Sinclair User

War In Middle Earth
By Melbourne House
Spectrum 48K

Published in Sinclair User #83

War In Middle Earth

It's not often a wargame gets a large review in SU, which could be regarded as being a little biased, but let's hope that WIME puts things to rights. It's not really a true wargame. It's a wargame mixed with an RPG mixed with a bit of adventure and just a smidgen or two or arcade qualities. Four basic elements, all of which have proved themselves in the past in their respective fields, but mixed, do they work? Well, funnily enough they do, and reasonably well I might add.

First of all the credits. The main dude responsible for taking three books worth of complicated but very, very enjoyable reading matter and putting it all as a form of interactive entertainment is none other than Mike Singleton, whose games are all basically original and brilliant. WIME is no exception.

You take control of the forces of good and you have to try to get the infamous magic ring of corruption to Mount Doom and throw it into the fire. Pitted against you are the evil forces of Sauron, consisting mainly of two types of creature, both pretty hideous. The first, and easiest to beat in combat, is the common orc. These foul, pig like creatures travel round in packs of around a dozen, and basically wander everywhere. The second type of nasty, and these are pretty darn hard to beat even at the easiest of times, are the Nazgul. Black, deathlike riders, these in on the evil ring and are generally near invincible in combat.

War In Middle Earth

You begin in command of around 100 'units'. What exactly the unit contains can vary from one of the games' specific characters to a group of 30 dwarves. Each of the units has a series of statistics, and it's these which you use to judge which moves to make when and where. Some statistics, such as strength, govern how good the character(s) will be in battle, others, such as dedication, give you some indication as to how fast they're going to be able to move across the map. The final statistic, their virtuosity, is the key factor in getting the ring across the map.

The longer you have the ring, the more corrupt you become. What you have to do is get the ring all the way across the map at a steady rate, swapping between different characters to use as ring bearers.

There are three different playing modes. In the main overview map, you deal with all the loading and saving bits, along with the time advancement icon. The map shows the entire playing area, and the positions of all your units. It does not show the position of the enemy, so there's no room for cheating.

In the main command mode, you get an expanded area of the map, with all the different terrains and features labelled, by scrolling around, the names of all the towns, along with all your units are displayed. Move the pointer over the icon that represents one of your units (a shield) and click once. Now, if you move up or down on the joystick, you can view all the characters in that group. Double click and you go into command issue mode. There are three things you can tell a group to do. You can tell them to go to a specific place; you can tell them to join up with another group; or you can get them to follow another group. This is all done by selecting which you want to do on a menu bar, and then clicking the cursor over the appropriate target.

When you've issued all the commands you can possibly want to issue, go to the overview map, and click on the time advancement icon. This is the cue for action to begin. All the orders you've given out will begin to be executed. Of course, when you're moving 100 units around on a map, you are bound to get into a ruck sooner or later, and this is where the game gets really good. You are given a list of all the adversaries battling it out, yours and Sauron's. Press fire, and you go into the game's arcade sequence.

All the men are shown in a semi-3D representation of the battlefield, and it's a race against time to get as many men involved as possible. You are given a small circular pointer. Click in one of your men, and then on one of the enemy, and that man will run off to do battle. The game is designed so that each enemy soldier can only attack one target per round, so what you've got to try to do is to get as many men onto one target as possible This bit is great. It's fast, it's frantic and it's fun.

Graphics aren't too bad; there's some nice detail on the main map, and the icons are both clear and recognisable. The battle sequences are very nice. Each of the enemy types looks different, as do the friendly armies, which more than compensates for the bland green background in this section.

It's very easy to do. It's also very hard to do. In fact it's up to you how hard to make it (choose out of 15 skill levels), 0 making the Nazgul amazingly easy to kilt, 14 making everybody except you practically invincible.

I really like it. It may not appeal to all (arcade freaks stay away). But if you're a fan of the books, then you won't be disappointed. The attention to detail is amazing and the feel of the book has been captured perfectly. Strategy buffs, or even people who want to spend a more productive Sunday afternoon rather than defeating the semi-quaser Thraglets from Venus again, why not give it a whirl? Mike does it again.

Label: Melbourne House Author: Mike Singleton Price: £9.99 Memory: 48K/128K Joystick: various Reviewer: Tony Dillon

Overall Summary

Interesting blend of almost every genre of game. Works well, too.

Tony Dillon

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