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Review: Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle Earth

Where the game itself is solid in terms of graphics, gameplay, design, and performance, this Tolkien pie needs a lot more time to bake content in before it’s ready to be served to the masses.

A heroic anime character battles against a digital composite of enemies in an action-packed adventure game based on the popular action-adventure film and strategy video game series, "The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-Earth".
The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth
2.5
Quick Verdict: The game is tolerable and isn't bad. However, the game finds itself overshadowed in the shadows of a ton of great games in the same genre. There's nothing inherently wrong with the title when it stands on its own.
Pros:
  • Takes liberties with the IP without disrespecting it, offering a new take on the story.
  • Attention to detail in level and character designs, staying true to the source material.
  • Gameplay is simple and easy to understand.
  • Great visuals and design choices.
  • Refreshing story that deviates from the strict Lord of the Rings lore.
Cons:
  • AI for auto-playing is terrible and can make bad decisions.
  • Game feels more "cash-grabby" compared to similar titles like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
  • Limited character roster with some characters seemingly invented to fill gaps.
  • Incomplete and disorganized feeling, with some characters locked behind paywalls or hours of gameplay.
  • Tutorial feels like an afterthought and can be more of an annoyance than helpful.
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

Mobile games can be pretty predictable at times. There are not a ton of truly unique games out there often because most publishers understand what people like, download, and keep retention on.

The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle Earth mobile game is no different. And that’s OK.

Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle Earth joins the legions of other great licensed mobile “collectible strategy RPG” games that came before it.

If you’re a fan of games like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, Avatar Generations, or Marvel Strike Force, you’re in luck here.

We broke down what this meant for how the game would work back in April, which is worth taking a read into if you’re unfamiliar with the genre.

We got to take a deeper look at Heroes of Middle Earth prior to its launch. So, let’s break down all of the aspects of the game and see what makes it tick.

Is Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle Earth just a cash grab? Or is it a love letter to both LOTR and gacha game fans?

It’s a timeless story, changed by evil

Heroes of Middle Earth has a great aspect going for it: it takes some liberties with the property without disrespecting it.

Working together with Middle Earth Enterprises, stewards of the more famous Tolkien works, the devs took extra care of the IP while offering a brand new take on how the story comes together.

The image shows a mission in a video game where the player is tasked with retaking a bridge on normal difficulty and exploring new stories in chapter 3. Full Text: MISSION 4-5: NORMAL id Retake the Bridge .- 4-5 *** CHAPTER 3 15/27 NORMAL DIFFICULTY EXPLORE NEW STORIES

Instead of just being just a rehash of the story told by the movies, the story focuses on a new ring of power discovered. This ring grants visions and influences across timelines to its ring-bearer.

Across the timelines, some sort of “shadowy figure” is trying to corrupt and change the normal timeline.

Players will team up with Eärendil and “fellow ring-bearers” to fix the timeline. This can lead to a ton of what-if scenarios.

One example given during our preview with the development team explores the idea of “What if Galadriel took the One Ring when it was offered to her by Frodo?”.

Shadowy Figures on each side with the words They must not reach Rivendell.

This opens up a split timeline of characters and motivations. Sure, you’ll see famous scenes from the books (and movies, obviously), but sometimes they may offer a bit of a twist as well.

Early in the game, the classic Weathertop scene is derailed by an early appearance of evil, enchanted Arwen and goblins. Frodo still gets stabbed but has to be rushed to Rivendell without Arwen’s help.

It glosses over the part that she’s the reason he survived because she was fast, with Strider getting Frodo to Elrond himself.

This feels familiar

These stories and concepts involved feel like a classic Marvel comic series, “What If?“. “What If?” makes one single change to a timeline that drastically changes the future going forward.

The user interacts with the graphical user interface.

But, the concept also feels beat-for-beat like the Dragon Ball Xenoverse franchise as well. In those games, you play as someone teaming up with other heroes working to fix the timelines.

You handle a group of individuals that are causing havoc across all the various story beats, making changes to the normal flow of the time stream.

Basically, the story isn’t unique. But, that’s OK because it doesn’t just rehash the same exact story we already know.

But, the game does pretend certain elements of the story were irrelevant when they were crucial to the story as a whole.

Attention to detail

One thing that the team did was take note of actual details from the Lord of the Rings books. Heroes of Middle Earth may take their liberties on how a multiverse works. But, when it came to the design of the levels and visuals, they studied to source material.

Based on details that Tolkien added to exposition, things like how Weathertop looks and feels are small bits of content that Lord of the Rings fans will enjoy.

They did the same with character designs. Doing their homework when it came to how characters are described, they use “Strider” as an example.

Strider, before the hobbits knew his real name, is described in the books in no uncertain terms. During our preview with the team, they pulled up quotes directly from the novels.

The book describes Strider as “a strange-looking weather beaten man”, even going into detail on how his hair and beard looked during the scene. The design of Strider matches the description succinctly.

The characters feel cartoony without going overboard. It’s the right mix of design choices for a mobile game that doesn’t try to just remake the movies. The character design is reminiscent of the PlayStation 2 game, The Hobbit, but with much better graphics, updated for the times.

Gameplay and mechanics in Heroes of Middle Earth

The gameplay in Heroes of Middle Earth is pretty simple. For those that don’t know the genre well, this game takes a turn-based approach to fight, where your team faces small waves of two or three per battle.

You slowly upgrade to get better stats and abilities for each character on your roster, which allows you to potentially progress a little further with each upgrade.

A heroic cartoon character brandishes a weapon while teaming up with a person in a poster for an action-packed adventure game, combining elements of anime, CG artwork, digital compositing, video game software, animation, and strategy video games.

Once you hit a certain point, you can start auto-playing new missions for yourself. This is common for this genre and offers a 1x, 2x, and 3x speed for this game.

If you’re looking to turn your brain off while you play Heroes of Middle Earth, this is a great way to not have to think.

The only problem is that the built-in AI for the game is pretty terrible and makes bad decisions when left to its own devices.

You can lose precious energy if the AI decided to waste its power and move on a single remaining enemy with nearly zero health.

Not to compare…

Compared to EA and Capital Games’ own wildly successful title, Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes, the gameplay feels a little more unevenly distributed.

As someone that picked that game up when it was fresh, back around 2016, Galaxy of Heroes never once made players feel like they had to spend money.

It made us want to, but we never felt like we couldn’t progress or do something else in the meantime. There was too much to do to worry about. And then, Bam! You were level 85 without realizing it. And that’s with ads for spending cash constantly in the game.

Once you got past them, you didn’t feel the need to spend a dime.

Heroes of Middle Earth misses that mark with classic mobile game pitfalls that feel a tad bit more “cash-grabby”.

As mentioned, players use energy. While some games throw energy at you as your life depends on it, Heroes of Middle Earth doesn’t. You come to some pretty hard stops really quickly because the majority of campaigns utilize “Campaign Energy”.

Once you use it up, you have to wait to replenish it, which is grueling.

The image is advertising various amounts of gems for sale at different prices. Full Text: Store 3,210 + 82 + Gems BEST VALUE! Chests x5,125 ×930 $49.99 $9.99 MOST x11,185 POPULAR! x1,955 x465 $99.99 $19.99 $4.99

Or, you can use your Gems, the game’s currency, to buy more energy. The price of Gems starts at $4.99 for only 465 Gems.

It might seem like you’re getting a lot, but opening a single chest for a potential character on the roster costs 600 Gems. The price of the currency scales to different tiers, all the way up to the $99.99 mark for 11,185 Gems.

Since they need to be used to replenish energy as well, players have to deal with being either a collector or a player, but not both without spending money.

It’s like reading a LOTR fanfic

Sometimes, gacha players aren’t focused on the story of the game. Sometimes, we just want to collect. Once you get to a certain point of the game, the hard modes of each campaign, the guild campaign, the store, and supplies grant you access to unlocking more characters.

A person is reading a text on a screenshot.

Heroes of Middle Earth seem to have a fanfic problem here.

The developers have apparently invented a lot of characters to fill a pretty short roster, which doesn’t even include mainstays like Gandalf or Boromir yet.

Cursory searches on Google give zero results for characters like the ranger Mirie and Grimpa the goblin, aside from the wiki for this very game.

The lack of a roster could change quickly after launch, as Gandalf the White and Legolas feature prominently in the promo trailers and marketing material.

But, if they opt for the “slow drip” method of content, there’s absolutely no telling when they’ll drop, if they’ll be easily obtainable, or if they’re locked behind paywalls.

The characters in the image have found a fellowship with each other. Full Text: Characters FOUND YOUR FELLOWSHIP

On the upside, the developers pulled some pretty deep-cut and obscure characters into the mix to fill out the current ranks.

Halbarad the ranger is playable, for instance, which most casual Lord of the Rings fans may not know. But, it’s great attention to detail on Capital Games’ part, even if the roster feels limited currently.

OK, so we’re comparing

Compared to similar games of the genre would still turn up a big ole’ head scratch from big fans of “insert IP here”. We can’t help but compare the game directly to Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes which only utilizes characters that actually exist in some form in the lore.

But, Avatar Generations would be a more apt comparison here. They also suffer from a shorter roster list. But, they make use of several versions of a single character that has different abilities.

When they invent a character for the game, they give them an entire backstory and make them feel more lived in. They don’t come off as shoehorned in or quickly inserted. It’s more natural.

The image is showing the stats of a character in a game, with their current level, power, and gear tier, as well as the path to upgrade them. Full Text: C 213,084 + POWER 103,452 10 LEVEL 60 the Path MAX - LEVEL 8 LEVEL UP Down the Middle MAX - LEVEL 8 Hale and Hearty MAX - LEVEL 8 MAX MAX - GEAR TIER XIII FIND M Rohan Hearthguard Light, Human, Rohan, Attacker, One-handed Heavy UPGRADE YOUR HEROES

At launch, there isn’t much in terms of customization for individual characters, if at all.

The developers mentioned that there was some sort of customization coming during our preview, but did not elaborate much. The only thing you can do is upgrade the characters currently.

What won’t Heroes of Middle Earth have?

As mentioned, EA worked directly with Embracer’s Middle Earth Enterprises for this game. Where the Tolkien Estate infamously is strict about certain elements of Tolkien’s work, Middle Earth Enterprises is what allows a little more freedom of change, within reason.

These folks have held the rights to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings since the 1970s. But, that does give us a sense of the possibilities and pitfalls that Heroes of Middle Earth will deal in.

This means we will likely not see characters from other Tolkien works. This includes works such as The Silmarillion or The Book of Lost Tales.

Sad that we likely won’t see Morgoth, the Valar, or the Maiar, but we can hold out hope. If they never come, though, we wouldn’t be surprised.

Modes are railroaded early on

The options on campaigns may not be unique but does offer a little change-up for players. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it helps the monotony for a moment.

But, it can be short-lived since most campaigns use the same “campaign energy” currency.

Explore new stories mission 4-5 Normal Retake the Bridge interface

The Adventure mode, a mode with daily revolving playlist of requirements, is given to players relatively early in the game. But, most of the playlists require much more substantial teams that players likely won’t have for a while unless they spend a lot of real coin.

The Arena mode opens up at level 20, which is roughly 6 hours of solid play without spending any money. This also opens up a previously unavailable Arena Supplies tab. It remained empty when I checked it, but it likely would offer special items for Arena players.

Four players are competing in a Player vs Player (PvP) game, with one of them, Aragorn-Strider, dominating the competition. Full Text: WAVE 2/3 AUTO 6,687. ×4 Aragorn - Strider DEED DOMINATE IN PVP

Once you hit 20, you also can see an adventure open up (but remain locked until level 25) that can grant you Sam Gamgee.

It also mentioned that Raids, special timed events, will be an upcoming feature that isn’t available yet at that point too.

The tutorial for the game feels like it was added as an afterthought. As normal with mobile games, the game forces you to click things to teach you how to do them long after you’ve already likely done it on your own to progress the game to get to that tutorial.

If the instructions were given at the proper time, it’d feel more seamless. It made me change my name to 3 levels after I had already changed it on my own, but it forced me to save it again. The tutorial quickly becomes more of an annoyance than helpful.

Fellowship? More like an Empty Room of the Ring

This game is being developed by Capital Games, the same folks behind Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. That game is generally the poster child for this genre, meaning this should have been a slam dunk. This is a team that knows what they’re doing.

The game plays great. The design choices are spot-on. Visuals for everything are beautiful and rich, and feels like it was lifted directly from the books.

Even the story is refreshing after so many years of Lord of the Rings lore being stringent and exact. It falls under the same category as the excellent Middle-Earth: Shadows of Mordor, telling a new story in this world.

By all means, Heroes of Middle Earth is not a bad game at all. We’d even go as far as saying it’s a good, well-put-together game.

It’s just missing something. It feels incomplete. Heroes of Middle Earth come out feeling empty on day one of release. From the get-go, only about half of the Fellowship is even available to get in the game.

Half of those are locked behind either hours of labor or a paywall. Meanwhile, Eowyn (from the second book in the trilogy) is a super early grab you can get, immediately after Strider and Frodo, even though she’s not part of the story there. This makes it feel more disorganized than on-purpose.

Heroes of Middle Earth game play.

All of our qualms are likely just to allow for a slow drip of content to come out over time. This time next year, the game will likely look entirely different. But, in its current state, the room feels empty and haphazard.

Heroes of Middle Earth Verdict

The game is tolerable and isn’t bad. However, the game finds itself overshadowed in the shadows of a ton of great games in the same genre. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the title when it stands on its own.

In fact, if it were judged as an island, it’d be considered a remarkable, fantastic game. But, when trying to make a foothold among peers that have learned from these pitfalls over the years, it feels like a misstep on EA’s part.

Where the game itself is solid in terms of graphics, gameplay, design, and performance, this Tolkien pie needs a lot more time to bake content in before it’s ready to be served to the masses.

I’ll likely pick it up a year from now to add to my dailies and never put it back down, but not a moment sooner.

But, that’s just one opinion. You can try Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle Earth for yourself right now on Android and Apple devices. Check out their website here.

The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth
2.5

Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth is the first LOTR game since 2009's The Lord of the Rings: Conquest. The game includes characters from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, along with collection systems, turn-based combat and more. The game is available on iOS and Android. 

Quick Verdict: The game is tolerable and isn't bad. However, the game finds itself overshadowed in the shadows of a ton of great games in the same genre. There's nothing inherently wrong with the title when it stands on its own.
Pros:
  • Takes liberties with the IP without disrespecting it, offering a new take on the story.
  • Attention to detail in level and character designs, staying true to the source material.
  • Gameplay is simple and easy to understand.
  • Great visuals and design choices.
  • Refreshing story that deviates from the strict Lord of the Rings lore.
Cons:
  • AI for auto-playing is terrible and can make bad decisions.
  • Game feels more "cash-grabby" compared to similar titles like Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes.
  • Limited character roster with some characters seemingly invented to fill gaps.
  • Incomplete and disorganized feeling, with some characters locked behind paywalls or hours of gameplay.
  • Tutorial feels like an afterthought and can be more of an annoyance than helpful.
KnowTechie is supported by its audience, so if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the sale.

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After over a decade and a half of writing and journalism in games and multimedia, Arthur loves to talk tech, geek, and gaming, anytime, anywhere. He's the entire package: a gamer, a collector, and he knows how to build a computer. When he isn't writing, he also owns a local game shop, dealing in all various geeky antiquities.

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