|Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
We slay orcs and trolls in the latest build.
by IGN Staff
October 14, 2004 - The Beginning...
Regardless of how cool anyone thinks they are, there's just something
about the Lord of the Rings that forces the inner dweeb in all of
us to come bubbling to the surface. Let's face it; the literary
masterpiece covers all the basics: hot elf babes, wicked-cool magical
powers and weapons of orc destruction.
It may have been surprising for Hollywood executives to green light
the film adaptation with a practically un-proven director, but it's
no surprise the three films went on to gross a zillion dollars.
A movie adaptation satiated the needs of film fans, but what about
gamers? Where do they go for their own special brand of Tolkien-based
heroics? Now there's an answer. Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
delivers orc-crunching action spanning the entire trilogy.
And while you can't play as any of the main characters, the experience
parallels the events from the movies closely, allowing for several
run-ins with the characters from the original story.
To prove we're not high off the Hobbit's leaf (sorry, I had to)
we've taken the latest build of The Third Age for a spin. We've
spilt gallons of orc blood and trampled on Sauron's minions to bring
you this updated preview. Full details down below.
A Tale of Two Previews
IGN posted an earlier, in-depth preview on an early build of The
Third Age back in June. At the time, The Third Age looked damn impressive.
Borrowing from one of the greatest literary masterpieces of our
time, the epic RPG claimed to have it all. It married classic RPG
elements with a hot license and juiced its source material for all
it was worth.
Plus, it featured epic battles with notorious monsters we've all
seen on the big screen. Thankfully, the game still looks to impress
upon release. Having said that, EA has been hard at work tinkering
their epic RPG--cutting things here, adding things there--to smoothen
the experience. We've run through a portion of an advanced build
of the game to bring you up to speed on some of the changes EA decided
The Only Constant is…
Change. It happens all the time. So what has changed in the months
between the first preview and this one? For starters, the game now
looks far sharper than an in the earlier test build. Textures look
sharper and there's been an extra layer of polish added to just
about everything. Characters boast an increase in detail all-around.
Facial expressions have been cleaned up and now look more defined.
Armor, shields and helmets benefit from the same treatment. Although
subtle, these improvements ultimately serve to enhance the overall
game experience. After all, a huge chunk of fun associated with
playing a big license game is having it look like the property it's
Character animations have also been sped up, most noticeable during
combat. One of the few complaints I had with the earlier build was
the slow speed with which characters performed special attacks.
Nothing entirely brain-detonating, as Final Fantasy fans know that
awesome spell attacks are worth waiting for, but the boost in speed
is a welcome change nonetheless. EA has also done a snazzy job of
making character animation during magic attacks and special moves
look smooth, marking a definite improvement over earlier builds.
Another issue present in earlier builds was difficulty. Slaying
orcs and goblins by the hundreds came way too easily. Of course,
the lax in difficulty made you level insanely fast. It seemed every
encounter would result in an increase in level. EA seems to have
addressed the issue somewhat. Enemies seem to deal more damage per
attack than before and can take more of a beating.
Of course, EA has left most things untouched. And for good reason:
they work remarkably well. The combat system harkens to old-school
RPGs that fans of the genre have grown to love. The environments
and characters look as though they've been ripped straight from
the recent trilogy. And the musical score is as grand and moving
as any Hollywood epic.