Lord of the Rings: Volume 1 logo

Gollum screamed: "Baggins - we hates it forever!". But he's in the minority because Tolkien's trilogy of Middle-Earth life must be one of the most well-read books in English literature. Even those who've never read it know about the heroic quests of Frodo, Bilbo and Gandalf, so it's quite a surprise that no one's turned it into a game before now.

Although the programmers have changed the encounter slightly, so that Tolkien fans will still find it a challenge, the plot is still basically the same. Frodo has been given the One Ring by Bilbo who has disappeared. Gandalf, the Grey Wizard learns of the ring's power and, realising that the forces of the dark lord Sauron will soon find it, he charges Frodo to take the ring to the elves at Rivendell and then on to - well, read the book if you want to find out. The intro sequence - one of the best this year - which tells the story of Bilbo's disappearance and the beginning of Frodo's quest.. The atmospheric music which accompanies the intro is second to none and really does a lot to set the scene.

Flexible friend
The game itself is instantly accessible. As Frodo is standing outside his home with two of his best hobbit friends, you can recruit them and wander of. It's best to be wary of wading into a situation without thinking carefully about the consequences. Until you get a few, more powerful friends, three, unarmed hobbits are not much of a match for anyone.

The main way the adventure has been made available for Tolkien fans who know the plot, is by adding a number of subplots, the successful completion of which gives you objects, people or information you need to complete the main quest. As you wander through the centre of the town, talking to the local hobbits, a number of sub-plots unfold around you. Rescue the lost child and perhaps his father may be grateful - who knows you might even find something that would be of use to you on your travels. If you stray too far from the beaten path, the game gently prompts you with suggestions, legend and rumour.

Unfortunately, although it's a game that you desperately want to like, there's a lot about it that's frustrating and infuriating. In particular, the game appears to be made for the American market where everyone has a hard disk, because disk accessing is endless. Every time a new character appears, the disk accesses. Every time a sound effect is played, the disk accesses. Every time you attack something, yes, you've guessed it, the disk accesses. The effect of this is to slow the game down. But not as much as the terminally-involved control system.

The way you move Frodo and his party is by moving the cursor arrow towards the side of the screen you want them to walk to and pressing the left mouse button. This is fine when you want them to walk in these directions, but if you want them to weave through small gaps or walk along diagonal paths - which is often necessary - the control system is a pain in the butt. The icons control bar, brought up with the right mouse button is clearly laid out, but also suffers similar problems.

Combatants
The combat system is amazing. If you get jumped by a wolf (which happens quite a bit), the wolf attacks. To counter attack you have to click on the attack icon and the wolf's name, wait until the disk loads the appropriate sound and then it will tell you whether you've missed.

Some early encounters can take over 10 minutes of button clicking just to kill a single wolf. Even more annoying is the fact it's very easy to wander into deadly situations while you're still weak. Spending two hours trekking around the town isn't too bad, but then you get killed without warning (a horseman gallops down the path and slays your whole party) you have to do it all again; bit by bit the slowness of play begins to grate on your nerves.

Tolkien fans will get a lot out of Lord of the Rings, if they can bear the tedious combat and movement systems, and that a good part of the game is spent moving across the terrain between encounters. The less, patient, such as those used to Eye of the Beholder and similar systems, will get more excitement, adventure and VFM by buying Tolkien's original trilogy.


Lord of the Rings: Volume 1 logo

Das Fantasy-Buch aller Fantasy-Bücher, die Macher von "Bard's Tale" als Programmierer - was soll da groß schiefgehen? Allenfalls die Umsetzung vom PC auf den Amiga, aber keine Sorge: Hier kommt ein gutes Rollenspiel!

Von Interplay erwartet man ja traditionell eher Hack & Slay-Rollenspiele, doch weit gefehlt - bei ihrer frisch gestarteten Tolkien-Serie (auf dem PC erscheint demnächst Teil 2) darf man sich auf viele Unterhaltungen, Rätsel und noch mehr Unterhaltungen gefaßt machen. Kein Wunder, selten hat sich ein Computerspiel so eng an die Buchvorlage gehalten.

Wir steigen in die Saga um Mittelerde ein, als der finstere Oberschurke Sauron schon so gut wie alle magischen Ringe eingesackt hat. Der wichtigste fehlt ihm allerdings noch in der Sammlung, den hat zur Zeit der Hobbit Frodo in Besitz, und der denkt nicht im Traum daran, das gute Stück herauszurücken.
Klar, daß Saurons Schergen ihm das mächtige Kleinod abjagen wollen, klar auch, daß der Spieler sich einiges einfallen lassen muß, um Frodo samt Ring in Sicherheit zu bringen...

Außer Frodo sind gleich zu Anfang auch seine Hobbit-Kollegen Merry und Pippin mit von der Partie; im weiteren Verlauf dürfen aber noch weitere Gefährten auf-gegabelt (und wieder entlassen) werden, deren spezielle Fähigkeiten für spezielle Situationen von Nutzen sein können.

Das heißt, es gibt neben den normalen Fertigkeiten (reden, nehmen, benutzen, etc.) noch besondere "Skills" wie z.B. klettern, schleichen oder lesen - erfahrene Rollenspieler kennen das ja bereits aus anderen Interplay-Games wie beispielsweise "Dragon Wars". Darüberhinaus wird hier selbstverständlich auch gezaubert und (ohne große taktische Finessen) gekämpft, in erster Linie aber gequatscht und nochmals gequatscht, wobei dann ein Bild des Gesprächspartners eingeblendet ist. Das erinnert direkt ein bißchen an die "Ultima"-Serie, von der auch so manch anderes Spielelement stammen könnte: Zum Beispiel die durchgehend verwendete Vogelperspektive von leicht schrägt oben, oder das an "Ultima VI" angelehnte Steuerungssystem mit einer Icon-Menüleiste, die nur bei Bedarf per Mausklick auf den Screen geholt wird.

Grafisch ist die Ring-geschichte recht hübsch, vor allem bunt, ausgefallen. Das Scrolling ruckelt allerdings etwas, und so wahnsinnig eilig hat es unser Hobbit auf seiner Flucht auch nicht, was gerade bei längeren Wander-Passagen leicht nervt (wozu die manchmal etwas umständliche Steuerung ebenfalls beiträgt).
Titelmusik und Effekte sind gut, letztere jedoch eher rar. Derlei Mankos, sollte man aber nicht überbewerten, denn die Atmosphäre des Buches kommt wirklich astrein rüber.

Somit sind zwar Kenner des Fantasy-Klassiker gegenüber nicht-Leseratten leicht im Vorteil, aber was macht das schon? Wir wissen nicht, was der Ork Eures Vertrauens empfiehlt, wir empfehlen: Holt Euch das Ding mit dem Ring! (mm)


Lord of the Rings: Volume 1 logo

For most people the Lord Of The Rings books represent the birth of fantasy, so it's no surprise then that they are often the subject of computer FRPs. This latest retelling of Tolkien's trilogy takes the form of an Ultima-style (i.e. view from above with just a hint of 3D) scrolling adventure. For the three people out there who aren't familiar with the storyline, sorry - I don't have the space here to explain it here. Go buy the books (they're actually rather good, and ideal for these long winter evenings).

The game then. Before the main sectio there's a fairy whizzy (if a mite slow - yawn) introduction sequence which manages to summarize the first few chapters of the book, and includes some stirring Sergio Leone-style music into the bargain.

The game itself is a largely icon-driven affair, which includes one of the neatest command systems around,. In any given situation the player can simply click on a command and an audible beep signals if it's not really feasible. It's a remarkably simple and direct method, and it makes perfect sense - far better than mucking around with full sentence input or pull-down menus, that's for sure.

Visually the game is fine too. The landscape graphics are more than adequate (if not outstanding) and the little cameos which appear at the bottom are good - very reminiscent of the Lord Of The Rings animated film in fact.

Apart from a slight problem of scale, then, this would be a bit of a minor classic if it wasn't for one small thing - speed. Put simply, it hasn't got any. I know that the game is trying to recreate several thousand pages of text, but it doesn't have to be THAT slow! The lack of speed really does have to be endured to be believed, and it becomes the game's downfall. Even the most patient RPG players shouldn't have to suffer a program that seems determined to give the impression that it's going to grind to a halt at any time. It's shame, but I guess we'll have to wait a little longer for the definitive Lord Of The Rings computer game.


Lord of the Rings: Volume 1 logo CU Amiga Screenstar

Software houses have often drawn on Tolkien's world of hobbits, elves, dwarves, monsters and magic for computer games, but nobody has ever come close to capturing the essence of the book- until now. Lord of the Rings Volume One is more of a straight-forward adventure than most other Tolkien-inspired games with a strong role-playing bias thrown in for good measure.

US outfit, Interplay, haven't stuck rigidly to the original story as it would probably make the game too easy or boring for avid fans of the weighty tome. Instead they've introduced a number of new characters and plot twists to satisfy everyone, while staying faithful enough to the novel to pleas the die-hard Tolkien purists.

As with most games from Electronci Arts, the manual gives glorious detail not only of the game mechanics, but of the background as well. This helps to provide an introduction to Middle Earth novices, and enlightens those with no desire to read the books. Maps, glossaries and a paragraph-text system (like the journal entries used in the SSI games) give yet more details - copious note-taking a necessity!

Once loaded, Tolkien's masterpiece of fantasy works its magic and the world of today slips away and we find ourselves in Middle Earth. In storybook fashion we are introduced to the characters and plot of the first game. Briefly, Frodo the hobbit has been entrusted by his uncle Bilbo with a magical ring once belonging to the evil dark lord Sauron. With his ring the Dark Lord's power would be immense and unstoppable. To cut short his evil plans the ring must be destroyed in the molten lava of the Mountains of Doom.

The rings's power is summed up by the wizard Gandalf: 'One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them. One ring to find them and in the darkness bind them.' Ultimately the ring's power will corrupt anyone who uses it, no matter how good. And so Frodo, with his trusty party of adventurers must set out to destroy the ring. A task, which given the sheer scale of this game (and the fact that there are two others to come) is, frankly, rather daunting.

The game opens in The Shire, the most civilised place in Middle-Earth, with its wel-known landmarks of Bag End, Hobbinton Inn, Green Dragon Tavern, Buckland Ferry, and Brandy Hall. Beyond lie less friendly places - Forsaken Inn. The Trollshaws, and the Black Land of Mordor. But the immediate aim of this part of the trilogy is for Frodo to reach the safety of Rivendell, home of Elrond and the Elves.

Anyone with a passing knowledge of the current crop of computer role-playing games will immediately find the game accessible. The overhead view used in LOTR has its advantages and the point-and-click icon system never intrudes between the player and game and means that relatively little typing is required - a godsend to many hamfisted individuals (myself included).

What makes this special, though is the magic system. Magic is portrayed in the books as something wondrous and rare with its use of once-only Words of Power. Gandalf is supposed to be one of the greatest magicians in Middle Earth but in the books he uses relatively few spells and this is reflected in the game.

Frodo, and the team of characters he recruits, has a basic set of six attributes or characteristics: dexterity, endurance, life points, strength, luck and willpower. Each character also has various personal and attributes, divided into three categories. Active skills can range bravado and charisma to perception and the ability to pick locks.

Combat skills include axes, bows, brawling and swords. The final category, Lore, is not actively used but comes into play when a character enters an area where it might be useful. A character possessing Orc Lore, for instance, will be able to understand Orc culture and read their writings. Some characters also have magical abilities for both good and bad.

Accessing and using these skills is easy. When you want to switch from moving or exploring the play area, hitting the right-hand mouse button brings up a set of icons giving control over attacking, viewing the status of characters, taking, using items or learning skills, trading or discarding items, skills, magic, and, finally communication.

So much for the mechanics of the game. Add to this a vast, seemingly never-ending play area, a plethora of hobbits, humans, orcs, trolls, elves, sorcerers, dragons, wargs, dark riders and vampires and you have what amounts to an incredibly large and addictive RPG adventure.

Lord of the Rings is breath-taking in its scope and enchanting in execution. You don't play this game, you live it.


HOBBIT FORMING
Lord of the Rings Volume One is the first of a projected trilogy of games, each based on the books which make up the Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Rings, The Two Towers and Return of the King. It deals with the events in The Fellowship of the RIng such as the trip to Rivendell by the Hobbits, the meeting with Strider, and the journey up to the Falls of Rauros. Volume Two, based on The Two Towers will pick up where this game leaves off and Interplay plan to allow the transfer of characters from one game to the next. LOTR II is nearing completion on the PC and should be ready on the Amiga late next year.

Lord of the Rings: Volume 1 logo

Electronic Arts/£25.99/Out Now

Amiga reviewToby: Being a bit of a philistine, I've never read Lord Of The Rings largely due to the fact that I've read The Hobbit. But I'm never one to condemn a game before I play it (Oh yes you are. Ed.) so I approached this with a completely open mind.

Well, it certainly gets off to a good start. The intro graphics ain't too hot, but there's some really atmospheric music which plays throughout. It would seem that the music chappies spent so much time on the tune, they forgot to do any sound effects. Sorry guys, but this is just not acceptable in an Amiga game.

The game itself is okay - - it's a roleplayer (as you might expect from Interplay) with jerky scrolling and frankly rather feeble animation (as you might also expect from Int... naahhh, better not).
If you enjoyed the books - bear in mind that this game only covers Chapter 1 - you'll probably enjoy this. I didn't really like it either very much.