reviews\ Nov 30, 2004 at 7:00 pm

The Lord of the Rings, The Third Age - PS2 - Review

The Lord of the Rings is a beloved franchise, be it on the page, on the screen or in video games. Now, Tolkien’s famous land of Middle-Earth is finally getting an RPG based on it. Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is an entirely new story occurring alongside the events in the books with brand-new characters, one in which the protagonists and villains from the books and films will make occasional appearances throughout the game and landmark battles from the books will be playable. While the RPG elements aren’t complex compared to what most RPG fans are used to, The Third Age is a great RPG title that throws gamers into Middle-earth like no other game has previously.



Lord of the Rings: The Third Age casts players in the role of Berethor, a warrior on a journey to find Boromir, the son of the steward of Gondor and current member of the Fellowship of the Ring. Your quest to find Boromir and the Fellowship will take you to familiar locations throughout the Lord of the Rings universe, like Minas Tirith, Moria and Helm’s Deep. At times you will also fight alongside members of the Fellowship during key moments, like Gandalf’s fight against the Balrog.


While the story elements are cool and add a lot to the gameplay, the main focus of The Third Age is combat. The game uses a turn-based combat system very similar to Final Fantasy X (some would find it a bit too similar). Your party grows as you progress through the game and as you gain new members in your troop filling familiar archetypal roles from the books, like Rangers, Dwarven Fighters, Elven Archers and so on. The battles, although turn based, are very fast-paced, typically lasting fifteen seconds or so. Your party will also level up very quickly, eliminating the need to pointlessly wander around looking for battles in order to make your characters stronger. This streamlines the difficulty, meaning that no battle will ever be too difficult for the player to complete. This will likely appeal to gamers who aren’t very familiar with RPGs, but it may turn off seasoned RPG players looking for a real challenge.



The game also separates from the RPG norm in a few other ways. There are no shops or villages to visit; all of the items your characters will acquire come either from chests along the way or spoils from battles fought. Most of the interactions with non-playable characters are told through cutscenes, meaning that you don’t really talk to people along your journey like you usually would in another RPGs.


Aside from the standard main quest, there are also a few different extra modes that you unlock as you progress through the game. There is a co-op mode, which allows you and a friend to play the game co-operatively controlling different characters during the battles. However, cooler still is the Evil Mode, which is a very nice touch. The Evil Mode has you play as a party of Orcs, Uruk-hai and the like as they fight in the name of Saruman against the good guys. This mode also unlocks new weapons and armor in the main quest for your characters to use.



The graphics in The Third Age are excellent. The spell effects are phenomenal, with brilliant lighting and special effects to them, comparable to effects seen in the Final Fantasy games (yes, that cool). The character models are also very detailed and realistic, although the animations can be a little stiff. The environments are fantastic as well, with loads of detail, representing the land of Middle-earth like never before. The only real problem with the game’s graphical presentation is the hits that framerates take when the onscreen activity gets a little heavy.


The sound effects are also great. The game features some new voice acting by Sir Ian McKellen, providing narration for the cutscenes and voicing Gandalf. The score is lifted straight from the films, providing a great atmosphere for the game.



While a little simplistic on the RPG side of things, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is one of the greatest representations of Tolkien’s world around. The game is a graphical treat, and while RPG purists might balk at the game’s lack of complexity, most gamers and LOTR fans should have a great time with this one.


Review Scoring Details for Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

Gameplay: 9.0
While the game’s RPG elements may be a little simplistic comparatively speaking, The Third Age has solid, fast-paced turn-based gameplay elements similar to Final Fantasy X. The game also has some cool extra modes, like the Co-op Mode and the Evil Mode.

Graphics: 9.5 
The Third Age’s graphics are some of the best to hit the PS2 yet. The characters and environments look great and are nicely detailed, but the excellent spell effects steal the show with incredible lighting and special effects, rivaling Square-Enix’s Final Fantasy games.

Sound: 9.5
The sound presentation is superb, with new voice work by Sir Ian McKellen and bits from the movies. The music is also fantastic, to be expected.

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Concept: 9.3 
The Third Age represents a marriage between two revered concepts, the Lord of the Rings and console RPGs. While The Third Age does have some pretty standard RPG elements, the game has a solid side story to the films and some great faithfulness to the subject matter.

Multiplayer: 9.0
The co-op mode consists of being able to play with a friend during battles, with each of you playing as different characters during the fights, which is a great touch.

Overall: 9.0

While the game is a little bit on the simple side with its RPG elements, The Third Age offers up a compelling blend of great gameplay, fantastic graphics and sound, and a faithful representation of the Lord of the Rings universe.


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