War in Middle Earth logo Amiga Computing Value Award

Examine everything with Dave Eriksson

PUBLICATION of Professor JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit in 1937 and The Lord of the Rings in 1965 were two of the most important events in adventure history. Two books like no othes.

The Hobbit game from Melbourne House shook the adventuring world, a Spectrum game with recognisable graphics, a game which had us puzzled over for weeks and months.
The sequels, Lord of the Rings and Shadows of Mordor, were buggy disappointments. Perhaps smarting under the criticisms, Melbourne House has pursued the theme of The Lord of the Rings. War in Middle Earth is a mixture of adventure, role playing and strategic wargame. It encompasses all three parts of the Lord of the Rings and for those who do not know the story a synopsis is given in the instruction booklet.

There are three main screen displays - full map, campaign and animation levels. The full map shows the entire area of Middle Earth involved in the game. Characters under your command are shown as blinking blue dots, evil forces as red dots and neutral forces as green. Time is halted while you look at it.

The campaign level gives a detailed scrolling view. Characters are shown as small figures and forces as a shield, its design in telling you who it represents. Clicking on characters, armies, towns or any other point of interest, will bring up a window telling you what or who is there.

The animation level presents a moving display. Messages passed to your characters are shown in a window. Characters walk or ride in from one side and move out to the other, occasionally sitting down for a rest or kip. Graphics are superb. Keep this level activated and the scene will change as your party moves to a new location.

In each display there are icons that enable other options to be actioned. You may look at the health of a character, see what forces are doing and their status, change the rate at which time passes, get a character to pick something up or use an item already held, change from one level to another, instruct a character or group to move to a place or in a specified direction and save the game position.

When opposing forces face up to one another you have the choice for each main character - and for groups such as 400 light infantry - of four actions: Charge, engage, withdraw and retreat. Fighting can make or mar the rest of the game, here the system used works quite well and is believable.

At the start you can only control three groups; Frod, Sam and Pippin, Eomer with a small group of cavalry in Rohan, Faramir with a group of rangers in North Ithilien.

SAURON has sent the Nazgul to the Shire because he believes that the Ring is somewhere in that area. Nazgul are deathless ancient kings who were given, and came under the spell of, the rings Sauran made for mortal men.

To get more allies you must meet characters or groups. As Frodo and his companions travel, they meet folk who offer advice. Read carefully, for some messages do not stay on the screen for very long. They usually indicated where useful objects may be found.

In the book, Frodo goes to Buckland, where he is joined by Merry. The four hobbits then travel east and meet Tom Bombadil (more advice) and then on to the small town of Bree where they meet a tall ranger, Aragorn. He takes them to Rivendell, where it is decided that the Ring must be destroyed and that the party to attempt this will be nine strong.

This Fellowship of the Ring is made up of Frodo and the three hobbits, Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas (an Elf), Gimli (a drawf) and Boromir (a man).

Unlike the book, where you only meet Eomer and Faramir much later on, the game enables you to make use of their services and friendship right from the beginning.

It is possible to get the Ring to the Cracks of Doom by several different methods. There is also the question of finding treasures tha are hinted at. Who is to find them and when?

Combined might may be able to make a frontal assault on Mordor and get the Ring to Mount Doom.
Alternatively, as in the book, a mighty display of force may cause Sauron to overlook a small band creeping silently through a back door.

Your options are wide open. There are healing draughts in the Grey Havens, in a ravine north of the White Towers or in Tuckborough. There is mithril armour in Belegost and an ancient golden sceptre to the west of Amnumias. There is a valuable hammer lost to the dwarves and a silver orb that will have the elves following you like the Pied Piper.

There is a wood prized by the wise, elven shards, a red arrow and Thrain's ring. All these things could be useful, but do you have the time to find them?

INITIALLY the evil forces of Sauron remain quiescent - some slight movement but nothing openly aggressive. At a moment probably triggered off by the approach of the Ring, Sauron unleashes his armies. It's obviously useful to distract Sauron from looking too close to home.

It is possible to finish the game within an hour by getting Eomer to ride north to the Shire and escorting Frodo and friends into Mordor from the east. But apart from proving it can be done, this provides little or no real gameplay. None of the useful objects are found or used and the Fellowship of the Ring is never formed.

The time to feel good about this game is when you can do it as it was written in the book.
The operating system works well, but disc access when changing levels is a little slow. My version crashed a couple of times.

For those addicted to The Lord of the Rings, this is a must. You will meet many of the characters who make the trilogy so remarkable. This game is very much what yo make of it. It definitely does not lose interest, you simply take a different path. What music and sound effects there are, are quite good, and the graphics are excellent, you can sit and watch Frodo and Co wandering for hours.

War in Middle Earth logo Format Gold


Mastertronic's latest incarnation of the classic fantasy novel Lord of the Rings is a wargame with a difference.


Long ago in the early years of the second age the Elven Smiths forged rings of power: three for the Elven Kings, nine for mortal men and seven for the Dwarf Lords. Sauron, the Dark Lord, forged a master ring, the One Ring, which would rule them all. With it he could control Middle Earth. When the One Ring was finished he put it on his finger and the wearers of the other rings were aware of Sauron's aim.

A great war was fought and many died, but eventually Sauron was defeated by the forces of elves and men. The Ring was taken from Sauron and should have been destroyed but it was not. The One Ring fell into a river and there it lay for hundreds of years.

The ring was eventually found by Bilbo Baggins, who passed it on to his nephew, Frodo. Meanwhile Gandalf the wizard had been wandering all over Middle Earth trying to find out more about the ring and not realising that it was the One Ring. As soon as he found out he returned to the Shire and told Frodo that is must be destroyed.

War in Middle Earth begins as Frodo leaves the Shire with his friends Sam and Pippin on their journey to end the ring's magical powers. Under your command his first problem is to reach the temporary safety of the House of Elrond in Rivendell. The action is played on two levels: the ring quest and a tactical wargame.


The ring can only be unmade in the burning fires at the heart of Mount Doom's volcano. Frodo must be guided from his home in the Shire to the land of Mordo, realm of the Dark Lord.

The early stages of the game involve getting Frodo, Sam and Pippin to Rivendell in one piece. This is where the Fellowship of the Ring is formed - a sort of later day Freemason's without the lessons in sheep castration. On your way you'll join up with Merry and Aragorn and spend so much time avoiding Nazgul, the most powerful of Sauron's servants, that you'll start wondering whether you wouldn't prefer to slip the ring on and disappear altogether.

On the tactical side you have to move the forces of men, elves and dwarves to stop all the evil dross that fight for Sauron and Saruman, a turncoat wizard. Initially you have only a few armies who obey your orders, but more begin to respond and war breaks out on a larger scale as Sauron shows his hand.


A large map of Middle Earth shows the disposition of your armies and those of Sauron. On the close-up map you can obtain detailed information about any army, whether they fight for good or evil and give orders to the good armies. Using the magnifying glass again will take you to a side view of the chosen characters as they walk or ride across Middle Earth. IN this mode you receive detailed messages from other characters and can also pick up a y objects lying on the ground, for example, an elven sword at Tom Bombadil's house.

When a battle takes place you have the option of 'going to it' or 'ignoring it'. Going to the battle allows you to decide tactics which can employed to a limited extent: charge, engage, withdraw or retreat are the available options - no chance to pull out a bottle of Lucozade though. Orcs are cannon fodder, but trolls take more killing and have a nasty tendency to inflict so many heavy casualties you can't help wishing they'd climb onto the end of a 150mm bazooka.

The game comes to an end very quickly if a Nazgul gets his grubby hands on the One Ring. He dashes to Mordor at the speed of light and you can either cross your fingers he'll get squashed by a lawnmower or alternatively make some attempt to stop him before he meets Sauron. Other things bring about defeat, such as if the Hornburg, an ancient and strategic tower, falls into Saruman's sticky mitts - not a popular conclusion.


The graphics are in three different stages - world map, detailed map and the individual location. Armies on the scrolling world map are only indicated by flashing dots. When you zoom into the detailed map you're presented with small graphics to represent each army. There's no problem at all in working out when you've been killed - you flop on the ground and look thoroughly dead.

The main map is scrolled swiftly and smoothly by clicking on a pointer until you find an army. Zooming in again lets you see impressive detail and lots of colourful scenery. The sprites of the various characters are adequate, but more effort could have made them vaguely realistic. All text messages appear in yellow-edges scrolls which give the game an atmospheric feel.

There are plenty of tunes, but the Amiga is capable of performing more than you're actually given. Sound effects are average, but not in abundance, a few battle spot-effects and a liberal scattering of others are all on offer.


War in Middle Earth is one of a rare breed of wargames that looks as good as it plays. The computer forces moves logically so your enemies don't just wander around the map randomly obliterating you. It'll take you hours to finish so a Save Game option comes in pretty handy although a feature to play at hasty or very hasty speeds allows you to skip through any tedious battles. However, when it comes to a vital confrontation, such as the battle of the Hornburg, you can go there and modify your tactics. If you find you can't beat the hell out of your enemies - a common problem - then you'll be able to retreat and come back later life starts to get boring.

War in Middle Earth logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Melbourne House
Price: £19.99

Without a doubt, one of the best books ever to appear was Tolkien's 'Lord Of The Rings'(Oh, undoubtedly Tone - Ed), a massive four book (including 'The Hobbit') epic that spanned the entire story of the acquisition and eventual destruction of One Ring. I won't go into plot because we have not the space, but in a nutshell, the One Ring was the most powerful of a group of 12 magical rings, forged many years ago, within the fires of hell itself (or home sweet home as I like to call it).

As the fires of hell are pretty hot, the metals were forged in such a way that the only way they can be broken is through the same hell fire. Eleven of the rings have been discovered and destroyed. Only one remains. The One. (Should that not be The ne? - Ed). The same one that Bilbo Baggins found as an adventurous young hobbit. The One Ring is special because whoever wears it has complete control over the other eleven rings, pointless as they would seem. It also grants the bearer with the gift of invisibility, if the ring is worn. Now the bad news, the evil forces of Sauroman (an evil wizard) are after the ring.

To get the ring, he has sent out his Black Riders, known as the Nazgul. The Nazgul have the irritating habit of being able to sniff out the ring whenever it is used, and the Nazgul are after you.

In War In Middle Earth, you are god, insofar as you are in control of all the 'good' people, including Frodo, Sam and Pippin, the trio of hobbits who are the initial ring bearers. What you have to do is get the ring from the Shire (Frodo's home) and get it to the other end of the map of Middle Earth to a place called Mount Doom, an opening to hell itself.

The game is icon controlled and set over three scales. The first is the battle map overview. With this, you too can cry 'How goes the battle?'. This shows you the entire map with all friendly units marked.

The next view is a semi-close up of the map. Ground detail is now visible, as is definition of what units are. A unit can comprise of almost anything, from one singular important character, such as Gandalf, Gollum or Frodo, to small armies of a hundred or so men or dwarves.

The final level of the map is the animation level. It is at this level that you participate in battles. In this mode, you can also watch your units go to wherever they want to go, first hand.

The battles are visually enacted by the characters jumping about swinging weapons. You can leave it for the computer to fight out, or you can lend your hand to a bit of barbarian swordplay by selecting what you want each character to do, you have the choice to charge, fight, defend or run.

Getting to the ring from The Shire to Mount Doom is bloody difficult, despite there being many ways you could do it. You can try and amass one huge army and storm across the land, obliterating anything that comes near you, or you could go silently and try and sneak it in. Either way, it is a challenge.

The graphics are wonderful, especially in the animation mode. I sat and watched Frodo and company walk across the Shire and into Mordor for hours. All the backdrops are exquisitely drawn and every one is different. Rivers are animated, leaves fall from trees, the works. Every so often, Frodo and the lads camp down for a while and sit around chatting for a bit, before finally laying down and going to sleep. Sweet.

The sound consists of a nice intro tune and some fairly basic in-game effects. Different selection sounds, along with battle noises are so far as WIME's forte goes.

WIME is fab. Graphically wonderful, fun to play, challenging and involving. If you have got a brain in your head and you want to use it, or even if you are a fan of the books, buy it. You won't be sorry.

Frodo, Pippin and Merry sort out their tactics in glorious 16-bit

War in Middle Earth logo Zzap! Sizzler Zzap's Front: 'Down Roly!' Zzap's Back: 'Shatit, mr Vimmicum!'

Melbourne House, Amiga £24.95

When JRR Tolien wrote his chronicles of Middle Earth, he wasn't simply creating a legend, he was generating a whole new world - a parallel civilisation, where men exist among elves, dwarves and hobbits and where the enemy isn't a fellow race, but the force of evil itself. Where magic works and decides the fate of the populace.

Zzap's Thing: Tough! The beginning of this story isn't exactly earth shattering. A hobbit burglar, by the name of Bilbo Baggins, tricks a pale-faced creature called Gollum out of a small golden ring. This ring just happens to be the most powerful artefact on Middle Earth. Sauron, the ultimate evil force, had attempted to use it in a bid to take over Middle Earth but his plan failed and the ring was lost - until now.

The only way to ensure that its powers aren't used for evil again is to throw it into the crack of the volcano, Mount Doom. Unfortunately, Sauron has since got wind of the ring's discovery and has sent out his ghostly messengers, the black riders (or Nazgul) to find and retrieve the ring which is now in the possession of Bilbo's nephew, Frodo.

Zzap's Nose And it's as Frodo that you're charged with the mission of carrying and ultimately destroying the dangerous jewel.

Play is divided into three map-based sections. The main map shows the whole of Middle Earth, with units under your control shown as flashing dots. Using icons, you have the power to move the units, be they individual characters or whole battalions, by means of the second playing area.

Zzap's Rockford: Hello Princess!

This is a blown-up version of the first screen, showing the main map in more detail. As it covers several screens full of information, you use the mouse to scroll from location to location.

When meeting between characters or armies occur, the third playing area is utilised. This takes the form of an animation screen, which displays the characters themselves as they interact: chat, rest, and collect objects and fight. Further icons and menus (giving you a selection of possible fighting moves, for example) appear as your choice of action makes them necessary.

Zzap's Ken D Fish: Shuttes Queenie! Much of your strategy will involve proving yourself to other forces of good and getting them to trust you. At the start of the action, the map is brimming with large numbers of potentially helpful people, which haven't yet got the power to control. Until you've taken them objects which prove your allegiance to the cause, they won't be interested in offering any aid.

There are an almost infinite number of ways to complete War In Middle Earth. Are you hobbit enough to try them out?

War in Middle Earth: Eye-icon Gives status of enemy and units under your control.
War in Middle Earth: Map-icon Flick from animation section to orders screen, and from there to the main map.
War in Middle Earth: Magnify-icon Gain a closer peek at the unit selected.
War in Middle Earth: Hourglass-icon Alter the rate at which game time passes.
War in Middle Earth: Arrow-icon Move the chosen unit to a specified location on the map.
Gordon Houghton I am glad the latest adaptation of Tolkien's works wasn't another adventure because, fun as they may be, they don't have much scope for continued play once you've finished them. Which can't be said for War In Middle Earth: it might not be impossible to complete, but there loads of different ways to approach the game so you'll be playing for ages to come. Every little thing you do affects the eventual outcome, and a silly move, like forgetting to go to Rivendell for the rest of the Fellowship, could (and usually does) spell bitter defeat later on. The programmers have definitely made the most of the animation screen with lots of well-implemented touches such as characters limping if they've been wounded in battle! As long as you're not a totally way-out junky, give this a really good go.
Can't say I was mad keen on the 64 version of War In Middle Earth, but I was impressed by its good points - especially the way it manages to co-ordinate everything and still stay fast enough to be playable. Well, the Amiga version's just as playable and it's got loads and loads of good points. The best thing about it is that it manages to combine different elements of strategy, adventure and arcade action and still comes across as a really gripping wargame. It really manages to capture the atmosphere of the book: the struggles, the agony of defeat and the jubilation of victory. The graphics are of a high standard, especially on the animated screens and the sound is admirable. They also make this a lot more accessible to people (like me) who wouldn't go out and by a more traditional sort of strategy game. In other words - it's dead good. Go out and buy it.
Kati Hamza
Paul Rand
I am not a staunch strategist, but I thoroughly enjoyed War In Middle Earth. Its sheer depth is just incredible! With the amount of events happening at the same time, the whole thing must really eat away at the computer's processing power. Everything is presented in a neat and concise way, from the informative and entertaining manual, to the uncluttered screens, to the limited icon use needed to carry out orders. Graphics are well above average (pretty unusual for a game of this type) with some lovely landscapes on the animation screens. And as if that's not enough, there are a veritable host of smashing tunes and effects to capture the game's atmosphere perfectly. You don't deserve an Amiga if you miss out on War In Middle Earth.