The Lord of the Rings - vol.1 (Interplay, 1990)

There's a thing I do every now and then, just for fun. I read the list of my childhood's favorite books/novels/games/whatever and check how they stand the test of time.

Herbert's Dune? Hasn't aged a single day, still one my top choices. Bless the Maker and all His Water.
Neuromancer? So and so. Gibson's books unfortunately tend to loose their innovative drive with time. But in terms of writing skills, very few are Gibson's equals. The Lord of the rings? Well well. It used to be my absolute favorite. When I played Interplay's Lord of The Rings, I was going through my 5th reading of Tolkien's masterpiece (yes, I had a lot of free time back then). Now it's not my favorite any more. It's not even in my top 10. Why? Because I don't like that black or white way to see the world any more. Things are never black or white, they're always some shade of grey. In terms of worldbuilding, LotR is probably still the best you can find. But a novel is not just worldbuilding, hence its fall from grace. From my graces of course, because the rest of the world still loves it like the first day.

We're meeting Strider here

So, as I said, when I played Interplay's game I was in full LotR craze; so probably my opinion on the game was not exactly well-balanced. Yes, I loved it. Every part of it. Even the clumsy inventory and laughable magic system. Even the horrible fight mechanics. But hey, at the time anything that put me inside the Prancing Pony during the Nazgul attack made me the happiest guy around. Even the most abysmal thing. And I'm not saying that the game was abysmal, but it's probably not as good as I remember it. I would never play it again today.

But let's talk about the good parts. The retrogame's plot is extremely faithful to the novel, with a few additions here and there, but nothing big. And that's a good thing for the book fanatic that I was; I would have screamed in rage at every little deviation from the original plot.
Every location has its own sub-quests which are completely original and made up for the game. But they fit quite well, without being that memorable (I can't remember a single one of them at the moment).

While playing, you had to read some paragraphs from the game manual every now and then, that gave you information essential to progress. This provided some system memory savings (probably laughable; we're talking PC here, not C64) and a handy copy-protection system all in one. Being myself going through several readings of a 1000+ pages novel, reading a few paragraphs was not a big deal, so I didn't mind at all. But probably some people screamed in horror at the thought of taking their eyes off the screen.

party skills

Party characters had different skills. Some were combat-related, others weren't. You could activate them at any time. And most of the time they did nothing, unless used in an appropriate situation. Take the lore skills. If a character with the dwarf lore skill entered Moria, he could tell you plenty of information regarding the locations the party entered. But a character with Hobbit Lore, capable of describing every single beer ever brewed in the Eastfarthing, would probably not be that useful in Moria.

A sequel exists, unsurprisingly named Lord of the Rings - vol.2. Alas, development of a third and final game was started but never completed, mainly because of vol.2 low sales. So I suppose we'll never know if Frodo will ever successfully complete his mission, right?

lotr box contents

Let's take a look inside the box. Here's the contents:

  • Middle Earth map. Of course. Nothing with Lord of the Rings written on it may ship without a map. This one decpict only the area between the Shire and Rivendell.

  • Game manual. Comprehensive and sporting pretty decent artwork. Most of its pages contain the aforementioned paragraphs.

  • Four 5,24" Floppy disks (yay!)

  • Various pamphlets