Massive Lord of the Rings CRPG is the cancelled game of our dreams

A massive Lord of the Rings CRPG that was in development in the early 2000s would’ve been something very special for Middle Earth fans.

Revealed in a YouTube video by veteran game developer and Fallout creator Timothy Cain, now-defunct game developer Troika Games was working on the licensed game back in 2001.

Cain revealed that Troika’s massive Lord of the Rings CRPG was a pitch project after plans to make Arcanum 2 fell through. While no publishers would bite on an Arcanum sequel, classic PC publisher Sierra thought the team would do wonders with a game set in Tolkien’s world.

“When the sequel idea got rejected, Sierra approached us with Lord of the Rings,” Cain said. “They had just gotten the rights to the book. Now, the movies had come out, but they didn’t have the movie rights, but they had the rights to the book.”

Cain revealed that he reread Tolkien‘s books regularly and was excited to develop a sprawling RPG in the world of Middle Earth.

A screenshot of Troika Games’ cancelled Lord of the Rings CRPG circa 2001 with multiple 3D rendered spiders surrounding a human in Hobbiton
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Very early gameplay of Troika’s Lord of the Rings plans with spiders invading Hobbiton

Troika Games developer a design document that followed a Shadow Fellowship, making their way through Middle Earth ahead of Frodo and the main cast. Working alongside advisors from the Tolkien estate, everything was made to fit within the lore of the books.

Cain explains that players would be able to find Rings of Power during their adventures which could be equipped by Fellowship members. However, the more these rings are used, the more their users are corrupted, eventually turning into a minion of Sauron.

After seeing the design document, Sierra signed off on the development of a demo. Using an upgraded version of the Arcanum engine, Troika developed a demo of its Lord of the Rings RPG with the town of Hobbiton and numerous characters.

Troika Games’ Lord of the Rings demo was well received by Sierra, but the development team was not allowed to complete the project. Instead, Sierra took the project to be worked on internally, and it never saw the light of day.

In the video, Cain shows off a very basic demo for what the Lord of the Rings CRPG was planned to be. While the game was never made, just imagining the possibilities of a Middle Earth game in the vein of Fallout and Arcanum brings countless possibilities to mind.

Hopefully, one day, we will finally get a massive CRPG set within Middle Earth. For the time being, though, we’ll have to settle for Troika’s cancelled dream.

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