Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
It's been quite a long time since I played this game, but I remember having a lot of mixed feelings about it and in the end leaving it unfinished. Before it came out I'd heard many comparisons to Final Fantasy X, and being a huge fan of FF series, decided to purchase it upon release. As you could imagine, my expectations were high - perhaps too high - and for the beginning part I did enjoy it. However, as I progressed further, it became apparent that nothing new was really happening, and the characters didn't interest me. Speaking of characters, I was shocked to discover that you don't in fact use the Fellowship, but some lame band of warriors who follow in their tracks.
The battle system is so incredibly basic (i.e. attack and skills - that's about it) that I soon became bored. If anything, the graphics are pretty impressive and some fights are stunning to watch (The Balrog, for example), but unfortunately they weren't enough by themselves to save the game. I found that some of the levels were very hard to navigate round, and in certain locations with twisted routes and fork roads, it wasn't at all obvious which way you were meant to go. Sure this might add to the challenge a bit, but in the end it's just a way of adding to the game time.
The character customisation was fairly good in the sense that you could distribute stats as you pleased, though after level 50 or so it became quite a chore levelling them up. I tried training my characters in areas with random battles for long periods of time, and after finally achieving level 60 I grew tired of the whole tedious enterprise. Although I'm not sure, I've a sneaking suspicion that the enemies get better as you do, and so hanging about in areas training is really quite pointless. As an RPG, it brought absolutely nothing new to the genre - apart from the story of course - and I wouldn't recommend it. Personally I thought the other Lord of the Rings games were far better, and in all honesty EA used the whole 'RPG' take as more of a cash-in than anything else. Now, don't get me wrong, I think for someone who is new to the genre it could be a fairly enjoyable knock about, but for the more experienced RPGers out there it's just a let-down. If you liked the Final Fantasy games, especially FFX, then you'll realise how badly they've tried to copy it and how badly they've failed.
Nothing made me want to finish this game. In some areas the save point can be a good distance away and thus you may find yourself having to play through the tougher areas multiple times, occasionally a single random encounter will finish you off. After having this happen for the third time you stop putting it down to being unlucky. If you enjoy finishing a game and playing it over, then look somewhere else as the replay value is very low - finishing it off the first time can be a chore in itself. Going back to the characters, I must emphasise how much I was let down by having to use a bunch of nobodies that felt like lifeless cardboard cut-outs compared to the story's true heros. Why couldn't EA just let you use the Fellowship?
Anyway, over all you can probably tell that I was quite let down, and even if my expectations weren't so high, I doubt I'd have got much enjoyment out of this title. If you're a huge Lord of the Rings fan then it's probably worth getting, but if you're simple an RPG fan I really advise you to steer clear. To finish off, here's my ratings:
Copyright © 2005 Mike Montgomery