"Lord of the Rings is the all-time classic fantasy novel, and now movie experience. Tolkien would be my favorite writer if it wasn't for R.A. Salvatore and the movies would be my favorite film trilogy if it wasn't for Star Wars (the original three of course). With all the hype The Third Age was getting, I was hopping that it would be the source of entertainment that broke the "runner-up" streak that Lord of the Rings has had with me. It did, but unfortunately not in a good wa..."
Lord of the Rings is the all-time classic fantasy novel, and now movie experience. Tolkien would be my favorite writer if it wasn't for R.A. Salvatore and the movies would be my favorite film trilogy if it wasn't for Star Wars (the original three of course). With all the hype The Third Age was getting, I was hopping that it would be the source of entertainment that broke the "runner-up" streak that Lord of the Rings has had with me. It did, but unfortunately not in a good way.
The most exciting RPG since Final Fantasy?
EA is known for publicising their games a lot, and they do a good job with it. This is a prime example. I've seen the above quote so many times it isn't funny, but to its defense it is true. Yes, the Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is about as exciting as Final Fantasy, the only problem being that Final Fantasy was released on the NES. Yes, that is the only way I can possibly respect EGM's claim. Why? The Third Age isn't that exciting. In fact, besides the graphics and presentation, it's pretty much a complete failure. The plot is about non-existent and relies on the original Lord of the Rings story far too much, the characters have no development at all, and the fighting engine is pretty much an exact copy of Final Fantasy X's, only made cheaper.
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age can best be described as a failed attempt to cash in on two currently popular things: Lord of the Rings and RPGs. In the rush to get the game out, the developers forgot one thing to include: a plot. You are Berethor, a Citadel Guard from Gondor, who just happens to be what would happen if Boramir and Foramir were combined. While attempting to meet up with Gandalf, you're attacked by a group of Ringwraiths. Luckily, Idrial the elf was just roaming by and happened to save you. Its kind of funny that at level one she can take on a group of Wraiths, but later has problems with a group of Orcs.
After some talking you go with her, and see a group of crows flying by. Being the magical elf that she is, Idrial knows that the crows are evil and possessed by Saruman. Idrial concluding this so quickly is about the same as me seeing a group of ants walking a bit too fast so I automatically know the the President has betrayed us. Yes, its that random. After some more unrelated scenes are put together and a good chuck on hours have gone by your party will start to fill out. Over this time friendships will form and a few love scenes will even be added. Too bad there's two female characters, which means that one of them is left out. Final Fantasy VII had the same kind of thing, except their's wasn't overly forced and actually worked. These kind of developments unfold along with the usual "follow the Fellowship", "kill everything", and "retrieve this item" until an actual plot twist occurs. As usual, this is forced and left incomplete, but at least the game pleasantly surprised me for once.
In an odd decision, EA decided to not use actual Tolkien characters as main party members. Sure, you get to play as a few, but only for a few battles. Instead, they promised "six new...characters from the movies." I've seen the movies a bunch of times, and never once have I heard of Berether. Maybe that was because he was one of the random guys that fight in the background, which is what his character portrays. Yes, you play as a bunch of new characters that are all terrible. At first I was happy to hear that new people were being added, as this would defiantly give me a fresher experience.
Too bad it didn't. These "new" characters are pretty much attitude-less clones of the original Fellowship. Everyones here: the Ranger, the Gondorian, the Elf, and the Dwarf. They only missed two types: the Wizard and the Hobbit. Indeed, there's no Hobbit in your party. Now, last time I checked Lord of the Rings was centered around Hobbits, to the extent that there's an entire prequel entitled, you guessed (or read) it: The Hobbit. So, why not include one in the game? I guess they weren't "bad" enough to "rock" this game in the way EA wanted. And the wizard: Gandalf does instruct you on where to go, as well as another member of the order, though their instructions are pretty much "follow/save the Fellowship". So, instead of including two major types of characters, they replaced them with two Rohirians, who also share the common trait of having no traits that is common with everyone. Seriously, this game is pretty much one big fantasy racial slur. The male humans are arrogant, the dwarf is stubborn, the elf is completely centered around herself, and the female human is just added for filler with no real distinguishable characteristics.
Better switch Tidus, I mean Berethor, out
A few years ago a large RPG came out on the Playstation 2. You might of heard of it: Final Fantasy X. The tenth installment in the series featured a pretty basic battle system with a few distinguishable features. When creating The Third Age, EA decided to completely copy this system. Yes, basically everything is the same, minus Summons and a few name switches. Even this wouldn't of been such a large problem as imitation can lead to originality, but EA simply changed the overdrive mode and actually claimed it as their "all new battle system". Seriously, it's on the back of the box among the other list of lies that EA used to sell this game.
There is also another problem with the battle system besides the fact that I've already used it in a previous game. This problem is that there's about a grand total of 5 different enemy types in The Third Age. These baddies are: Orcs, Urah-Kai, Wildmen, Wargs, and Goblins. Sure, they come in assorted colors with various clothing styles, but they are the only basic enemies you'll face in the game. Other than that, there are a handful of bosses. Not to spoil anything, but all are reused characters from the trilogy, including an incredibly disappointing final boss.
One of the main selling points for The Third Age was being able to fight the Balrog. The thing is a beast and is also absolutely beautiful, but it does have some gameplay issues. The first is that you shouldn't expect your party to last more than two rounds against the Balrog. After that, it's just using one attack with Gandalf and healing him. Good looking? Yes. Fun to fight? No. This leads to another selling point of this game.
To say that The Third Age is pretty is a great understatement. This game is one of, if not the best looking RPGs on the PS2. Seriously, right now only Kingdom Hearts 2 can compare to it, and The Third Age manages to outshines it. Even if it wasn't for that, this game gets major points for actually showing the armor on your characters. Even in cutscenes they are wearing what you put on them which I think is absolutely amazing. The level of detail with this is astonishing, and the same can be said about the effects.
When using a spell/ability, a different rune will appear around the character. While serving no point, they look pretty neat, but don't compare to the spells. The prime example of this is Idrial's Loudwater Fury, which looks fantastic. The environments are also attractive and imaginative, but far too linear. Certain areas are truly awe-inspiring and even manage to outshine areas in the Trilogy. Another graphical feat is the enemies, which all look practically lifelike. They growl or snap at you and their breath can be seen in the cold. Hell, they even show arrows stuck into them when you shoot them. Too bad this is the only area the developers put detail into.
After a few hours of playing The Third Age I finally realized something. Theres no currency. Theres not even a town. I've never played an RPG without some type of break from battling, and The Third Age decided to include just that. Besides a few breaks you're always at risk of fighting an enemy. This only leads to further frustration that truly makes this game not fun. At all.
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age feels like a slap in the face to me. Combining two great elements should of created at least a semi-enjoyable experience. Instead EA shipped a boring and plot-less "RPG" that manages to get nothing right but graphics and effects. Oh wait, they added scenes from the movie and "Evil Mode", in which you go around and fight as the bad guys AFTER you beat that chapter. It's almost as laughable as this game. Almost.
Community review by styoung (May 22, 2006)
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