Of the many fictional worlds in media, Tolkien's Middle-earth is among the most popular alongside mega hits such as Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Due to the immense success of both the books and Peter Jackson's film adaptations of Middle-earth, The Lord of the Rings has also made the jump to gaming on more than one occasion.
Whether it be tie-in adaptations of Jackson's aforementioned films or original ideas like 2014's Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, the creatures, locations, and lore of this world have been the home of many well-received video games over the years. Next up is The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, more of a puzzle/adventure title. It is unclear what future games based on The Lord of the Rings are coming, but developers should look to the past for some cues on how to approach each project.
Paying Homage to the Lord of the Rings Films
It would be difficult to talk about The Lord of the Rings franchise and not bring up Peter Jackson's iconic film trilogy. The visuals, music, and performances have all become engrained in the imaginations of many fans, becoming the definitive version of this world and its characters. This impact and influence can be seen in many other projects, such as the similar design of Gollum in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.
Considering how beloved these films are to audiences, it would be wise for developers to keep it in mind when approaching a new game. Yet studios should put a different spin on it and keep things fresh, despite any subtle winks or visual homages to the Peter Jackson films.
Making Lord of the Rings Games in Multiple Genres
The Lord of the Rings series is based in a fantasy world, so it makes sense to adapt it to gaming genres that fit the description. Action games like Middle-earth: Shadow of War or RPGs like The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age are clear paths that the franchise could venture through. However, as great as these titles have been, it's good for a franchise to experiment and try something outside the box.
Future developers could take this concept even further. A first-person shooter for example, in which players control an Elf like Legolas with archery skills similar to the Crysis series, could make for a fun twist. Mobile gaming is also popular, particularly in the puzzle genre, so something making use of Hobbits' clever ability to solve riddles would lead to an interesting take on a Lord of the Rings game.
Making Games About Major Lord of the Rings Characters
When talking about characters in The Lord of the Rings franchise that would make good standalone games, fans may be quick to suggest Aragorn, Gandalf, or Legolas. This is for good reason, as these characters are well-rounded, with intuitive problem-solving skills, combat prowess, and a deep knowledge of the world around them.
For this reason, it's strange that the next major video game installment is The Lord of the Rings: Gollum. Regardless of the upcoming title's quality, it is an odd choice for a main character considering the assortment of more suitable protagonists. A Gandalf video game in the same style as The Witcher, or an Aragorn origin story in the style of Assassin's Creed, could be enticing for players.
Borrowing From Shadow of Mordor's Combat
Rocksteady reinvented the wheel with its free-flow combat system in the Batman: Arkham series, something which was later incorporated into Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. The agility of movement, counter mechanics, and brutal takedowns transitioned seamlessly from playing as the caped crusader to a lone ranger in the land of Middle-earth. The hack-and-slash systems of prior games were certainly fun, but this new approach was perfect for taking down swarms of orcs and trolls.
Seeing how well this worked in both Shadow of Mordor and Shadow of War, it would be worth including this style of combat into future games. Gandalf would naturally have more magic-based attacks mixed into melee, similar to The Witcher series, meanwhile Legolas could bring a much deeper emphasis on long range attacks similar to what is on display in the recent Tomb Raider games.
There are plenty of avenues in which future videos games based on The Lord of the Rings can go. This universe is packed to the brim with gorgeous vistas, interesting lore, and terrifying monsters, leaving endless sources of inspiration for studios to dive into.