Give the Total War: Warhammer team the Lord of the Rings license already

On December 31, 2010, something unfortunate happened: Electronic Arts closed its online servers The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, as well as the sequel and its expansion. In addition, EA’s licensing agreement with New Line Cinema also expired, allowing the former to develop games set in the fantasy world of JRR Tolkien since 2001. Warner Bros. took on the mantle of steward for The Lord of the Rings video games, the Battle for Middle-earth series disappeared from digital storefronts, and one of my favorite real-time strategy series disappeared into licensing limbo.

The Battle for Middle-earth games are not impossible to play in 2023. Officially, you can buy pre-owned physical copies of any game on eBay and play the entire series online through custom servers. There’s also a massive Unreal Engine 4 fan mod in the works (although it’s still unclear when, or if, the project will be completed).

Still, it’s a shame fans of modern strategy can’t just visit the Origin store,, or even Game Pass to watch the simple yet compelling clashes between the men of the west, elves, dwarves, goblins, Mordor, Isengard, and the armed forces. of the Witch King.

The Battle for Middle-earth is not the best strategy series ever made. Combat relied on default rock-paper-scissors unit weaknesses, factions were wildly unbalanced in multiplayer, and enemy AI repeated the same strategies custom game after custom game, leading to predictable skirmishes for anyone who prefers to avoid online multiplayer.

Image: EA Los Angeles/Electronic Arts via SpottinGames/YouTube

But as a means of marching an army of Gondorian spearmen, Ithilien rangers, and Riders of Rohan to Osgiliath, only to clash with a counterforce of uruks, trolls, and war machines in a real-time pitched battle, in which you cross two bridges across the River Anduin before launching a surprise attack with upgraded cavalry over a third? These games ruled. I’ve played hundreds of hours Warcraft3, Company of HeroesAnd Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 in the years leading up to the first Battle for Middle-earth, and I consider each of them to be more nuanced and better-balanced strategy games. But for someone obsessed with the battles of war described in Tolkien’s books, and the way they came to life in the hands of Peter Jackson, The Battle for Middle-earth was breathtaking in its ability to demonstrate how a war was fought with dragons, giants, wizards. , tree people and superhuman heroes can unfold. And at that time there was nothing else like this.

That’s probably why I’m so drawn to it Total War: Warhammer when it was released in 2016, and its sequels in the years since, crescendo in what I healthy obsession of Total War: Warhammer 3. Set in Games Workshop’s “Fantasy Battle” setting (which existed before the company reset tabletop lore with the Age of Sigmar universe in 2015), the grand strategy trilogy takes Tolkien’s fantasy archetypes and embellishes them with cartoonish storylines. , anime-style clashes, and ridiculous superpowers. Of course you can Ride of the Rohirrim on the Pelennor Fields. And yes, you can recreate those wondrous things Osgiliath bottlenecks against hordes of orcs, goblins, trolls and war machines.

An army of Cathay close ranks with the demonic forces of Tzeentch in Total War: Warhammer 3

Image: Creative Assembly/Sega

But you can also fight undead Egyptian pharaohs with shape-shifting dragons; vampires can take on armies of tree people; ancestral dwarf spirits can dodge the meteor-drenched Gatling rifle bullets of underground rat soldiers. I imagine Fantasy Battle as a universe created by some sort of Tolkien obsessive turned bit at lost in the 1980s. By extension, Total War: Warhammer 3 The Battle for Middle-earth has been dialed up to 11.

Last year I wouldn’t have written about it Total War: Warhammer 3 for Sub Gems, Polygon’s column reserved for our most glowing subscription service recommendations, as it wasn’t technically available on any service in its full form. But in February, Creative Assembly was created Immortal realms, the expansion that combines the maps and factions from all three parts in the trilogy, free for all base game owners and Game Pass subscribers. Players no longer need to own every game in the series to command armies on the overcrowded, huge, fantastical map; which they can play the expansion war hammer 3‘s launch factions and buy new ones bit by bit as they come across them. Total War games are complex creations, and PC Game Pass offers players a great way to test the waters before committing to buying the entire trilogy.

Tzarina Katarin and an Ice Witch plunge into battle alongside a Snow Leopard from Kislev in Total War: Warhammer 3

Image: Creative Assembly/Sega

At a time when video games set in Tolkien’s fantasy world are either disappointing or largely unknown quantities (there are a handful of studios making Lord of the Rings games right now, but none of their announcements have made my head spin), Total War: Warhammer 3 is an ointment that soothes the absence of The battle for Middle-earth and its sequel. It’s an unparalleled delight to watch Games Workshop’s larger-than-life heroes collide on lava-lined battlefields, as giant ethereal polar bears wade into formations of vampire pirates and eagles in the sky collide with wyvern-riding wizards.

Creative Assembly has proven over the course of three games and more than a dozen DLC packs that it can recreate a beloved fantasy universe with the scale, scope and creativity the setting deserves. If only there was another massive fantasy license, waiting for the next great video game adaptation, to get their hands on Creative Assembly…