Since its inception, the games industry has had many ups and downs, triumphs and failures, and while the community grows larger every year, there is a glaring hole. Like Daniel Craig says in the movie Knives Out, there is a donut hole in the middle of this mystery. So many people don’t even notice it that it’s become a donut hole within a donut hole and, just like that movie line, this hole makes absolutely no sense. As the years pass, how have we been so blind?
The Lord of the Rings is a franchise that is ripe for the video game industry. Its setting, subject matter, lore, and deep history could lead to any number of games in various genres. And the future isn’t looking any brighter.
Just mere days ago, it was announced that Amazon had canned the Lord of the Rings MMO that they announced back in 2019. The only known upcoming title is The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, an action-adventure stealth game developed by Daedalic Entertainment. It seems like it focuses on making decisions based on Gollum’s two personalities to survive, and while I’m glad we’re getting some sort of Lord of the Rings game, this isn’t exactly what I meant.
The role-playing genre is beyond perfect for this franchise. Why we haven’t gotten an action or turn-based RPG that follows the Fellowship through the entirety of the plot is beyond me. Of course, many games were coming out during or after the release of Peter Jackson’s films back in the early 2000s, but we aren’t getting much after nearly twenty years.
There was one game in particular—The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age—that always really captivated me. It was a turn-based RPG that was modeled after Final Fantasy X, and man, was it an incredible game. You played as a cast of original characters, often acting as a rearguard to the Fellowship, going through and exploring many the same areas their adventures brought them to.
You got to explore the Mines of Moria, fight in the Battle of Helm’s Deep, and take part in the siege of Gondor. You chose where to allocate points into your character’s stats, you constantly got new weapons and armor, and characters would learn new moves regularly. I give this game a big old chef’s kiss.
The Lord of the Rings‘ universe and lore is so expansive and diverse that Tolkien created many different stories to accompany his world. Any new game could also be its own original story with newly-created characters, like Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. The biggest issue with that game was just that it took a lot of liberty when it came to the continuity of either the books or Peter Jackson’s films.
It’s possible to create a character who doesn’t do something as monumental as a journey across the world to destroy a ring but still have an impactful story. The story wouldn’t even have to be set during the war of the ring; there are plenty of points in Middle Earth’s history that can be explored. My point being, there is a lot of material to work with, so any game developer doesn’t have to feel tied down to any single story set within this world.
It’s frustrating to see other franchises like Star Wars get new games in different genres constantly while Lord of the Rings is left behind. I understand that Star Wars makes a lot more money per fiscal year, but nobody is tapping into the potential of the Middle Earth franchise.
Amazon is currently making a Lord of the Rings television series, the most expensive show in history. They understand the potential if they’re willing to spend that much money. My argument isn’t just, “oh, go make the game. It’s easy.” Game development takes much longer than making a movie or TV series; it costs more, and it’s overall very difficult to pull off. But the potential is massive, both for AAA and smaller titles.
I want to explore Middle Earth more, with a controller in my hand and a smile on my face, in glorious 4K. The Lord of the Rings games deserve a second chance.