Tolkien gamer fans, take heed: You’re going to have to exercise some frugal time management in the years ahead if you want to live a full life AND play all of the upcoming Lord of the Rings games from Electronic Arts. The hints and rumours are that a real time strategy, MMORPG, Fantasy RPG, and more, on multiple gaming platforms, are what’s brewing for you in the EA kitchen. That probably sounds exciting enough to get any Tolkien gamer wide-eyed, but…there’s more.
The success of EA’s The Two Towers for PS2 was and is absolutely stunning. Neil Young, Executive Director for EA Games, told TORC way back on October 31st of 2002 that they had sold 2 million copies of TTT at that point. He projected 4 million copies sold by March 2003. With that kind of success, why NOT go full thrust into Middle Earth gaming?
Rest assured, they are. Return of the King will be the next LOTR game release by EA with a projected release date of November 2003. Fans will be thrilled to know that ROTK will be available on all platforms: PC, Game Boy Advance, XBox, GameCube and PS2. Be even more thrilled that ALL platforms will be released on the same day. ROTK will feature a more expanded gameplay environment. What does that mean? Though the gameplay exploration will still be managed, (set paths, doorways, etc), there will be much larger exploration areas available in the game. Characters will climb and explore various settings as well as climbing onto tables and kicking the teeth out of their oncoming enemies. Imagine Legolas leaping onto a table and dancing with his knives as the enemy surges forward. Adds a whole new meaning to table dance, doesn’t it?
Calling The Two Towers game a “prototype” for what is to come, Young and his development team will build upon what we’ve seen in TTT for PS2 and breathe even more life into ROTK and the games beyond. How? In addition to playing Gimli, Legolas, and Aragorn through another series of battle missions, Frodo and Sam will also figure prominently in the ROTK game as they make their way to Mordor. You will most definitely get to explore Cirith Ungol’s dark and sinister caverns while you keep a wary eye out for the hideous spawn of Ungoliant. Shelob. One has to guess that you will be Sam at this point and one has to also guess that your adrenaline will be flowing like the Falls of Rauros. Battling Shelob. Wow.
Epic battles? Neil would not confirm nor deny; but, he did tell me that the monumental battles of Return of the King, (Pelennor Fields and the Black Gate, we can assume), will be a part of the ROTK game. For those that have played The Two Towers game, remember the Isildur sequence where you fight in the Last Alliance? If all goes well, EA will expand upon that type of gameplay and thus enable us to fight on the vast battlefields of Middle Earth’s War of the Ring. Granted, there are lots of logistical areas to grapple with in order to make this happen and happen well, but at least EA knows that we want it and they’re trying to give it to us.
There will also be more secret characters and multiple secret levels. Isildur was the secret character in TTT; and, he was quite the awesome melee hammer. His appearance in the game pleased most fans even if the Tower of Orthanc secret level seemed a bit redundant. We should be more than willing to forgive the redundancy of Orthanc, though, if the hints about who the secret characters are in ROTK flesh out to reality. And I did say secret characterssssssssssssss. Plural. I also said secret levelssssssssss. Plural. Weee! (No, I can’t say more on this….yet!)
When I first spoke to Neil Young back in October, some of his team had just returned from New Zealand where they had been at Weta getting set designs and the digital characters that are used in the Return of the King movie. Yes, mellyn, the ROTK game will be even MORE like the movie (visually) than was TTT. Yes, you can expect more of the movie-to-game and game-to-movie transitions and this time, they will be even more seamless. The actual sets from ROTK the movie will be recreated in the game thus lending even more synchronicity between big screen and your chosen gaming device. Dim the lights, crank up your game, and you, too, will be battling to save Middle Earth.
And the question on many gamers’ minds: Will ROTK be have a multiplayer option? EA won’t officially confirm at this time, but they are exploring that option and they are well aware of the gamers’ clamor for it. However, if they can’t bring it to us seamlessly and with as much glitz and glamour of TTT, then it won’t be done.
I have an inkling that we’ll see it, though.
EA is intensely committed to exploring what doorways to Middle Earth can and will be opened. Not just opened, though; opened with both majesty and class. Neil Young and his crew are absolutely dedicated to making SURE that what they release performs, visually, as well as the movies. Period.
After Return of the King, (for PC, PS2, Xbox, GameCube and GBA), there will be a HUGE game tentatively titled TRILOGY. This game will expand above and beyond both TTT and ROTK; it will encompass the entire adventure of the movies with multiple characters available for gameplay. TRILOGY will feature the heroes from the previous two games plus the Hobbits and ……GANDALF. Fans have been clamoring for Gandalf since TTT and many expected to hear that he would be available for gameplay in ROTK. But, that is not to be. Gandalf will return to us at the turn of the tide when TRILOGY is released in November 2004. Young is confident when he says that the wait will be well worth what we get.
Hint: Gandalf may just make into the Return of the King game….just maybe!
What is more, TRILOGY won’t just be a compilation of TTT and ROTK games. It will feature the main heroes, of course, but it will allow the player to explore, as the heroes, ALL of Middle Earth. It will most likely be mission based, like TTT and ROTK; but, the plan is, for instance, that you will be able to take Aragorn to Cirith Ungol and explore Shelob’s dark caverns.
TRILOGY will also be available on all gaming platforms. (At this point you might be asking why TTT wasn’t made for the PC. Young says that when TTT was being developed, he had the choice of splitting the team and making PS2 and PC versions. Rather than split his resources, he opted for just PS2 and putting every available talent on that project.) Keep in mind, too, that with the inevitable PS3 and Xbox 2 gaming consoles, EA is also tossing those variables into their development strategy. You can bet your last Gondorian gold that if and when PS3 and Xbox2 hit the market, the EA LOTR games will be ready to take full advantage of the new features.