EA announces Rings console RPG

Imagine the other LOTR games with turn-based combat. That's what it sounds like, with more to come (obviously) at E3.

Late last year, as The Return of the King was reverberating around cinemas up and down the land and EA was toasting the success of its spin-off game of the same name, a producer on the title told sections of the US press that EA still had big plans for the franchise - beyond the scope of the PC-only MMORPG The Battle for Middle-Earth in fact - and to watch out for a console RPG called The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Well, we were watching, and now we've seen - EA has officially announced The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, a new console RPG based on the movie trilogy and set for release on PS2, Xbox, Cube and GBA in late autumn. In development at EA Redwood Shores (with Amaze Entertainment handling the handheld version), The Third Age follows the central story of the trilogy whilst filling in some periphery details the films didn't concentrate on.

As such, you'll follow the adventures of the Fellowship through the mines of Moria, battling the Balrog and so on, and also unlock characters and side-quests that see you fighting with the armies of the Uruk-Hai at Helm's Deep, and taking part in Gondor's defence of Osgiliath, which ought to be... overwhelming to say the least.

Although EA is saving the bulk of the details for its E3 showing next month, we do know that the RPG will use a turn-based combat system along the same lines as Final Fantasy and co., and early screenshots seem to point to a three-character party. Interestingly, EA won't be making an effort to implement online play with this one (although that might change - it was certainly one of the aspects mentioned by ROTK exec producer Neal Young late last year), and there won't be any cross-save compatibility with past LOTR titles.

However, it's still bound to catch the eye when it pitches up next month, and with the circus of the Return of the King and inevitable trilogy DVD sets still to come, EA will be hoping to make it a third successive Christmas as Lords of the Lord of the Rings.

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