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

The One Ring
(Image credit: NetEase Games)

Creating any sort of media set in a fantasy universe as beloved as The Lord of the Rings will always be a challenging undertaking. One must faithfully recreate the iconic characters and locations that fans have come to know and love. Do this right, and you're left with a faithful, breathtaking rendition of a much-loved world. 

Do it wrong, and you'll very likely languish in obscurity.

From the beginning of its development process for The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War,  developer NetEase set out to be as faithful to the original trilogy as possible. 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 step into Middle-earth and command their own armies. With countless iconic characters from the series leading the charge, players will clash with one another, expand their territory, and form alliances, all in the pursuit of The One Ring. 

Caras Galadhon

(Image credit: NetEase Games)

The care and attention with which NetEase crafted the in-game world is plain to see. Blending Peter Jackson's trilogy and Tolkien's original books, the developer has recreated all the most memorable cities, landmarks, and locales, from Lothlórien to Gondor to Mordor. The characters, too, remain faithful to their in-universe counterparts, each one turning the tide of battle with an array of unique, character-specific skills. 

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

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

Speaking of players, they've formed the crux of multiple recent changes to the game, with the studio listening intently to community feedback as Rise to War continues to evolve. 

The value of player feedback 

Icons of Middle-earth

(Image credit: NetEase Games)

The community is the lifeblood of any game. It's composed of a title's core demographic — 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 launched in September 2021,  The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War has already undergone several major changes based on this dialogue: 

  • The Red Book, a mechanic which recreates and allows players to experience the legendary War of the Ring, has been overhauled.  
  • The marching mechanic has been tweaked, allowing a marching army to remain on a conquered tile after it has been captured. 
  • Faction benefits now have a considerably greater impact on combat and PvP. 

In addition to its faithfulness to the source material, and the team's responsiveness to player feedback, several other elements make Rise to War notable.  

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 set out to create something different. The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War is something known as a Geo-strategic Seasonal Wargame. 

Here's what that means: 

  • The game is tile-based, with its recreation of Middle-earth consisting of millions of different tiles.  
  • Players can choose to join one of 10 different factions, changing their starting location, available forces, and strategies necessary 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 towards their faction's goal, retaining commanders and equipment.  

What the future holds 


(Image credit: NetEase Games)

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