Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.
In an alternate universe, Total War: Middle-Earth II just emerged from Creative Assembly, and Monolith have just released Warhammer: Shadow of Warhammer into the world. In this universe, my most recent memory of a Tolkien strategy game is 2004’s elegantly titled The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth.
It wasn’t very good. It wasn’t all that bad either, as far as I recall, but my memories of playing it are so vague that I can only assume it was actively forgettable. It had some of Howard Shore’s music from the Peter Jackson films on its soundtrack and that made it feel like an adaptation of those films rather than the books.
The missions were a blend of scripted sequences and base/settlement capturing/building, and contained nothing surprising for a veteran of the genre. And I really really really hated that there were hobbit characters as heroes, because the war-like nature of the game meant they could take loads of damage from entire armies of trolls and orcs and then they’d eventually die and respawn after a while.
That’s fine if your Gandalf but it’s not how hobbits roll.
Much as I’d like to see a Total War take on Tolkien at some point, I’m never convinced that the actual wars and battles are the interesting part of Lord of the Rings. It’s about the things happening around the wars, isn’t it? The resistance and the espionage. The quiet war rather than the blood battle.