning more towards the second option, but at the same time, as a game developer, I cannot imagine other game developers sitting down to plan a sequel with the explicit intention of not making it better. If a company proposes to do something like that, it undercuts morale to the extreme. Then again, don't some of these sidequests feel like they were developed by people who hate the low-budget nature of the project they're working on? Doesn't the architecture look and feel like a great big "screw you, then I won't make any effort at all" message from the artists?

    The story of The Two Towers' development may well be more interesting than the game itself. Regardless of whether the project was planned as a form of shovelware from the start, or if it was damaged in development by a need to accelerate the release schedule, there must have been a lot of anguish for its developers.

    I can imagine that the designers of these games must have already at the time of release of Ultima 6, realised that they were severely behind the curve. That the time had passed for empty locations and item pick-ups that only show up as text information. That "paper dolls" with slots for visual icons of clothes/armour/weapons were now the new standard, while here we are with a text list of items.

    Of course, at the time of U6, they would have thought - "well, ok, we didn't do well in that area, but hey, at least our UI is better, we've got a full-screen landscape, and a bunch of other cool things". But they would have also thought that visualised items are an absolute minimum for improvements in The Two Towers - and how disappointing it must have been for them to end up settling for a barely stop-gap measure where you briefly see visual icons of some items when searching for them.

    Ultimately, whatever the designers felt, whatever Interplay may or may not have initially planned for The Two Towers, the result is what it is. A game that feels like a hastily-put together expansion set for the original.

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    1. Excellent analysis and apt comparison with U6. And, yeah, what IS it with those brief appearances of items? They flash so quickly that I've sometimes only noticed them in later screenshots.

      I swear that a few months ago, someone commented that while he liked LOTR v. I okay, V. II was his favorite game of all time. I've been trying to find that comment and haven't been able to. I hope I'm just remembering wrong.

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  4. Great post, Chester. I tried this game series a while back and yeah, it felt horrible, ugly, boring. Such a shame. I loved the Tolkien books, tried them in video game form and realized they failed to capture the spirit of things. I so far have refused to see the motion pictures. I believe Tolkien himself conjectured they couldn´t be done on screen.

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    1. Wow, refusing to watch the films after nearly 20 years takes some real dedication.

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    2. I thought Fellowship was a pretty great treatment of the book. Apart from a couple moments that felt anachronistic, it hit all the right beats for me. even if you never watched the sequels, it'd still be worthwhile.

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    3. To be fair, people often point to Tolkien's objections, but forget the time and context in which these objections were stated. This was specifically in his speech on fairy stories (later published as an essay), which was presented around 1937 or so.

      Tolkien at the time expressed doubts that fantasy can be done well visually, because the special effects available just didn't work. His objections, it goes without saying, did not take into consideration the possibilities available to cinema at the turn of the 21st century.

      That said, certainly the Tolkien Estate, and especially Tolkien's son Christopher, have been very firm in their belief that Tolkien would not have liked the Lord of the Rings movies. Would this be the case? There are certainly many things he would have hated. The way Arwen's role was changed. The way Faramir was changed. The bit where Frodo chooses Gollum over Sam. Most of all, probably, he would have hated the trivialisation of combat - you know, things like Legolas' Flintstones moment and the like. He would have probably been severely disappointed by the removal of the final chapter, although perhaps he would have accepted that in cinematic form, this was a necessary change (I mean, Return of the King already had five endings too many). But I believe he would have liked the visual qualities of the film. This is a bit ironic, given his original concerns about the possibilities of adaptation, but that's the fact - for all of their pacing and narrative failures (and let's be fair - the failures weaken the original story, but they don't destroy it - it's still recognisably Lord of the Rings), the films do a fantastic job in visualising the world of the books.

      Now, the Hobbit trilogy, that's a different matter entirely. I don't think even the impressive visuals could in any way eclipse the dismal, utter narrative failure and the descent into idiocy.

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    4. I think there were quite a few visual WTFs as well, like the creation of Saruman's orcs or his fight with Gandalf, for example.

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    5. "Now, the Hobbit trilogy, that's a different matter entirely. I don't think even the impressive visuals could in any way eclipse the dismal, utter narrative failure and the descent into idiocy."

      I'm a huge fan of the books and a so-so fan of the first trilogy (basically just a fan because it helps me remember the books--the combat sections are particularly embarrassing to watch), but the hobbit movies are TERRIBLE. I fell asleep twice during the first one and rented the others in a vain hope that they would improve. They did not.

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    6. I'm a fan of the LotR movies, but the Hobbit movies were abysmally terrible. The action scenes used too much CGI and were drawn out way too much, it felt like they stretched out the action scenes to make each movie fill the intended 3 hours of screen time without having to add more plot (and they already added plenty of extraneous plot in order to pad the movies... it still wasn't enough to fill 3 movies so they also stretched out the action scenes to be painfully long).

      In the third Hobbit movie I just wanted to go home and play Total War games instead halfway through, because the battle scenes reminded me of those games... as part of a movie they were entirely unengaging though.

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    7. It's a funny thing with the Hobbit movies. I thought they were terrible. Everybody I've ever talked to about them thought they were terrible. Yet, if you look at their audience ratings... it seems like most people liked them. A lot. Who are these people, and why, if they're in the majority, have I never met one?

      All that said, I will say one thing for them - once you remove virtually everything extraneous, you wind up with a film that, while not brilliant, is a reasonable adaptation of the Hobbit. There's a couple of different fan edits out there, I haven't had a chance to watch enough of them to compare, but they do seem a tremendous improvement.

      But: the movies add up to something like 10 hours. The decent, reasonable versions cut this down to 4 hours or less. That's how much crap they added in there. And of course, even then, you can remove the awful additions, but you can't restore things that were cut or wantonly changed (for me, the one thing that gets me the most is Thorin's death. In terms of emotional payoff, they ruined it completely). And you can't do that much to improve the overall atmosphere, which is a far cry from the book.

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    8. In the Hobbit Movies I always waited for the moment the cut scene ended and it was time to pick up the controller and start playing. Good points, Jakob and Jarl.

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    9. Lindsay Ellis has a great deconstruct of everything that went wrong with the hobbit-movies, it is worth watching
      (google her name and hobbit)

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    10. Out there in the Net there is a version of the Hobbit Trilogy that lasts 3 hours total. All the "combat ballets" have been cut, as well as Legolas and the "love triangle". It is the best version that could ever be made. It is worth searching and watching.

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  5. Jacub, yeah finances are one thing, but beyond that, there´s so much pressure on programming teams to meet a timetable of milestones. LOTR needs a lot of time because the lore and depths are huge as implied by Tolkien´s books. The games are such an unfair "quick and nasty" rendition of his masterworks. You´d need a good size team and a couple of years even today to make a Lord of the Rings game really great, not just in graphics, but also play and addictability and staying true to the books.

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    1. Dan, I think, ironically, this task was substantially easier at the time than it is today. A strong adaptation of LOTR today would be a tremendous challenge, because we'd expect everything from the game that we get from the likes of Skyrim, Kingdom Come, The Witcher 3, Dragon Age Inquisition, Pillars of Eternity and all those other modern RPG worlds. Such a world would be filled with details to the point where even the films pale in comparison - after all, none of the films ever allowed us to go off-screen and have a conversation with one of the random background characters. Here that would be a necessity, and a very expensive one.

      But back in 1990, when Interplay made Vol. 1, or even in 1992 when The Two Towers came out, the requirements were entirely different. To do a good job, all that Interplay needed to do is to match the standards of the time. It came close to achieving this with Vol. 1. I remember playing the game soon after its release - yes, it was impressive, and yes, it felt like a pretty good (not great, but pretty good) version of the Lord of the Rings. It did need work, more time, more money, etc., but none of the additions required were anywhere near as problematic as doing something similar today might be. This is why the weaknesses of The Two Towers stand out so much more - because the game does not represent any strong improvement over Vol. 1, and instead actually takes steps backwards in key areas.

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    2. I would spend a lot of money for a game adaptation of LotR that was as good as Kingdom Come or the Witcher 3. I don't know how they'd do it, but... man.

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    3. I am not that much a fan of the books, but Tolkien is one of the few authors who created a deep world with credible mythology and lore. What is great about the books are the references to this lore, they create the feeling that there is always something meaningful to explore and discover. This is prime crpg material. And wasted as already noted on this blog in games where you more or less replay the main story arcs.

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    4. Now I want to see a game that steps away from the main books and explores Tolkein's world in more depth.

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  6. After googling some of of the names mentioned here just to brush up on what is what, I realized that almost every place in middle earth has a band named after it even the dark ports have a band also and you could see trends in this metalbands take the mordor - orch names and progg rock use the elven-lore. Not to mention all the songs named after charakters and places, it would be fun to se a musical map or lexicon of middle earth.

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  7. In the movie Ridicule, there is this great line : "Poor people. And as misfortune never arrives one at a time, when you mention them, simply mentionning them triggers boredom".

    It seems to be the same with this game, not only the game seems pretty bad, but despite all your efforts and writing skill, it is hard to be interested in the storyline as you explain it to us since it seems to go all (non-canonical) directions.

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    1. This is a bad game, but it's made for a hilarious entry.

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  8. It's bad execution, but I try to imagine having to make an RPG based on this book and I think it would be tough. The first book would be the easiest to adapt by far, and it's not surprising that game was more successful. The third book would probaby be easier than the second, but still tricky.

    I think the best strategy is to just make one game like War in Middle Earth from 1987 where you can choose to follow the books or try something new or some combination of both.

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    1. I wonder how much better this game might have been if you got to choose one of the three scenarios to play, and stuck with only that party until their end point.

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    2. The better genre for Two Towers just based on what I remember from book and movies might have been a graphic adventure, for the the third book a strategy game.

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  9. It's too bad the second game is so disappointing. I vaguely recall playing this back in the day and having much the same experience. I have no idea how I ended up having this, I think my brother came back from college with a bunch of games that he had "borrowed".

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  10. It really seems they didn't think far ahead when developing the first game, about how the decision to follow the plot (even if loosely) of the books would come back to haunt them in the sequel.

    In Fellowship the story progression works well in a RPG context, as the party gradually add new members (it is basically the original archetype of the fantasy adventuring party, after all) and a single point of view can be kept.

    But I see no good way of keeping the same plan in Two Towers without party switching or significantly deviating from the original plot.

    They might have focused on Aragorn's party only, but then you lose many of the characters you have developed in the first game...

    I have never understood games that follow already established plots: why would you play something you already know how it is going to end?

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    1. Yeah, the RPG formula is an elite squad (or individual) goes on a mission. Fellowship is sort of a good fit for that. But after the fellowship breaks the squad is just two hobbits doing extreme stealth/survival, and the rest of the characters mostly get tied up in politics and warfare. None of it fits the RPG formula well.

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    2. That's a good analysis and hits upon why this game doesn't really work as well.

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  11. A while ago someone wrote up some of LotR as if it were a D&D game (as a joke). Only Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas are even PCs. I think the same problems are noted there, too.

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    1. Are you thinking of the webcomic "DM of the rings"?

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    2. Had to check (since it has been so long), but yes, I think so.

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  12. I'm a little disappointed you'll never play The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, both because it's console-exclusive and because it's more than a decade of games into the future of where you are.

    It's a fascinating thing where EA had the licence to do an RPG based on the Peter Jackson films... but NOT the books. So anything mentioned in the books but not the films couldn't be used. It covers the plot of the movies, kind of - but with the players playing a *different* fellowship, following behind the canonical fellowship to "help them out", with a dwarf who is absolutely not Gimli and an elf who is absolutely not Legolas et cetera, encountering all the same locations and enemies after the real fellowship have already been through the area.

    (And, bafflingly, lifting the engine and gameplay directly from Final Fantasy X.)

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  13. Dm of the rings? That was funny, especially when you are a pen & paper gamer. For everyone not having read this, google, should be still available. Recommended. The author also ran a nice site with interesting articles on games.

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    1. Honestly, I'm not really a fan. The premise of "present LOTR as a D&D campaign" falls flat when you realize that it is really "present LOTR as a D&D campaign run by the worst DM possible".

      Darths and Droids takes the same core concept of "this movie is now a RPG campaign", but does it much better - the oddities in the SW films are explained as being the product of "GM scrambling to keep up with ornery players that always run screaming from the plot hooks" instead of the "GM is a railroading tyrant that bores his players" approach Rings did with the LOTR films.

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    2. What you're missing is that these two webcomics DON'T have the same core concept. The entire point of DMOTR is to provide social commentary on common dysfunctions of RPG groups, and it uses LOTR as a backdrop for that. That's the joke. Droids is doing pretty well as a serious story; LOTR is not trying to be serious and failing at it, but it is trying to be ridiculous and succeeding pretty well.

      Delete
  14. Fair enough, I loved it. And the cheap railroading bastard as dm was well matched by a bunch of out of character playing players only interested in loot, stats and brothels. Will check out darts and droids.

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  15. I've always especially enjoyed the addicts lack of enthusiasm for LOTR. I find it quite refreshing.

    I however, have been falling to sleep listening to the audiobook of LOTR on and off for years now. The appendices are a special favorite for that.

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  16. Bored of the rings, I see what you did there.

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    Replies
    1. It's actually the title of an extremely silly LotR parody novel!

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    2. It has aged badly, but still contains one of my favorite quotes of all literature:

      It was pity stayed his hand. "Pity I don't have any more bullets," thought Frito.

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    3. When I was a kid, a friend had Bored of the Rings and thought it was great, but I never got around to borrowing it. Then in college I remember eagerly tracking it down and borrowing it from the library...only to be almost completely unamused. Ah, well.

      The best thing about it was the gag on the cover, with a lurid excerpt featuring a "voluptuous elf-maiden" that (as it turns out) isn't actually anywhere in the book's text.

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    4. Ha. I didn't know about the parody novel, although as I was writing the subtitle, it did occur to me that someone must have come up with it before.

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    5. I'll throw in my favorite line(s) from the book for good measure:

      "Cackling with evil amusement, the nine surrounded Frito, their squint-eyed steeds grunting for Frito's blood. “Blood! Blood!” they grunted."

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  17. @JarlFrank, Yeah, I know, but I didn't want to say it explicitly.

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  18. For your final summary Could you include a screenshot of gollum’s face if there is one?

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    Replies
    1. I was surprised to see that I hadn't already posted an image that had Gollum's face. I'll dig one up for the final.

      Delete

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