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WAR IN MIDDLE EARTH by Richard Karsmakers

Outside, the sun is setting into a hazy dim pink on yonder
horizon. A pink fist claws desperately at my heart, trying to
lurch it into feelings of utter sadness and pure loneliness. My
mind once again wanders off to this beautiful...

SMASH!
A sound most irritating to the human ear can be heard, crushing
through the melancholic silence. A huge figure appears behind the
author if the aforequoted lines, towering upto heights virtually
touching the ceiling.
In the dim pink light, the figure can now be recognized as being
a tall young man with dark hair, wearing a sweater on which 'ST
NEWS EDITOR' is written in large white capitals. The figure lifts
a large and apparently blunt object above the head of the
aforemeant author, making certain gestures as if wanting to
examine the impact of it on this author's head. The fact that you
just heard a sound that slashed through the serene silence
acknowledges the fact that the tall figure has already succeeded
once in letting the large blunt object collide with the
aforemeant author's head.
SMASH.
Well I'll be....he did it again!
The author looks up, trying to get the blood out of his eyes.
"OK, Stefan, you made your point!" the bloodstained person
whined, "I know I was going to let myself go again, and..."
The tall figure made a noise as if he wanted to eat the poor
melancholic soul.
"Quit that dispiccable verbal diarrhoea! If you don't..."
The tall figure lifted the blunt object menacingly above the
author's head.
"OK, OK," the author sighed, "I will start anew."

*****

Elida looked solemnly at the sun setting beyond the foothills of
the Ered Lithui, known to man as the Ash Mountains, to the
northeast of Mordor.
She sighed, and looked at the black smoke that arose behind
them, seeming thin in the distance, even harmless. Yet she knew
that the smoke arose from Orodruin, known to man as Mount Doom,
and this thought filled her with fear. Her heart, which had in
earlier days only been occupied with gay merriment, felt now as
if clutched in iron straps. Iron straps that grew thicker and
more rusty by the day.
She knew that something was afoot. The evil servants of the Dark
Lord were abroad, and she had even seen foul creatures flying
over the Sea of Rhun, where she dwelled. Even the Wargs had
appeared up into the hills of South Rhun, and no flowers grew
there since then - not even though it was late spring, and all of
Middle Earth should be blooming with the most magnificent of
flowers in the most brilliant of colors.

Elida knew that evil was about, and when she thought back of how
everything used to be before Sauron got back on his dark throne
she felt overcome with grief.
Her folk used to be some of the best craftsmen east of the Misty
Mountains, but since the Dark Lord returned they choose a life of
silence, drawn back in solitude, mastering their crafts in
silence.
Yet Elida also had a curious feeling. A feeling that better
times were drawing nigh. People she had met on their way to the
far East had spoken of a group of various folk that sought to
destroy the power of the Dark Lord. Tales spoke of Halflings,
dwarves of Dain King and glorious folk of Galadriel and Celeborn,
elven-Queen-and King of the Golden Wood of Lothlorien.
These tales gave her the strength to hope, strength to look upon
every sunset as though it were a mere start of what would be the
last dark night; a last dark night after which the morning would
bring back the times of the past that they could now only cherish
in their fondest memories.
Tonight was a special evening of hope in her heart. The whole
afternoon, it was as if fire and smoke had arisen from the
western horizon. Scattered pieces of hopeful news regarding enemy
retreat reached South Rhun, brought by messengers that would stay
with her folk for refreshments and a good horse, only to leave
soon again to bring the scarce good news to countries further
east.

Yet she still saw only the thin line of black smoke of Orodruin
climbing high up into the purple clouds shadowing the setting
sun. It was hard for her to hope, yet victory was now said to be
near.
One day, she knew, Orodruin would be destroyed. Mount Doom's
fate, however, was not in her hands. Maybe her hope would have
faltered completely if she would have known that its fate was in
the hands of two Halflings.
Halflings...rather tiny folk that lived way up west; folk that
she had heard of only in tales of half-truths. A valiant folk.

*****

Would Elida's hope have faltered even more if she had known that
the fate of Orodruin, her own fate, yes, even the fate of the
whole of Middle earth, was in the hands of someone no doubt far
less worthy than these Halflings (or Hobbits, as they are known
to man): A mortal computerfreak?
Probably.

And YOU can be that computerfreak. YOU can decide about whether
or not Middle Earth will turn into a black and barren country
ruled by Sauron, or if it will turn into a country filled with
joy and happiness. For you can take the One Ring and cast it into
the Cracks of Doom or have it taken away by the enemy so that he
can wield it, increasing his power of Evil even more.

For starters: "War in Middle Earth" is unbelievably extensive.
The game starts at the time that Frodo is told to leave the Shire
because 'something is afoot'. From that time, you are in control
of all the good forces in Middle Earth. You can direct the heroes
(Frodo and his party) to various places, you can move armies of
elves, dwarves and men, and you can fight every battle there is
to fight between good and evil.
It is quite hard to truly realise it, but at EVERY time you can
get positions of EVERYBODY/EVERYTHING playing in the game. You
can for example get to know where the Nazgul are at the start of
the quest - far too near, that is!

While playing the game, you are reported of everything that
happens; armies that join together, rangers that travel to and
fro, orcs that attack various strongholds of the good armies,
Nazgul that attack Frodo and his company, and....well, just about
everything that happens (from a small gathering up to a massive
meeting).
By being able to move all the good guys around, you can totally
change the course of the book "Lord of the Rings". I for example
commanded Faramir to go to Morannon (the gates of Mordor) and he
got butchered. You can easily imagine that a loss of Faramir
within the first month can cause quite a change in the rest of
the game. In my endless stupidity, I was even a bit too slow when
Frodo, Sam and Pippin met the Nazgul for the first time: They got
killed by September 4th 1418 S.R... The Nazgul got the One Ring,
brought it down to the Dark Lord himself and the game had
finished quite soon... It was even too late to get some of the
people at Rivendel (Boromir, Gandalf and Legolas) turn the tide
of Evil!

As I already said, "War in Middle Earth" is Massive (yeah.. with
a Capital 'M'). You get to see every single aspect of the book -
you can battle the forces of evil (defend, withdraw, charge; each
part of an army can be individually commanded), you get to see
Frodo meet Tom Bombadil, and lots more. It's a pity I got beaten
so soon the first time I played the game, but no doubt I would
have seen Gandalf battling that fierce Balrog in the Dark Mines
of Moria as well, and see Celeborn and Galadriel meet the
company, see Frodo look in the mirror of Galadriel, witness Frodo
and Sam battling Shelob (the spider), see them 'join' the Orcs in
the Dark Land.....sigh!
Yes...all I can utter here is a deep and profound sigh. For it
is (as I already told, too) difficult to behold everything that's
present in the game. All the forces move at all times; on a giant
detailed map of Middle Earth (which I suppose is at least 10 by
10 screen, if not more) you can see Icons of where the Nazgul
are, and Tom Bombadil, Faramir (including his troops), our
heroes, and lots more. Even people that occur at a totally
different time in the book can be followed during the whole
story. You can join forces in vision wherever they are and
whenever you want.
What?
Yeah! At every time, you can zoom in on the map and see whoever
is moving there. You can see a random group of twenty rangers
camping somewhere in Rohan, you can see Frodo follow Gandalf, you
can look at Mount Doom, you can see Orthanc (where Saruman the
White lives)...sigh (again).

But let's have a look at the actual gameplay instead of walking
on some high cloud and trying the write the program straight up
into the sky, too.
The game is built up of three levels: Full Map Level, Campaign
Level and Animation Level. You look what's cookin' on Middle
Earth, and simply zoom in on the vast map. You will be confronted
with a relatively well drawn background of the appropriate
scenery (that can be a grassy plain, Mountains, Mount Doom, any
City, the Tower of Orthanc, whatever you want) with whoever is
moving on it. The figures visible in those maps can vary from
Rangers to Elves, Dwarves to Orcs, Nazgul to Hobbits, and even
Wargs to any other creature alive in Middle Earth!
"War in Middle Earth" is mouse-controlled and Icon-oriented. You
can go back and forth from the three levels I mentioned above,
get individual character's statuses on the animation level,
decide attack strategies on campaign level and hop from here to
there to anywhere on Full Map Level.
It is set in pseudo-'real time'. One hour in the game is then
represented by about half a minute. But you can also whizz
through time by setting the time to 'hasty' or even 'very hasty'.
The latter can be lethal - that's how I got the Ringbearer killed
so soon because I couldn't react soon enough to have them evade
the Nazgul. Ignoring an attack will most certainly mean death
(except the first few attacks on Lorien, for example).
The setup and style of Tolkiens Great Masterwork (yeah, capitals
again) are retained throughout the game. Even death messages are
brought to the player in Tolkienish style (e.g. 'Faramir had
received a foul blow'), and you get the character status in words
like 'Through the swirling mist of the glass you perceive...'.
Even moods and morale gradations are told in Tolkien's mythical
style.

The game being very extensive indeed, is supplied on three
disks. The first disk (the program asks you to insert 'Square
Medallions' in the 'Magic Box' at times) is only needed for
loading once (intro and stuff), but the second and third disk
have to be swapped all the time when switching between campaign-
and animation levels. Too many disk swaps, if you ask me! This is
a very specific disadvantage of the game (about the only I can
come up with, actually). Two disk drives are quite handy - but
the second one had better not be 5.25", as the system forcibly
uses drive B then.
If you have a seperate second 5.25" disk drive, then turn it
off. If it's a Cumana dual double-sided drive with 3.5" and 5.25"
in one, you'd better run the "NODRIVEB.PRG" program before
running "War in Middle Earth" (this program is contained in the
PROGRAMS folder on this ST NEWS disk).
The game is not copy-protected but instead asks you (after a
randomly determined time) a certain place's coordinates on the
map you get with the game.

I have never ever seen a program that is so full-fledged as
"War in Middle Earth". If you ask me, it even beats the sheer
brilliance and complexity of FTL's "Dungeon Master". "War in
Middle Earth" is a superbly detailed epic, a movie of which you
can be the director, a game in which you can play every leading
characters, an experience that takes you beyond the borders where
Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" could take you. There must be a
ginormously huge database somewhere on the three crammed disks
(single sided), because it's unique, big...some might even say
excessive.
But it's great and it beats hell out of all other Role-playing
games and 'arcade' adventures. It got me hooked in spite of it
being a strategy game which I usually hate.
If you like RPGs and strategy stuff, you'll like it. When you're
a Tolkien fanatic or when you've enjoyed reading "Lord of the
Rings", you LLLLLLOOOOVE it!

Game Rating:

Name: War in Middle Earth
Company: Melbourne House
Graphics: 7.5
Sound: 7.5
Hookability: 9
Playability: 8.5
Value for Money: 9
Overall rating: 9-
Price: £19.95
Hardware: Color only
Remark: Great for the fans - truly
authentic stuff! Only too sorry
'bout all those disk-swaps!

I'd like to extend an enormous heap of thanks to Ms. Lesley
Walker at Mastertronic/Melbourne House for supplying the program.
For info, you can contact:

Melbourne House
2-4 Vernon Yard
Portobello Road
London W11 2DX
England
Tel. 01-727 8070

A last note of the author:
The sun has now set, and the pink is replaced by a blackness
that is now also fighting to conquer my soul. But I won't let it;
my skull still aches from last time...
Try and get to see Richard Attenborough's "Ghandi". I watched
the film on BBC television while typing this review on my Z88
laptop. I was singularly impressed. Ghandi tried to teach us a
valuable lesson. unfortunately, the world hadn't reached the
ripeness to understand what was being tought.
Boy, was the world stupid!

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.