Version Reviewed: 1.1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPhone
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I suppose it had to happen. There's a tower defense game to suit just about everyone's taste and preference these days, so it's little wonder that a Lord of the Rings tower defense game was developed for the iPhone. Surprisingly, though, this is one tower defense game that stands well on its own and that incorporates its theme well.
If you are used to traditional tower defense games, you expect a few things: a large, open playing area, a reasonable selection of units, and the freedom to place those units wherever you wish. LOTR: Middle-earth Defense doesn't use ANY of those traditional mechanics. While this may disturb some, it actually made the game a refreshing change of pace from the slew of also-rans out there.
There is a large playing area for each level, sure, but it's not what I'd call open. You are shown the playing area and the path that enemy forces will use for entrance and exit. It's your job, as is the case with all tower defense games, to stop that flow of enemies. To do this, you may call on the powers and defenses of key characters from the book/movie series. At the outset, I was afraid this meant that you could have six Aragorns running around doing your bidding. I was relieved to discover that you only have one of each character to use, and the characters available are severely limited. Early on, for example, you will only have Aragorn and Frodo, but later levels expand your rosters sizably, provided you have enough resources to summon them.
Character placement is also limited. When you select a character, you are shown specific spots on the map where that character may be placed. Sometimes, there are many options; sometimes not. Other than characters you may also choose to place barriers to route your enemies in a specific direction. Some of these barriers are basic, but others also provide defensive weapons like floor spikes, for example..
Characters have several attributes that can be upgraded as you play, though each time you start a new level these upgrades are strangely reduced back to their original position. You can also choose to spend resources adding a special power to many of your characters that can help you clear enemies a bit faster.
Graphics are rendered in 3D and can easily be zoomed in and out using the standard pinch genture. Occasionally I had trouble getting a click/touch to be recognized, but it wasn't often enough to become a serious impediment to gameplay. The special power commands, however, were unclear and needlessly muddy. I was never sure what to do with the contextual special powers menu, or how to direct those powers against my enemies.
Taken as a whole, the game is fun to play and it carries with it a strong sense of its license. Images and written dialogue are used from the films, though it did seem a little overdone at times. I mean, if you're playing this game, don't you already know the story? Do we really need to read minutes of dialogue between characters? That said, it's a fun Apple Gamecenter-compatible game that trades in tower defense conventions for something more suited to the game's chosen theme. Real care and love for the LOTR franchise can be seen throughout the app, and that translates into a fun experience overall.