Today EA Games announced their new Lord of the Rings video game, The Third Age. Speculation had been rampant since the release of the Return of the King game, which ended with a “James Bond Will Return”-style notice that Lord of the Rings: Trilogy would be coming in 2004. The Third Age is, from all indications, that game. Would it be a Real-Time Strategy game? No, that’s Battle For Middle-Earth, coming to computers everywhere this summer. Would it be a Fellowship-inspired game, as the Fellowship game was based on the book and not the film? No.
So, what is The Third Age?
According to the article from TeamXBox, The Third Age will be a role-playing game, akin to Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, or any of a number of other games. They write:
[P]layers will take on the roles of new characters choosing their own path through Middle-earth while interacting with the heroes and villains of the trilogy…. The Lord of the Rings, The Third Age videogame allows players to adventure through Middle-earth, building a party of heroes as they journey. Players battle on the side of the Fellowship, but can unlock additional encounters where they fight on the side of Sauron as they progress.
This is very different than the hack-and-slack gameplay of The Two Towers or The Return of the King. I enjoyed both of those games, and probably TTT more than TRotK because TTT expanded the film’s story while TRotK didn’t go anyplace the film didn’t. I generally don’t like role-playing games, for reasons of the time commitment required, but this is a game I’ll pick up and enjoy. (Plus, TeamXBox has a fantastic image of the Balrog from the game.) I know what I’ll be doing when Festivus season rolls around this year.