NEW YORK – From Middle-earth, the creatures of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" will rise into a new digital world in April with the launch of an online game which has raised the hackles of some die-hard fans.
Game publishers Turbine Inc. and Midway Games Inc. (MWY) will on Thursday unveil details of the highly-anticipated massively multiplayer online game, "The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar" with a launch date of April 24.
The game's creators are assuring fans of Tolkien's epic fantasy adventure that the game recreates the vast world of Middle-earth with dedication to the books and players able to create thousands of virtual characters.
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But the game, the first Tolkien-based massively multiplayer online offering, was already causing dissent among some Tolkien fans who know all the details of the trilogy, first published in 1954 and 1955.
"I know it is hard to judge a title before you play it, but I feel like this won't feel like real Lord of the Rings," said one commentator on the video-game news and review site GameSpot.com.
Turbine's Chief Executive Jeffrey Anderson said fans from around the globe will be able to join the vast, digital world of Middle-earth to explore the untold stories, interact with legendary heroes like Gandalf and play a vital role in the War of the Ring.
Turbine, which has a license to Tolkien's literary works, including "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit," is taking pre-orders for subscriptions and granting early access to the game so the first players, so-called Founders, can create their own characters to enter Middle-earth on March 30.
"The Lord of the Rings Online immerses you in one of the greatest literary works of all time," Anderson said in a statement.
Players will be able to create characters based on one of the four good races — humans, elves, dwarves and hobbits — to battle the forces of evil, but they will not be able to take over one of the main roles.
"Instead, you'll create your own character who can then play a supporting role to the Fellowship of the Ring by accomplishing quests and battling evil armies," said a review on GameSpot.
Reviewers given a sneak preview of the game earlier this month said digital Middle-earth was a graphically beautiful world with richly detailed landscapes and architecture.
Players will be able to move around the sizable land mass by hiring horses.