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June 30, 2004
The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age - Preview
Release Date Publisher Developer Anticipation Players Price
1/11/2004EA GamesEA Games1$99.95

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Taking on the troll.
When Electronic Arts grabbed the rights to develop games based on Peter Jackson's high risk Lord of the Rings trilogy of movies it was a gamble. A little known director filming three movies back to back for only $US100 million each (compare that to $US200 million for Terminator 3 - a movie running for only half the time of a single LOTR movie). It could have been a horrific mess, but the result exceeded everyone's expectations in every regard. According to IMDB the movies are among the most loved of all time being ranked 3rd (ROTK), 8th (FOTR) and 9th (TTT) and the highest grossing trilogy of all time (each movie grossed $US871 million (FOTR), $US926 million (TTT) and $US1,118 million (ROTK) worldwide).

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Taking on the Balrog.
Anything so big also means the games became massive properties for EA. To date they have released two action based titles Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (which also incorporates moments from the first movie) and Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. This game, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is actually a combination of all three movies, but rather then being action oriented, this game is EA's Role Playing Game based on the trilogy and once again EA have full access to New Line's vaults to use any artwork, film footage and musical score as required in the game.

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Taking on the troll.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this title is the ability to choose which side to take. It is possible to align yourself with the people of Middle-earth or undertake missions on behalf of Sauron. Your heroes or villains are completely upgradeable, allowing you to enhance their weapons, fighting style, and attributes. Then you will embark on a free-roaming adventure where you can complete the primary objectives or seek out the various side quests and uncover hidden characters, secret weapons, and powerful items.

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Nice detail.
In LOTR: The Third Age you will traverse through both familiar and seldom-glimpsed locations as you fight to save or destroy Middle-earth in an epic adventure. Locations in the game include the Mines of Moria (where the Balrog awaits you), Helm's Deep, Pelennor Fields, Minas Tirith, and a host of unexpected locations like the White Mountains Plains. An innovative turn-based battle system allows you to fight on horseback or Warg and define the rules of engagement. Use your leadership skills to maximize your party and unleash devastating attacks as you fight alongside or against key characters from the films such as Aragorn, Gandalf, and the Balrog.

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Lighting really impresses.
Graphically, it's clear that LOTR: The Third Age will meet EA's typically high standards. As previously mentioned the developers have access to New Line's assets used on the movies, and once again we can expect plenty of cut scenes using movie footage to flesh out the story. Motion capture from actors in the movies will also be used so they not only look like the actors, but also move like them. New user-controlled cameras keep players aware of everything around them. The music and voiceovers from the movies will also be used in this game to remain authenic to the movies.

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Battle the Ring Wraiths.
One aspect of this title which has been rumoured of late, but is still to be confirmed is that of multi-player. Yes, you heard correct. According to online rumours Electronic Arts are considering implementing a co-op mode in the game, which would be quite an interesting move for and RPG, but one which would be most welcome. Take it as a rumour at this stage, but let's hope.

LOTR: The Third Age is shaping up as the ultimate game based on the movies. If everything falls into place then this may very well become one of the RPG's of the year. Expect a release in Australia this November.