Review: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age: PS2, Xbox

One ring to rule the RPGs?

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Out of all movie-to-game translations, it could be argued that The Lord of the Rings series has seen the best treatment consistently. There have been no crappy versions of anything so far. So with the delve into the RPG genre, does the franchise remain unmarred?

Lord of the Rings: The Third Age pits you essentially in a "greatest hits" of movie scenes with random, free-flowing exploration of Middle-Earth in between. Remember your favorite battle scene in any one of the three movies? It's there. Fight the Balrog. Defend Osgiliath. Deepen the melee in Pelennor fields. Defend:or destroy Helm's Deep. That's right.

You may also align your character with the good or evil of your choice. You can interact with a countless number of inhabitants whilst uncovering secret characters, upgrading your abilities and strengthening your alignment with the light or shadow. All of this unravels in a turn-based combat system likened to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.

The core combat centers around ranged, defense, melee and magic attacks. You can upgrade and tailor your experience in whichever way you want to grow. Also, you can revive your party with the Valor spell. Here is where the gameplay starts to take a dvie. While fun in nature, it's nearly impossible for the game to be difficult. Whenever you revive someone, their health and magic become fully restored. So as long as at least one in your party saves enough magic to cast one Valor, your team has eternal life. Not only is this an easy flaw to exploit, but the game isn't hard to begin with.

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Playing through the game it's as if it was designed so that first-person shooter fans could get into it without suffering defeat at their first RPG experience. In fact, it's so easy that no matter if you choose light or shadow, you'll feel like an overpowered tyrant.

Other than that, The Third Age plays smoothly and looks fantastic. There is so much to explore and the detail with which the lands were created is impressive. All of the character models are highly detailed with an enormous amount of sound and ambience samples ripped straight from the movie. It is quite an immersive experience.

The Third Age was thrilling the entire time, despite the extreme lack of a challenge. On technical merit, the newbie-friendly lack of difficulty is a serious flaw, but it's hard to argue that it's still a highly-polished and wonderful experience.

Graphics: A

Sound: A-

First Play: A-

Last Play: B

Gameplay: B-

Overall: 90% A-

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