The Lord of the Rings trilogy is quite possibly one of the most iconic fictional works of the 21st century. By adapting Tolkien's works into film, Peter Jackson introduced an entire generation to the fantasy genre. His movies sparked a surge of interest in magic, swords, and sorcery that has endured to this day.
That means they're at least partially responsible for the many great games set in Middle-earth and the larger world of Arda — Tolkien's brainchild has, over the years, served as the backdrop for some downright incredible experiences.
NetEase's The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War is the latest to join that pedigree.
Available on both Android and iOS starting September 23, Rise to War is an officially licensed strategy game set in a faithful recreation of Arda as it existed during the Third Age.
The One Ring has resurfaced in the abandoned castle of Dol Guldur, drawing the attention of forces both good and evil. It falls to you to lead them to victory. But will you fight for a greater cause, or is the call of the Ring too great to resist?
That's entirely up to you.
Upon creating an account, you'll first need to select a faction. This will determine not only your starting kingdom, but also the forces heroes available to you at the beginning of the game. There are six different kingdoms to choose from, and each one has its own unique bonuses.
Once you've decided which banner to march under, you'll find yourself at the kingdom management screen. This is where the bulk of the game is set. Here, you'll build up your stronghold and muster your forces.
The game uses tile-based, real-time movement. Conquering the tiles around your stronghold will give you access to additional resources and increase your renown. Moreover, if you manage to conquer one of Arda's many wonders, you may even gain special bonuses or equipment. Constructing and upgrading structures within the stronghold itself, meanwhile, unlocks new units, more resources, enhanced defenses, and more.
As you win battles and extend your influence, you'll also attune yourself to your own Ring of Power, strengthening both your forces and your kingdom.
To do any of this, however, you'll first need an army. Soldiers can be conscripted through your Stronghold's Barracks based on what structures you've built. Alternatively, you can hire non-faction units for an additional resource cost.
So if you've ever wanted to see Ents marching side-by-side with Mumakil, here's your chance.
Of course, an army is nothing without a Commander. Drawn from well-known characters throughout the Third Age, each Commander provides unique bonuses and sports their own distinctive skill tree. They can also equip weapons, armor, and artifacts to help them even further dominate the battlefield.
You begin the game with only a single Commander, and recruit more through the Tavern.
Coincidentally, this is also where you'll access the game's single-player campaign, alongside quests that gain you resources and gear. Said campaign functions as a sort of microcosm of Rise to War's core gameplay loop. Through a series of missions, you'll play through battles from across Tolkien's history, such as the War of the Last Alliance, the Fall of Isengard, and the Siege of Minas Tirith.
The real draw of Rise to War is in its multiplayer. Depending on the faction they've chosen, players can either join a Fellowship or a Warband. These organized guilds allow players to call on one another for assistance in both combat and kingdom-building, provide unique buffs, and at higher levels, can even maintain their own marketplace.
Each Fellowship/Warband is also tied to a specific faction, further increasing that faction's power and influence over the course of a Season.
And that brings us to one of Rise to War's more unique elements — Seasons. Taking place over a few months, each Season has factions compete with one another to determine who is truly worthy to possess The One Ring. Metrics by which success is measured include occupying the most land, recruiting the most Commanders, defeating the most neutral enemies, occupying the most opposing
After rewards are doled out at the end of each season, the game's map is reset. Players retain Commanders, equipment, and influence, but otherwise start each Season anew. Players that are particularly passionate about Rise to War may also sign up to be a Fearless Pioneer, creating video content, artwork, and even lore chronicling the events of each season.
We all know how The War of the Ring happened in the books. Rise to War explores what could have happened. Alongside fellow commanders, it gives you the opportunity to write your own story and craft your own legend.
The One Ring is calling — how will you answer?