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Tolkien's Middle-earth expands in online game

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 and Midway Games will on Thursday unveil details of the highly anticipated massively multiplayer online game The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, whose launch is scheduled for April 24.

The game's creators are assuring fans of Tolkien's epic fantasy adventure that the game faithfully re-creates the vast world of the "Middle-earth" described in his books. The game also allows players to create thousands of virtual characters.

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 1954 and 1955 trilogy.

"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 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" storyline.

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