Surprisingly, a search of the App Store won't reveal much in the way of Tolkien's epic high-fantasy trilogy. We've seen many other movie adaptations converted to games, but nothing in the way of the Fellowship's desperate plight to Mt Doom. It's strange then that Glu Mobile has championed the well known licence on the App Store, and has done so in the form of a tower defense game, The Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense [$6.99 / HD].

Thankfully, Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense isn't your typical tower-defense clone. Obviously, this is largely due the vast source material it draws from, using the entire Lord of the Rings adventure as a tapestry to bind each of its 18 levels together. You'll encounter goblins in the Mines of Moria, fight with the Rohirrim in the Battle of Helms deep and fend off Nazgûl a-plenty on your way to defeat Sauron. There are 7 iconic battle locations all up and a host of familiar enemies to mow through.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, what really sets apart Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is the way it uses the heroes of the fellowship as your typical TD towers. Maps in Middle-earth Defense aren't comprised of static paths bordered with designated areas where you place your towers. Instead, in much the same way as Fieldrunners handles TD, the path the enemies take can and must be manipulated by you to succeed. To do so, you'll be able to build a variety of different barricades with wood earned after each wave. Barricades each have different abilities, such as slowing or damaging creeps that pass by them. Though you are limited where you can build, it is up to you to decide what paths to open or close.

Once your path is determined, you must then place your heroes. Ranged heroes operate much like your typical towers, attacking from static positions. Melee heroes however, roam around their area picking fights, and so can get up close and personal with a creep wave hitting them constantly as they pass. Heroes can be upgraded with earned gold, improving their attack power, speed, range or skills. The latter is unique to Middle-earth Defense, as each warrior Hero (there are support heroes too, such as the hobbits) has a skill that can be periodically activated to dramatic effect. Effective use of skills such as Gandalf's meteor shower or Gimli's axe tornado are pretty much essential for getting past the harder levels, as the game does get quite difficult at times.

The individual creeps and heroes in Middle-earth Defense are a mixed bag-- some look terrific, whilst others are barely recognizable. This can be attributed to the somewhat jaggy models and darker textures experienced on the 3GS device we tested the game on, though we're thrilled (and surprised!) to see that a Retina patch has already been released which sharpens things up significantly. Unfortunately, this doesn't remedy the fact that animations are only just serviceable, and that heroes are sometimes indistinguisable and easily lost amidst the chaos.

Glu Mobile have otherwise done a great job of maintaining the standards of the license. The musical score is not overstated, and is actually worth listening to as you're battling wave after wave. Short cutscenes describing each scene and text dialogue between characters abridging each level are well written and give context to your encounters. There is also a Challenge Mode which is unlocked after completing the tutorial that allows you to attempt each of the Story Mode environments with unlimited enemy waves, in an attempt to post your best Game Center or Facebook score.

Finally, there are a host of trophies (achievements) to earn in Story Mode that unlock additional characters and environments in Challenge Mode. We're happy to see that Glu Mobile haven't skimped on content, as there's a heap to do here; and with 3 difficulty levels you can honestly expect several hours worth of gameplay all considered. Certainly don't expect to breeze through your journey to the Black Gates.

Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense is an interesting take on the saga for its first journey to the small screen. Though an unusual use of the licence, it is not an unwelcome one, as Middle-earth Defense does enough different to make it stand out from the very crowded tower defense market, not the least of which is provide great context for your battles and an interesting and well-known story to keep you engaged. There is one minor setback though-- while we don't usually comment on price, it is obvious that use of the Lord of the Rings licence does bring with it a slightly elevated hit to your hip pocket. If that doesn't phase you, we can certainly recommend Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Defense as a challenging and entertaining TD clone that should pose a pleasant surprise to cult fans and fans of the genre alike.

TouchArcade Rating

  • http://twitter.com/iPawl Paul Zammit

    Tempted. Very tempted.

  • DotComCTO

    Typo in the last sentence:

    "If that doesn't phase you...." should read, "If that doesn't faze you...."

    Just sayin'

    :-D

    --DotComCTO

    • Bob

      you are an idiot

      • Jim

        why, because he's right?

      • observer

        No, because people who point out grammar or spelling errors on video-game websites are idiots with something to prove and intellectual vanity issues.

  • http://twitter.com/SmashDde Sebastian Dierkes

    And way too much pricey due to the LOTR license imho...

  • Sarcast

    hmm...I guess for $3 more, I'll get the iPad version...

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Cat-Astrophy/100000838113704 Cat Astrophy

    Tempted is right. It's just outside market value. It's going to hurt sales even though it will still sell some. If they can't afford to sell it any cheaper then it wasn't a good idea to purchase a license to develop a game based on that IP. Eventually the owner of the IP will lower their price so they can at least make a profit on it. They should have held out or tried harder to negotiate instead of just shouldering the burden onto the consumer.

    If this were a full-blown RPG or something with many, many hours of gameplay (Chinatown Wars) I could see the purchase being worth it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Federico-Astica/1003533711 Federico Astica

    With that price it should have a trial version.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Federico-Astica/1003533711 Federico Astica

    With that price it should have a trial version.

  • http://rekzkarz.com REkzkaRZ

    AppSpy did not give this game 5 stars, so I'm not buying it for $7!
    But I am watching it for a price drop.

  • Tomasz Nazar

    I did the mistake of buying it :(
    I've an ipod 3g. Graphics are very low comparing what competition can show us.
    Gameplay is odd and very slow.. I mean it's not smooth for 3d game.. come on.. see Rage or EA reckless racing..
    And looks that the play itself it's not challenging at all :( "towers" are strange, Aargon kills everyone first 2 missions.....
    As a "tower defense" - a failure

    Waaay overpriced..
    T.

  • Nunya

    I can't press the buttons, this is buggy as crap. I cant gert past the menu's

  • cgoodno

    Standard storyline gameplay is way too easy. Challenge modes are way too hard (specifically due to how hard it is to amass enough resources to match the grueling waves). I've yet to beat the first challenge wave and I've tried it at least 100 times with different methods and heroes/soldiers. After wave 10, there's just no way I've found to not lose and haven't lasted past wave 20 on any configuration.

    Biggest annoying thing with the game is that the hardest waves comprised of orcs in tight formation with lots of hit points, give out the lowest reward, 1 gp per kill. They could do with some rebalancing of the game in that regard as well as add some skill system so that you can upgrade certain aspects (gold gain, wood gain, soldier damage/range/speed etc.

    2.5/5 stars overall.

  • Sas473

    took a bit to get use to challenge mode - that alone made it worth buying
    my advice for those bitchin about challenge mode bein too hard - use gimlee and have him set with his special - also have bromomir - as first few waves come in you wont make much cash so level up bromomir asap - do range first then speed then attack
    utilize spikes to get monsters to walk to a choke point and use something to slow em down - gimlee's special is key - after bromomir is maxed out get the 40 gold solider as 3rd unit - once that is maxed out then max out bromomir then get aragon and max him out

  • bitterboyblue

    Did they pull this game from the App Store? All links are dead.