Freemium/Gacha mobile games based on existing franchises are not uncommon. On the contrary, I would say that they are quite popular. Personal feelings on the matter aside (I want to make it clear right away that we’re not here to discuss it today) it’s good practice to use widely known IPs as a basis for launching a freemium game, and time and again to make the To give developers an edge over those building their own series from scratch (at least in general). What’s not nice about launching a game with a massive fanbase preloaded? You’ve definitely gotten off to a good start! But here’s the thing: This is just the beginning. You need to make sure you design the game in a way that entices players to keep coming back. And The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth doesn’t exactly excel.
Lord of the Rings: If…
The story of Heroes of Middle Earth follows a very well-trodden path, which is nevertheless always exciting to watch – the “what if” universe. The basic premise of the game is that someone or something is going around and manipulating all the major parts of The Lord of the Rings story, possessing critical historical figures and getting them to do utter damage to everything and everyone around them . Luckily, you exist too – a being that exists outside of these historical accounts, and it’s up to you to gather heroes (or villains, if time demands) to push back mysterious invaders and ensure the story stays the way it always has been was .
As I mentioned earlier, the “what if” scenario never fails to make me smile, even as usage increases over time. Done right, it’s a great opportunity to bring pieces and characters of a franchise together in new and unique ways – games like Fire Emblem Heroes and Pokemon Masters are excellent examples of how to do this well. And to be fair, I’m not even saying that the lyrics have to be perfect. I don’t expect a mobile gacha game to contain tens of hours of dialogue (especially not from day one). But this text is quite literally some of the most cyclical and boring thing I’ve read in a game in quite some time. LOTR is a very old and popular series and I’m sure most fans want to experience the universe in a fun, new way that they’ve never done with a game like this before. It really doesn’t feel fair that Heroes of Middle Earth (apparently) pays so little attention to the story of what is supposedly the primary single-player portion of the game.
Stage an attack
As far as gameplay loops go, Heroes of Middle Earth is both simple and easy to understand. Much like gachas like Raid: Shadow Legends, HoME (that’s actually a nice acronym) is divided into numerous different stages, each of which features multiple waves of turn-based combat. Players can tackle the Light and Shadow storylines this way, as well as a third storyline, Guild, where players are allowed to take an additional companion with them, borrowed from a guildmate. There’s also a stamina system, but the game is at least nice enough to split it into two parts – a guild-related missions bar and a non-guild-related missions bar. Finally, there’s an area where you can go head-to-head with other people’s teams, but you probably won’t get very far unless you really care about the game (or are a whale). Unfortunately, stamina regeneration is beyond frustratingly slow (even with the extra stamina regeneration they bring in each day), but other than that it works just fine.
Players can form teams of up to five different characters belonging to either the “Light” or “Shadow” side. As expected, these characters don’t get along very well and generally don’t cooperate with each other except in specialized areas like guild quests and PvP. Personally I think that’s a really nice idea – a lot of gachas have problems. Light and Shadow characters generally differ from each other in terms of stats and abilities, so it’s nice that players are actually forced to step out of their “party comfort zone” from time to time. Characters can also be boosted through gear and unit buffs (a standard gacha mechanic), but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Combat is incredibly easy. Again referring to Raid: Shadow Legends, each character comes equipped with a basic attack, two active special attacks, and a set of passive attacks – the latter two must be unlocked by leveling up. In addition, Heroes of Middle Earth also has unique leader abilities and special bonuses that only appear when certain groups of characters (like Pippin, Frodo, and Merry) come together in battle. Again a great idea from HoME as it really forces players to strategize who they want to use. After all, the statistically strongest units don’t necessarily have to be the strongest on the field!
Precious… Precious… Resources…
So far, Heroes of Middle Earth has been rather mediocre. There were some ups and some downs. But that’s where I have to be honest: HoME has a heavy focus on resource gathering, essentially rendering the game unplayable unless you spend a ton of money. You see, there are five main resource types in this game: gold (default currency), character experience (yes, it’s an actual currency), gems (premium currency), gear resources (of which there are many), and stamina. It’s understandable that you might not have enough of, say, one or two of these (I mean who ever has enough premium currency?) – but in this game you never have enough of it. And it only gets worse the more you play.
Gold is really the game’s biggest problem here. Gold is literally needed for everything. You need gold for crafting gear, leveling up characters, and learning character skills – you never need gold to level up characters, by the way (getting enough points for it is generally quickest when using gems). Gear resources also become rarer – and rewarded less often – as your character’s gear rank increases (yes, you still need to buy him better gear). The economy in the game is absolutely atrocious. I don’t understand why this is – especially when there’s things like Shin Megami Tensei Dx2’s token system, which shows that you don’t have to be mean to your players when it comes to the in-game gear system. And while I’ve seen minor tweaks made to improve this (e.g. your daily rewards, including money), there’s still little you can do to help yourself unless you want to exhaust yourself.
Speaking of which, this game is really trying to make you spend money. So a lot of money. I’m not saying the game needs to stop promoting its own in-game shop. Literally every freemium game does this. It’s part of the business, I understand that. But most games – at least the ones I can remember – are generally a bit more tactful with their advertising. When you start the game you may see a full screen ad and there may be some things floating around in the banner. If you want to know more, you have to go to the shop. Heroes of Middle Earth shows me a full-screen ad almost every time I return to the main menu — and it’s always for things that cost somewhere between $50 and $100. I get it: you want me to spit out some money. But you can’t keep yelling at me, “Give me money!” You have to give me a reason why I want to give you money. Currently, my gameplay is to log in, close the ad and ask me to spend $100, give myself about five minutes to spend my energy in auto-battles to gather resources, and log out until I’m about can play again for eight hours. My party isn’t strong enough to advance (I’m F2P) so I need to do this now. In its current state, Heroes of Middle Earth isn’t that much fun. I don’t give money to a game that isn’t fun.
No heroes here
By the looks of it, The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth is a frustrating experience of a mobile game marred by a clunky over-emphasis on resource gathering and has a long way to go if it’s ever going to live up to Tolkien’s legacy. I’m not saying there’s absolutely no hope because there were some really good points, but I’m not going to hold my breath.
Final verdict: 2/5
Available on: iOS (tested), Android; Publisher: Electronic Arts; Developer: EA Capital Games; Players: Many; Published: 1o. May 2023; ESRB: T for teenagers; RRP: Free
Full Disclosure: The Lord of the Rings: Heroes of Middle-earth was made available to Hey Poor Player by the publisher.