Guest Author - James Shea
An attempt to cross the Lord of the Rings with a Final Fantasy-style RPG, the Lord of the Rings: The Third Age is in most ways stuck in the shadow of many other greater things.
The main characters are not the main characters of the Lord of the Rings, but rather similar characters that share many connections with them. Berethor is the captain of the Gondor Citadel Guard, and is looking for Boromir. Idrial is an elf woman serving Galadriel. Elegost is one of Aragorn's fellow rangers. And so on for the other three characters; all are made in the shape of other, similar characters. Their activities and encounters all follow the Fellowship, even at one point finding the campsite used by them when in the mountains (in the first film). The objectives are usually tantalizingly close to the fellowship - "Oh, that's our campsite, yeah, so come find us in the Mines of Moria! Oh, wait, we moved on." Gandalf narrates the scenes "speaking" to Berethor, usually encouraging him to try and catch up with the group. Many of the game's boss fights are against non-canon enemies, enemies the Fellowship dealt with (supposedly), or enemies that it wouldn't make sense to have killed. As a whole, the story appears more like a fanfiction than a professional work.
The gameplay is reminiscent of most RPGs. Characters have HP and MP (or, rather, AP), and various class-specific skills. They can fight, use skills, use magic, or use items. Items tend to be LOTR-specific things like Lembas bread or Kingsfoil. Most of the attacks in the beginning are simply "hit harder" or "hit harder against certain things", but this later evolves into magical abilities as well. For the most part, the system is uninspired and not particularly exciting. The characters run around on the world map and have old-style random encounters that pop out of nowhere. The majority of the battles are fairly boring and have nothing to set them apart.
The graphics are fairly terrible. The textures are blocky, the characters seem mis-proportioned, the animations are odd and unnatural, and everything seems to be blurry for some reason. The voice acting is decent, but not spectacular; the characters seem chosen, again, for their resemblance to established characters.
As a whole, this game has nothing going for it. It seems amateur in many ways, and isn't particularly fun, either. Even for fans of LOTR, this isn't that rewarding because of the many inaccuracies and oddities present.