Published:
January 4, 2020 12:54 AM UTC

We Need to Stop With The Lord of the Rings Games

It's really, really important to many of his fans that J.R.R. Tolkien's work is treated with respect. In general, there's a certain feeling that most of the adaptations of The Lord of the Rings would probably turn Tolkien's stomach.

  • There have been plenty of video game adaptations of The Lord of the Rings over the years.
  • Many of these video game adaptations have been pretty high quality, but they usually manage to trample over certain elements of J.R.R. Tolkien’s canon.
  • There probably shouldn’t be any more video game adaptations of Tolkien for a while.

The Lord of the Rings is a definitive piece of fiction. Since it was released in 1954, it has swept the world. We’ve had several adaptations, from movies to games to movie-based games. In general, people seem to love a good Lord of the Rings adaptation.

While patient fans wait for Amazon’s TV series to hit our screens, we’ve got tons of other Lord of the Rings media to pass the time. In fact, Daedalus Entertainment has got a new game coming out for the next-gen console in a few years. As much as I am excited by that specific title, it should probably be our last LOTR game for a while.

There Is Only One Lord of the Rings

One of the things that makes LOTR so interesting is how well constructed it is. J.R.R. Tolkien spent most of his life tweaking and working on Middle-Earth. In fact, he spent so long working on it, that he died before it could be completed. Obviously, that work isn’t in the books of The Lord of the Rings, but it certainly relates.

This is why it’s often very difficult to make a game based on Middle-Earth that satisfies everyone. Sure, games can be good in their own right. Even as someone who considers themselves a Tolkien-purist, I managed to squeeze a fair amount of enjoyment out of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor. And that game is filled with ideas and concepts that completely go against Tolkien’s style and prose.

It’s sort of the height of arrogance to assume that anything you can come up with will be as good as the work of a man considered the father of modern fantasy. It’s really, really important to many of his fans that Tolkien’s work is treated with respect. So far even the good Lord of the Rings games have had elements that made me want to retch.

Shadow of War may have been debatably fun, but it also had some of the most egregious debasements of the Tolkien canon. | Source: Steam

It’s Time To Stop

Shelob is not a dark version of Galadriel. Celebrimbor did not forge the One Ring. Legolas is not a Ninja. Most of what happened in the movie versions of The Hobbit didn’t happen, or at least not in that order. In general, there’s a certain feeling that most of the adaptations of The Lord of the Rings would probably turn Tolkien’s stomach.

It certainly feels like LOTR is at that point where it’s just a cash cow. It’s been hooked up to the milking machine by anyone who can get their hands on the license. Sure maybe the crew behind Shadow of War really felt they had something to add to the universe. But, more than likely WB Games just wanted to make as much money off of it as possible.

This is all very much the gripes of a cynical Tolkien fan. Maybe The Lord of the Rings: Gollum will come out and be amazing. Maybe it’ll treat the sauce material with reverence and respect, and I won’t have to ignore a little voice in my head as I play through it. Realistically I think it’s just time that we stop rehashing Tolkien’s work over and over again. It’s already great. Adding cockney orcs and an elf/dwarf love triangle is just sickeningly unnecessary.

This article was edited by Gerelyn Terzo.

William Worrall @mizushinzui

William Worrall is a freelance writer based out of the UK who has been writing professionally about video and tabletop games for over half a decade and has covered industry events such as EGX and UKGE. Reach him at wsworrall.co.uk or on Twitter at W.S. Worrall.