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War In Middle Earth was a combination of real-time strategy and adventure game. It followed the plotline of Tolkien's trilogy very faithfully, but at any time the player could turn off the set path and try their own way toward Mordor. Searching in remote areas could turn up rare and valuable items, like the Staff of Annuminas, the Red Arrow, or a stray Palantír. However, there was a major time constraint: eventually the forces of Mordor would march on Minas Tirith, and if the player hadn't mustered sufficient forces to defend it, the city would be completely overrun.
The game consisted of three views: the world map, which highlighted the location of all important characters; the overhead view, where the player would issue command to units; and the zoomed view, which depicted the selected area and characters in side-view. Combat orders were issued using a popup window that allowed the player to pick specific characters or troops and have them advance, fall back, or retreat. Combat could be viewed in either the overhead or side views. Items were found and collected using the side view.
Each pixel of the world map constituted a distinct side-view screen; because hidden items could only be found on one screen, this meant the player would have to find the exact pixel on the world map where an item was located before they could collect it, which lead to considerable clicking and zooming.
The game could be won in two ways: either by moving Frodo (or whatever character held the One Ring, as Frodo could very easily be killed) to Mount Doom in Mordor, or by defeating the armies of Mordor then capturing the enemy's capitol Barad-dûr. If an enemy was able to kill the character holding the One Ring and subsequently return to Mordor, the game would end.