War in Middle Earth

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RAM Requirement: 768k RAM

Control: Mouse

Release Status: Abandonware

Year: 1989

Publisher: Melbourne House

Developers: Synergistic Software

System 6 Compatible: Yes

Hard Drive Installable: No

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War in Middle Earth was released by Melbourne House (through Virgin Mastertronic) for the IIGS 1989.

The game takes place in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy universe of Middle Earth, a gaming premise Melbourne House claimed took 5 years to design and realise. The struggle between good and evil in Tolkien's stories becomes a game in which you become Frodo, Aaragorn and Gandalf against Sauron and Saruman in a battle to get the one ring to Mount Doom.

In becoming the "definitive Tolkien computer game" War in Middle Earth, thankfully, didn't just borrow the player interface from other RPGs. The game plays quite differently to other RPG genres of Ultima or Bard's Tale, in that you command a party on a huge map of Middle Earth, played entirely with the mouse and that you can "zoom in" on the characters you are following on the map to reveal your party travelling across the landscape, where they may encounter fellow travellers, friends, items or foes. If you meet an enemy, combat will be triggered automatically and your decisions made manifest from the options given to you in the menu above the action. Indeed, if you encounter anything on your travels, you will be given notice of its presence and then options on what to do with it/him/her.

Map and landscape view are toggled between each other by use of the icons found in the top right hand side of the screen. In map view, you can press the map icon again and reveal the entire map of Middle Earth. You can also save your game from here. From the first map view, you can also adjust the speed of time, to increase it saves you watching the long journeys taken on foot from location to location. To select back to your landscape view from the map, select the magnifying glass and then click on your character's location on the map.

The graphics are OK, slightly blocky, but colourful and very varied; no two screens are the same traversing Middle Earth. The music is Ensoniq generated, which could have done with some saucier instruments instead of tinny synths. The game plays very slowly too, so don't hold back on playing it with maximum speed with emulator or IIGS accelerator.