- For the Game Boy Advance strategy game, see The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (GBA).
|The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age|
November 2, 2004
ESRB: Teen (T)
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is a 2004 RPG by EA Games for all three 6th generation consoles. The story follows a group of six primary characters, who can increase in level with experience gained from battles and quests. Most of the playable characters' names relate to their nature (ex. Berethor is a combination of Boromir and Denethor's names together, Hadhod is Elvish for Dwarf; Morwen's name breaks down to "dark lady" , and was also the name of Turin Turambar's mother).
The plot of The Third Age involves Berethor, a Citadel Guard of Gondor, who is travelling to Rivendell to find Boromir, one of the nine members of the Fellowship of the Ring. On his way to Rivendell, he is attacked by a group of Ringwraiths and almost killed, only to be rescued by a she-elf named Idrial who is a servant of Galadriel. They encounter Gandalf the Grey, who tells them that Boromir is travelling with the Fellowship, and that they are headed in the direction of Moria. Once again, it is presumable that Berethor is thought of by Gandalf as a fallback group of protectors if the Fellowship fails to protect Frodo. On Berethor's way to Moria, he meets with Elegost, a ranger not entirely unlike Aragorn, another character in the books and movie. Following that, they meet with Hadhod, a dwarf who is also loosely based on a character from The Lord of the Rings, the dwarf Gimli. After Boromir's death, the group is charged with helping what is left of the Fellowship to save the world of men in Middle-earth. In a minor change to the plotline, they help Gandalf to slay the Balrog at the Bridge of Khazad-dum. They continue through the land of Rohan, meeting along the way Morwen, a lady of Rohan who has lost her family to Saruman's attacks, and Eaoden, a member of Theoden's Royal Guard. They arrive at Helm's Deep and aid Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli to fight off the Uruk-hai as they storm the fortress. After this they journey to Osgiliath, and with the help of Faramir, defeat Gothmog the orc commander, as well as several Ringwraiths. They eventually fight in Minas Tirith and help Eowyn defeat the Witch-king on the Pelennor Fields. After this the remaining 8 Ring Wraiths kidnap Morwen, and the rest of the party must save her, with the aid of Aragorn and the Army of the Dead.
Following their victory on the Pelennor Fields the group is inexplicably transported to the top of Barad-Dur to face the Eye of Sauron. This is the game's final boss.
Berethor has an interesting history. He was banished from the realm of Gondor by Denethor after showing cowardice in a battle at Osgiliath. This cowardice was not his fault, it was a Morgul Blade driven into him by a Nazgul, which made him forget everything and run. He remembered it all when Eaoden, who also fought at the battle, remembers him being there. A free wanderer, he came under the control of Saruman the White, who gave him orders to seek out Boromir, 'for he possesses an item of great value to me, the One Ring', to quote the game. Saruman deluded Berethor so that neither he nor the player of the game know that he is under Saruman's control until the Helm's Deep chapter, when Saruman is overthrown. Until this point however, there is absolutely no indication of this; Berethor behaves like a noble Gondorian, not one possessed by Saruman. This was criticized by many as an attempt to have another plot twist without fully working it into the game.
Morwen was originally a woman of Gondor. She was pledged to be married to a soldier (later revealed to be Berethor) but was banished to Rohan along with him and set up a new life in this kingdom. Chance reunites the two in the quest - about the only bit of romance in the game, although Idrial kisses Berethor once, as an elvish sign of gratitude.
The story was not regarded as one of the game's finer points by many video game reviewers. However, the fact that the story was not more expansive or creative was due largely to the fact that the publisher and developer, EA Games owned the rights to the movie version of The Lord of the Rings, and not the book of the same name, so, in making the game, the only devices available to the creators were what could be found in the movies, or something in neither book nor movie. Thus everything had to, in some way, be tied to the movies in order to prevent a lawsuit from the owners of the rights to the book.
The game's combat system was, by and large, very similar to Final Fantasy X's Conditional Turn-Based Battle System (CBT), where the player controlled characters and enemies take turns to attack each other. It also featured a 'level-up' system much akin to Final Fantasy X-2. Some reviewers thought this to be derivative and unoriginal, while others welcomed a combat system like that found in Japanese Role Playing Games. During the holiday season of 2004 the game experienced minor success.