Now, The Towers Collection (for The Two Towers) is available – and we have some promo codes for TORn’s followers! Read on below to find out more…
The Long-expected Soundscape is designed to be listened to whilst reading Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (and is timed specifically to sync up with the Andy Serkis audiobook recording). It is created with Dolby Atmos for full 3D immersion in headphones, and includes an original score, ambient nature and environment sounds, and designed and recorded sound effects. The soundtrack is downloadable at https://jordanrannells.com/ – and can also be accessed very easily through all usual podcast apps.
Ways to listen
Rannells suggests various ways to enjoy his creation:
1. Simply experience the atmosphere alone, without the books
2. While reading Tolkien’s works (yes you might read a bit faster, but all you have to do is wait and enjoy the music and sound effects for a bit until you hear the next significant sound or cue, and then keep reading)
3. Synced up (perfectly!) with Andy Serkis’ audiobook so you can enjoy them together (step by step process on how to do that on Discord)
4. Just as background for DnD, Lotro and so on…
Exclusive promo codes
If you’d like to get your hands on this wonderful soundscape, you can use the code TORN25 (for a discount on the whole collection), or TORN10 (for a discount on an individual book). These promo codes are good only until June 10th, so don’t delay!
Once you’ve experienced this beautiful aural world, you’re definitely going to want more! So you’ll be glad to know that Rannells has plans for The Hobbit and The Silmarillion soundscapes! He’ll be launching a Kickstarter for these, this coming December; if you’re interested in getting involved, and perhaps even having a small voice or performance role on one of those projects, join the Long-expected Discord. Happy listening!
I was blessed enough to receive a PC and PS5 key to test The Lord of the Rings: Gollum early on behalf of TheOneRing.net. My goal here is to describe my play-through scenarios, what type of system I run the game on, what I liked, what wasn’t for me, and ultimately… how much I actually enjoyed playing the game.
The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is developed by Daedalic Entertainment and is also published by them as well as Nacon. The game is available or will be available on multiple platforms such as Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch and PC. You will need to make sure your system is compatible and the game has released on it in order to play.
PC experience and PS5 performance experience
I play on a fairly high end gaming PC that was built about two years ago for over $2,000 USD. I also played the game on my PlayStation 5. Right off the bat I do have to tell you folks that while the game ran well for me on PC and I didn’t encounter many bugs or anything game breaking, this was not my experience on PS5. And I prefer gaming on my PS5 as it’s hooked up to a 65-inch OLED television and surround sound speakers.
On my PS5 I was able to play the game over the weekend and all throughout the first chapter of the game I encountered crashes. I would interact with objects and crash. I would try to skip some of the story by holding down circle on the PS5 controller to avoid crashing and I would still crash. It would reset my progress a decent bit and I would have to complete the same objectives multiple times waiting for a time where it actually finishes and I get the credit for it. I was playing the game with the higher graphics setting on and when I switched to performance mode and turned off the Gollum hair animation/physics it fixed the majority of the issues I was having.
During the weekend we did receive an email update letting us know that the Gollum hair setting was the culprit and there would be a day one patch for the game to fix this before players started playing. This was great to hear. The rest of my play time went through Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 to completion. The only other bug I encountered was toward the end of Chapter 1 after a cutscene. Once it was done playing, I no longer had a cave or anything around me and any direction I chose to move Gollum I would fall about 1,000 feet to my death which did give me a chuckle. And it gave me an achievement!
Like an old-school Assassin’s Creed
The game plays like an old-school Assassin’s Creed with much less focus on combat. Gollum would rather knock an enemy over or choke them long enough to get away from them than try to actually fight most foes. You spend most of the game doing parkour, climbing over, crawling under and trying to remain unseen or undetected.
The buttons are easy to learn and I had no problems completing the tasks. There are items to collect on each map so sometimes you will want to play through multiple times if you are being a bit of a completionist. There are times where Gollum has dialogue choices. Sometimes the dialogue choices are in response to an NPC and other times it’s Gollum trying to convince his other half to do something.
I didn’t have time to find out, but I would love to know whether the story changes based on the decisions you make. If it does change parts of the story then I would probably play through each chapter to beat it, then to get all missing collectibles and achievements, and then again to make sure I got to experience the full story.
Present and past
On the story front, you see many characters, both friendly and foe, who you will know immediately. The game flashes back often, at least early on, between current day Gollum who is imprisoned for questioning, and the flashback Gollum who is sharing his side of the story of the events of what has happened to him during this period.
Fans of the books interested in playing the game will have a good idea of where the story intends to go immediately. Newer folks to the fandom might be taken on a nice joy ride where if this is an enjoyable experience for them they may find themselves more interested in picking up Tolkien’s books to see what is says in there, and understand where Daedalic had the freedom to tell their story.
I know some lore purists will have issues with different parts of the story but I am open to adaptations and I honestly do have fun when playing the game when its not crashing.
I am looking forward to the Day 1 patch to continue my playthrough. The crashes were very frustrating and I think most folks can understand that. When the game wasn’t crashing it was genuinely enjoyable for me.
That being said I know most people won’t read the full review. They just want a TL:DR and score, right?
TL:DR: The Lord of the Rings: Gollum is a fun game to me as a fan of the material that comes from Tolkien. I enjoyed playing the bits that I could play and while I am at work I do think about playing the game different ways when I get home. However, I did encounter one major bug and I experienced a series of major crashes early on related to a setting that I am told would be fixed on Day 1 of release. If that is the case I give the game a 7 out of 10.
When the game is playable I am definitely having fun. When it’s crashing I want to pull my hair out to match Gollum.
I would be buying this on day one regardless because I am a mark for all things Tolkien and Lord of the Rings but my advice to folks who are going to part with their hard-earned cash is wait for more reviews to come out after the day one patch and see if it fixed the issues that myself, and I am sure, others, will tell you about.
When playable: 7/10
If the Day 1 patch doesn’t fix the crashing players might experience: 5/10
Amazon Games, developers of the acclaimed New World online RPG game, are heading development of a new multiplayer The Lord of the Rings video game.
Embracer, the fresh new owners of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, are licensing the Middle-earth MMO gaming rights to Amazon Games, whose first and only game, New World, was a big bold swing into a crowded massive-multiplayer-gaming space against Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, No Man’s Sky, and of course LOTRO.
This new LOTR MMO game will be a persistent open world Middle-earth set in the third age, but not based or connected to Amazon’s billion-dollar The Rings of Power TV series. Development is currently planning to launch on PC and console.
Reviews for Amazon’s New World currently sit at 6/10 on Steam with 200,000+ reviews, and a Metacritic score of 70. Metacritic is basically Rotten Tomatoes for video games, averaging review scores from professionals and the community. From what we have read, New World was praised for good modern graphics and multiplayer engagement, but with a limited set of innovative game mechanics.
This new game is unrelated to the cancelled LOTR online MMO game that was being developed in China. Amazon is building this in-house with its team from an earlier acquisition of Double Helix, a successful studio responsible for many franchise spinoff games like Enter the Matrix, Star Wars Episode III, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb, Killer Instinct, G.I. Joe, Silent Hill, and more.
Fans may welcome a next-gen Lord of the Rings MMO experience, as one of the common knocks on the hugely successful (and still updating) LOTRO is the dated graphics. Amazon Games will have their work cut out for them to differentiate from Peter Jackson’s cinematic world, Standing Stone Games’ deep lore gaming in LOTRO, and the future secrets from The Rings of Power. LOTRO is still one of the best reviewed MMO games, even after 16 years of fresh expansions.
Many Middle-earth fans will be familiar with the spectacular work of artist Donato Giancola. His art has graced the covers of Tolkien editions as well as calendars, and last year saw a fabulous exhibition of his work at the Huntsville Museum of Art. Visitors there were lucky enough to see his massive new painting, ‘Beacons of Gondor’ – a breathtaking, gigantic rendering of sweeping scenery and drama.
If you live in the New York area, this Saturday you could see that painting – and more – for yourself. Giancola is holding an Open Studio in Brooklyn, 11am to 6pm, May 13. This is an incredible opportunity to meet the artist himself, as well as seeing many of his amazing pieces up close. Not only that, but the first 25 visitors will receive a fabulous gift – a signed copy of Giancola’s now out of print first edition art book ‘Middle-earth: Visions of a Modern Myth’. Copies will also be embossed with the sigil of the Kings of Gondor!
Giveaway for those unable to attend in person
Those visiting the open studio could WIN a Giancola original painting; AND there is even an online giveaway which can be entered by folks who can’t visit in person! So there’s something for everyone. Here’s all the info you need:
Donato Arts OPEN STUDIO
Saturday May 13, 2023
11am – 6pm
397 Pacific Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
This May will see the return of the annual hosting of an Open Studio here at our place in Brooklyn. We will showcase an abundance of new oil paintings, drawings, and projects as well as scores of classics from my 30+ year career as an illustrator. Come eat, drink, and commingle with fellow artists, professionals, and fans of the genre as we plow our creative paths forward in these changing times.
The massive Middle-earth canvas The Beacons of Gondor will anchor the studio at 78″ x 114″. This is my largest work ever and was created for the exhibition at the Huntsville Museum of Art in Alabama this past winter. I am excited to share this with the New York area audience.
Also back from traveling shows are a couple of my favorites, ‘I threw down my enemy’ of Gandalf defeating the Balrog on Zirak-zigil, and the intimate ‘Shadow of the Past’, as well as The Walls of Moria and the Fellowship in Hollin. There are also numerous pages around the home from David Wenzel’s graphic novel of The Hobbit!
A dedicated Wall of Magic displaying over thirty recent Magic: The Gathering oil paintings and preliminary sketches as well as a handful of my earliest works for Wizards of the Coast will be set up in the studio.
New fantasy works will be shown from the cover of Kristen Britain’s forthcoming novel The Spirit of the Wood to interior illustrations for the new novel King-Killing Queen by author Shawn Speakman of Grim Oak Press . The latest Empathetic Robot painting in now finished titled, Remembering, and Portfolios filled with large, preliminary drawings and studies will also be available to peruse through.
We got to ask Wizards of the Coast artist and art director Ovidio Cartagena about the new officially licensed The Lord of the Rings expansion cards for Magic: The Gathering.
Was there any particular aspect, creature, or perhaps landmark of Middle-earth that you haven’t seen from other artists, and have always wanted to bring to life through your own art? The Scouring of the Shire and the Battle of Bywater were very interesting to me. The whole plot involving Old Toby, and the discovery of trade between Saruman and the Shire, always caught my attention.
Naturally, the destruction of something so warm and innocent like the Shire appears to be, and the corruption of many hobbits, is something that I wanted to show in detail in Magic’s adaptation of the books.
Has Tolkien’s own artistic style been an influence for you in your work? Oh yes. We looked at Tolkien’s artwork during the development of The Lord of the Rings. I was very lucky to work with artists who were also influenced by these works. Tolkien’s work is incredibly clear and has a definitive shape language that is unmissable: you’ll know whose hand made it if you look at the work.
What other Tolkien artists inspire you? The Hildebrandts were very influential for me growing up. Their talent seemed endless, and I was a big fan of their work on the LoTR calendar and the Marvel Masterpieces cards from the ’90s. It’s incredible that I get to say that I’ve worked in a set that also features the art of the Hildebrandts. I remember making illustrations for a Lord of the Rings calendar of my own, back when I was 18, a college art project, so it’s fair to say that LoTR and many of the Tolkien artists were a pretty big influence to what I do.
How much freedom were you all given to work on these characters? We had a fair amount of freedom at the beginning. Interestingly, we didn’t have limitations placed before working on concept art. We had a lot of freedom to develop characters, environments, motifs and so on. At the end of the concept art process, we put together a guide that would help artists illustrate our vision for The Lord of the Rings, and Middle-earth Enterprises reviewed the guide and gave us their feedback. I was very nervous at first, but their reaction was positive and that began a great creative partnership between us. Most of the art you see in cards was based on that guide.
What was the process for the artist to submit work, to get to work on these cards? Artists were selected on their capacity to deliver on one or all of the four parameters I set for the set’s visual direction: Epic (scale and scope), Legendary (attention to lore), Storytelling (attention to characters and their relationships), Pastoral (what our heroes are fighting to protect). Ekaterina Burmak, Magali Villeneuve, Tyler Jacobson, Jesper Ejsing, and many other greats lent their enormous talents and unique styles to create Magic: The Gathering’s Lord of the Rings.
What pressures are there to depict Bilbo in a world where two actors defined the character so thoroughly? Bilbo is a very interesting character. And eccentric, too! I remember reading the Council of Elrond, and Bilbo initially volunteers to take the ring to Mount Doom… this is a true adventurer (who also happens to be attached to “his” ring) even after all these years. The design for the character was done in a card illustration by Anna Pavleeva, and we tried to put in his years of lived experiences, a bit of mischief and, of course, the confidence of a daring adventurer who wouldn’t shy away from an epic quest at 111!
How exciting is it to be in this new phase of Middle-earth adaptations? How do you consider your work alongside spheres of TV and new films? It is hard for me to speak of a “revival” of The Lord of the Rings, because it seems like something that has had relevance for most of my life. But it is fair to say we’re seeing an increased focus on LoTR in the mainstream. I am, however, very excited about seeing different takes in media for The Lord of the Rings. There are so many things to explore in Middle-earth! The work we did for the Magic: The Gathering set was an epic endeavor in itself, and I’m very proud of how it holds up to the literature and the adaptations done in other media. I got to live in the time and place of the War of the Ring for a while as I directed the set, and the project gave me a chance to keep coming back to the books I love so much.
We paid attention to a lot of details and there are more than a few easter eggs to consider! The whole team pitched in with lore knowledge, and the passion we poured into the project will definitely show in the card set!
How do you apply more modernized styles of art/composition to illustrate the works of a writer like Tolkien, who dealt mainly with antiquities? I think Tolkien’s work will endure a lot of cultural changes, way beyond our lifetimes. There have been modern crane shots and dutch angles in the interest of dramatizing the events in the War of the Ring. We’ve used the skills and tricks of illustration to bring ourselves inside Tolkien’s rich world, as if we had been there. One of my conceits at the beginning of this massive project was that every illustration was a frame or painting commissioned right after the War, to document the events therein. Since culture hasn’t stopped, and techniques have evolved along with widespread visual language resources, our approach is to let the worldbuilding draw the viewer in.
Who is your favorite Middle-earth character, and why? It is between Boromir and Denethor. It is easy to dislike these characters, but it is often missed that these were strong and great men with a great deal of knowledge. They’d been fighting and witnessing the rise of Sauron’s power, and were desperate to regain the greatness that Númenor once had. Denethor gave almost the air of a wizard due to his sharp intelligence, and wore chain mail under his elegant robe which meant he knew the importance of strength. It is interesting to speculate what Boromir would have achieved in better times – but he did not choose to be born at the edge of a Great War.
What’s your favorite piece for this new collection? It is very difficult for me to pick a favorite piece because every artist gave us great work. I’ll just give a couple of shoutouts to folks who added personal greats to their portfolios:
Gray Highsmith, who was one of the concept artists – they helped design the costuming and motifs of hobbits.
Tyler Jacobson, whose epic ambition and incredible abilities gave the world a Battle of the Pelennor Fields painting worthy of a castle wall. He was also the designer of our Sauron, a truly unique take!
Magali Villeneuve, whose massive talent embodied the soul of The Lord of the Rings, and her vision brought these awesome characters to life.
Alexander Mokhov, who really came into his own as a Magic illustrator with his work in this set.
About the new The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™ arriving June 23, 2023
The Lord of the Rings has come to Magic: The Gathering, and it’s time to take familiar favorites on a whole new journey there and back again. In the upcoming set The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth™, players have the chance to join the Fellowship in adventures filled with valor, courage, and second breakfast. Play your favorite moments of the third age or turn Middle-earth on its head and surrender to the temptation of the Precious. Either way; Middle-earth is in your hands.
The set has two primary launch windows—June 2023 and a holiday launch in November 2023—and is the first full set release as part of Universes Beyond, bringing the iconic world of J.R.R. Tolkien to life within the Magic frame. The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth is modern legal and comprised of Draft, Set, Collector, and Jumpstart Boosters, four Commander decks, a Starter Kit, a Bundle and Gift Bundle, Scene Boxes, and Secret Lair drops. For more information on which specific products are coming in June 2023, check out this article on DailyMTG.
The Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth will also come to Magic: The Gathering Arena with all of the same cards as the tabletop release. The set will be legal in Alchemy and Historic formats and receive the same support as a full release, including a preorder, Mastery Pass, and cosmetics.