This fall, Electronic Arts will release a new Lord of the Rings title for PlayStation 2, GameCube, Xbox, and Game Boy Advance. Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is an American-made RPG, and its development team includes former employees of Squaresoft's Los Angeles studio.
The story of The Third Age does not focus on the main characters of Tolkien's story, but on a new group of characters who occasionally crosses paths with the heroes of the Fellowship as they forge their own story. Game events include epic scenes from both the books and the recent films - such as exploring Moria, battling the Balrog with Gandalf, and fighting the Uruk-Hai at Helm's Deep - along with some key events from the books that were not included in the movies.
The Third Age appears to be a merger of Final Fantasy style turn-based combat and the visuals of Peter Jackson's blockbuster movies. The game also uses digital extras from the film as its character models, and the characters' equipment is based on movie costumes.
The party includes up to six people, with only four in combat at a time. The races are standard Middle Earth fare - Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and Men - and the classes include fighters, magi, and rangers. Characters can learn different kinds of weapon skills and elemental magic. Experience points are rewarded according to a character's performance in battle, and extra skill points can be used to customize a character's stats.
Amaze Entertainment is developing the GBA version of The Third Age, while EA's Redwood Shores studio is developing the multiplatform version. Both versions will be released sometime this fall.