You are drenched, exhausted and, above all, terrified. Following the long journey to Helm’s Deep, you now find yourself standing on top of its walls, being beaten by the rain as an impossibly large army of Uruk Hai begins to mindlessly cry for blood. The sea of degenerates stretches out further than the eye can see, and you know that the battle won’t be over until every last one of them has been dealt with. Your hands grip the hilt of your sword a little tighter as the enemy’s pounding feet take charge. It’s time to go to war.
There have been countless attempts to bring The Lord of the Rings franchise to videogames with mixed results at best. And while reviews for the upcoming Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor point towards it being the most successful entry in the franchise yet, we’re yet to see the epic battles of the books and movies effectively translated into a playable experience. Perhaps with the rise of virtual reality (VR) technology, we might see that wish come true.
The scene described above is just one of the many sights from J.R.R. Tolkien’s universe would come to life in VR. Ever since Peter Jackson’s film trilogy redefined modern cinema fans have been clamouring to get an experience that brings them closer to the gritty battles and fantastically realised worlds. Imagine watching rocks fly over you as you stand at the highest level of the city of Minas Tirith, or darting through the ruins of Osgiliath as Ring Wraiths seek you out. It would be possible to undertake the lengthy quest to destroy the Ring of Power all the way from The Shire to Mordor, with players walking every step as one of the fellowship.
Much of the series’ combat could be conveyed through motion controllers, which would feel especially empowering when wildly waving a sword through an unending pack of Orcs. And whether it’s Legolas’ bow, Gimli’s axe or Gandalf’s staff, these weapons could all be effectively replicated using one or two of the same controller such as a Sixense STEM device. Issues arrive with translating movement, although these are the same problems that every VR title faces going forward.
VR offers the opportunity to step into different worlds. Simply put, there are few places we’d rather visit than Middle-Earth. It’s the definitive fantasy setting, and to be able to exist within its ancient halls, impossible landscapes and legendary cities would be to many the perfect application of the technology.