The wanderers and wizards are back, squaring off against orcs and trolls and worse.
Electronic Arts and and its Capital Games studio are launching The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth, a turn-based combat mobile game that follows in the footsteps of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
The Star Wars game from Sacramento, California-based Capital Games has generated tons of downloads and revenues for EA. Data.ai said the Star Wars game has grossed about $1.32 billion globally since launch, not including third-party Android stores, on close to 90 million downloads.
And now this new role-playing game for iOS and Android aims to capture some of that magic again through an epic adventure based on The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit works by J.R.R. Tolkien. EA calls the game a tactical turn-based squad builder, or character collecting RPG.
Now available as a free-to-play game on iOS and Android devices, The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth is a new story grounded in the deep lore of the world as players discover a new Ring of Power (evidently, straying from the story in the books) that grants visions and influence across timelines.
Narrative and gameplay details
Fantasy and adventure come together in the tactical, turn-based strategy of The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth. Featuring one of the deepest collections of Tolkien characters in a game; players collect and build squads of iconic heroes including Frodo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey along with dangerous villains like Orcs, Goblins, Trolls, Nazgül and other lore-inspired characters.
Jay Ambrosini, design director at Capital Games, said in a press briefing that the player finds a Ring of Power that grants them the ability to see visions across the ages. In this vision, there is a shadowy figure working to corrupt the storylines that hold together the fabric of Middle-earth. The player discovers an ability to understand an control heroes and those visions, fighting back against the corruption.
“As a ring bearer, the player will have to team up with Earendil, a hero of the First Age, in addition to their fellow ringbearers to fight against this corruption and restore the timelines,” Ambrosini said.
Nicolas Reinhart, game director at Capital Games, said in a press briefing that players will get to be part of the magic of the fantasy world with both familiar tales and a fresh interpretation of the works.
“We imagined a Middle-earth at risk of having its stories rewritten,” Reinhart said. “Fundamentally, we want players to feel like they are part of the grander conflict to save the world and stories they love.”
It will feature battlegrounds like the Weathertop hill, which ancient ruins where the Nazgul fought the ringbearer’s group in the novels. Rinehart said the team tried to recapture the place in vivid detail that feels authentic to Tolkien fans. The Elven haven of Rivendell is another place that the team created. These places are the arenas where players will fight against other squads.
“We believe we’ve made an alluring early introduction to the world of Heroes,” Reinhart said.
Ambrosini said that Strider is a might warrior who can protect the hobbits in his group, and he grants stealth to them every time a critical hit occurs. The hobbits can hop out of stealth and attack and distract. Another group includes goblins from the Misty Mountains. The Riders of Rohan squad can call in assistance and grant counterattacks to each other.
Adventurers delve into the world of Middle-earth as they discover each character’s unique abilities that can turn the tide of battle against powerful foes – crafting unique combinations of squads to test exciting and unprecedented scenarios, mixing and matching heroes and villains to fight in epic battles.
“Our vision for The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth invites players to shape a brand new narrative around the powers of the new Ring of Power with endless possibilities,” said Reinhart. “We wanted to give players a space to explore one of the most diverse, inclusive and story-rich version of Middle-earth where they can assemble beloved heroes, shine a spotlight on characters referenced but never shown before in the literature, and even upgrade and modify their characters to elevate the way players interact with their squads.”
Players will relive their favorite iconic moments from across the series, and explore brand new battles through a variety of story-driven campaigns as they team up with Eärendil and fellow Ring-bearers to restore the timelines of Middle-earth. Experiences range from meeting elves in Rivendell, to battling the Nazgul atop Weathertop, and beyond.
New characters and regular in-game events will regularly expand the narrative and grow players’ roster of characters for even more diverse play. Future post-release content updates will include even more ways to explore Middle-earth with both friend and foe.
Perfect for fans on the go, the mobile game features action-packed battles, strategic squad-based gameplay and plenty of customization options rooted in the lore. It requires a persistent internet connection and includes in-game purchases. Monetization is not required of every player, but those who want to spend money on in-game items can do so as they build out their collections.
Malachi Boyle, vice president of mobile RPG and 4X, said in a press briefing that EA has a deep partnership with Middle-earth Enterprises, which holds much of the digital and film rights for The Lord of the Rings and which was recently acquired by The Embracer Group. Boyle said he expects the work to last for many years to come.
Thanks to the partnership, Ambrosini said that EA has leeway to explore alternate timelines and ask “what if?” questions about timelines that never existed. What if there was a Dark Queen who took the One Ring? He said that these ideas are authentic to The Lord of the Rings as EA tries to create new stories.
“As an extension of this, we get to show characters that have never before been portrayed,” like Tom Bombadil from The Fellowship of the Ring. The developers will take players through the Mines of Moria. The game will have raids for players in places like Moria.
“One of the things that Tolkien did best was deliver iconic, epic struggles between good and evil that still resonate and ignite our imaginations to this day,” Ambrosini said.
He cited examples like battling the rock trolls, the Balrog, the Battle of the Five Armies and fighting the Witch King. These “are all awesome set pieces that are exciting to this day,” he said.
The game will enable character customization around weapons and items that the players can wield. And it will have a multi-squad player-versus-player experience. Overall, EA has a multi-year content roadmap to deliver for fans.
“All in all, we have ambitious program ahead of us to deliver an authentic compelling Lord of the Rings and fantasy experience,” Ambrosini said.
The game will be about the world of Middle-earth in a state of a world war, on the brink of an apocalypse. But it will also have light and whimsical parts as well, with bright and sunny places like The Shire.