Commodore User

War In Middle Earth

Author: Tony Dillon
Publisher: Melbourne House
Machine: Commodore 64/128

Published in Commodore User #67

War In Middle Earth

Now the C64 version is a completely different bowl of onions alongside the Amiga version. The plot is the same, as is the aim of the game, but it's the presentation, and indeed, the real essence of the game that's been altered.

Rather than give it the arcade slant of the Amiga version, which has the graphic capabilities to put that across well, and indeed it does, the C64 version of War In Middle Earth is much more a strategy game. There is an arcade sequence, but even that is so heavily strategic that the only way it can remotely be termed 'arcade' is because it has direct joystick control and animated figures.

At the start of the game you have hundreds of units, spread all about the map in the positions they would have been at that precise time in the book (as researched by programmer Mike Singleton and his crew). A unit can be anything from one individual person to fifty elves. The only thing that determines them as units are their statistics, which include things like strength and morale, which affect their success in combat. Shift around the eight-way scrolling map and click on a unit to select it. You then enter a menu, which allows you to tell a unit where to go, who to follow or who to join up with.

War In Middle Earth

When you are satisfied you have told everybody what to do, you go to the overview map (as in the Amiga version) and click on an icon marked Time. This starts the flow of time and all the units begin to carry out their orders.

After a short while, the nearer you get to the high risk areas the sooner a fight will occur. Fights are carried out rather unusually. All the men in the fight are displayed in a scrolling area, and when you think that the number of men in a fight can be anything up to 256 characters, most of the fights are pretty big. The problem is there is no AI within your side of the battle. You control everyone at once. When one of your men comes into contact with the enemy, he fights to the death. The problem is, you have to bring him into battle manually. To do this, you first have to click on the man you want to rush into the fray and then click on the enemy you want him to attack. This, coupled with the character-space scrolling is very confusing, and the only thing I don't like about the game.

The graphics are very simplistic and the maps are made up of icons laid next to each other, as in a wargame. The graphics in the fight sequence are pretty blocky, but they do serve their purpose. The sound for the fight sequence is a bit weak. There's a single sound effect which sounds like somebody banging a saucepan and it goes on relentlessly all the way through a battle.

War In Middle Earth is a much tougher game on the C64. It's a very demanding adventure game which is true to the spirit of Tolkien. Though it may not have all the aesthetic appeal as the Amiga version, and it might not play as well, it's still a very good game.

Tony Dillon