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LotR Middle-earth Defense Review: A game deserving the wrath of Mordor

A thoroughly mediocre tower defense game wearing the thinnest veneer of a beloved intellectual property for the sake of retail markup, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is a game which ought to be thrown into the molten bowels of Mordor.

LotR:MeD comes in two miserable flavors, a $6.99 iPhone version and a $9.99 HD version for the iPad. In either case, you’re paying a premium price for the license only, because the underlying game is just wretched.

The game takes all of the epic encounters from the film trilogy, and pulls them down to a sluggish pace for the sake of creating a plodding, uninspired tower defense game. And as if the gameplay weren’t bad enough, the game is just plain ugly to look at.

Likes:

LotR: I love Lord of the Rings. I love the books, and I love the films. I even love the games. Just not this one.

Heroes: The game allows you to place the story’s heroes — Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, the hobbits and others — has towers on the field. Using gold acquired in combat, you can level-up their attack strength, range, speed and special skills. These aspects of the game are actually pretty cool, but a sad case of good ideas buried in a poor game.

Dislikes:

Graphics: Environments comprised of muddy textures, blocky and poorly animated character models, cheesy interface components and ugly text windows make the game an eyesore to behold. Even the typography is bad. To claim this game is HD is a bad joke, and I’m sure Glu will be laughing their way to the bank.

Pacing: There’s an option to run the stages at double-speed, but even that seems far too slow. I keep drifting off while playing the game, having to wrench my attention back to the screen to initiate the next wave of attack. The fact that the game can’t even hold my attention from one wave to the next is surely a bad sign. Eventually the game becomes difficult, but it never gets good.

Stage Design: Stages are not only muddy and ugly, but also poorly designed from the standpoint of interesting gameplay. Each stage consists of various paths along which the forces of Mordor may march. The game very clearly shows you the path enemies will follow. You can erect barriers to divert their progress along different paths, but the game only allows you very limited influence over their path. Likewise, friendly units may only be placed at specified points on the map were nodes indicate a defensible position. Everything seems to play out in a very by-the-numbers fashion, and players are provided much less control and far fewer strategic options than in other tower defense games. LotR:MeD really seems as if the developers mean for stages to be completed in only one way.

At time of this writing, LotR:MeD enjoys a solid four-star rating on the app store, but you and I know there are fanboys out there who will rate it highly based solely on the property. Truth be told, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is both the worst LotR game and one of the worst tower defense games I have ever played. And were it not for the LotR license being attached, I’m certain most gamers would pass it by without a second thought.

For fans of the story who simply must have it all, nothing I write here will prevent you buying it. But for anyone else, I strongly advise steering clear of this. There are a thousand tower defense games in the app store more worthy of your time and money, offering both a better experience and a better bargain. Play one of them instead.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is developed by Glu Games, and available for $6.99 or $9.99 HD. Reviewed on an iPhone 4 and iPad.




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