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How NetEase Games’ The Lord of the Rings: Rise of War does Middle-earth justice

Creating any kind of media set in a fantasy universe as beloved as The Lord of the Rings will always be a challenging undertaking. You need to faithfully recreate the iconic characters and locations that fans have come to know and love. Do it right and you’ve got a faithful, breathtaking version of a much-loved world.

Do it wrong, and you will likely languish in obscurity.

From the very beginning of the development process for The Lord of the Rings: Rise of War, developer NetEase has sought to be as faithful as possible to the original trilogy. Created from a strategic partnership between NetEase Games and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Rise to War is a mobile strategy game that gives fans the opportunity to enter Middle-earth and command their own armies. With countless iconic characters from the series leading the charge, players will clash, expand their territory and form alliances, all in pursuit of the One Ring.

(Image credit: NetEase Games)

The care and attention with which NetEase created the game world is easy to see. Blending Peter Jackson’s trilogy and Tolkien’s original books, the developer has recreated all the most memorable cities, landmarks and locations from Lothlorien to Gondor and Mordor. The characters also stay true to their in-universe counterparts, each turning the tide of battle with a series of unique and character-specific abilities.

The game is also built for freedom – players are not limited in which factions they can join or which characters they can recruit.

Want to retake Isengard for Saruman? You can do it. Curious about what would happen if Sauron’s forces turned against each other in a civil war for the One Ring? Why not find out?

Speaking of players, they formed the core of several recent changes to the game, with the studio listening closely to community feedback as Rise to War continues to evolve.

The value of player feedback

Middle-earth icons

(Image credit: NetEase Games)

The community is the lifeblood of any game. It is made up of the core demographic of a title – the people whose opinions and decisions determine its fate and future. NetEase Games understands this well, which is why the studio has established an ongoing dialogue with its players.

Since it was released in September 2021, The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War has gone through several major changes based on this dialogue:

  • The Red Book, a mechanic that recreates and allows players to experience the legendary War of the Ring, has been reworked.
  • The marching mechanics have been tweaked, allowing a marching army to remain on a conquered piece once captured.
  • Faction benefits now have a considerably greater impact on combat and PvP.

In addition to its fidelity to the source material and the team’s responsiveness to player feedback, several other elements make Rise to War remarkable.

How Rise to War stands out from the competition

As is the norm in the fantasy space, many games focus primarily on roleplaying. NetEase Games decided to create something different. The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War is something known as a geostrategic seasonal war game.

Here’s what that means:

  • The game is tile-based, with its recreation of Middle-earth made up of millions of different tiles.
  • Players can choose to join one of 10 different factions, changing their starting location, available forces, and strategies needed for success.
  • The game is divided into seasons, with each season lasting two to three months.
  • At the end of each season, the map is reset. Players are rewarded for their contributions to their faction’s objective by maintaining commanders and equipment.

What the future holds


(Image credit: NetEase Games)

It’s always interesting to see a game that somehow breaks the mold. From its faithful recreation of Middle-earth to its unique gameplay mechanics and the studio’s willingness to listen to its players, The Lord of the Rings: Rise of War feels like a breath of fresh air.

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