It took us a while, but we finally managed to pester our contacts at Electronic Arts into giving us a few details about the game, along with a very brief sneak peek.
As the subtitle implies, Lord of the Rings: Tactics is a strategy-RPG along the lines of games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy Tactics. There's the usual RPG style story, which follows the timeline of all three LOTR novels, but the gameplay is turn-based and puts players in charge of a large army instead of the typical 3-4 person party. In fact, if you played last year's Lord of the Rings: The Third Age for Game Boy Advance, you already have some idea of what to expect -- except the graphics, audio, and everything else are much better.
The game will include two campaigns. There's a Fellowship (good) campaign, which lets you control hero characters, like Frodo, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. The rest of the troops in the Fellowship campaign will be the Gondor soldiers, Rohirrim, and Dunedain that ride along in support of the heroes. Meanwhile, the Shadow (evil) campaign will let you hunt down the Hobbits and the ring bearer by taking control of such baddies as the Witch King and Saruman, followed by the dark legions of the Nazgul, the Uruk-hai, and the Ents.
Right now, the game isn't very far along, so we were only given a few glimpses of actual gameplay. From the looks of things, the character models and terrain have been taken from earlier PS2 Rings games. Movement and attacking happen on a large grid that overlays the terrain, and each character seems to have an assortment of melee and long-range attacks. Terrain works like it does in games of this ilk--you get a defense boost in forests and on high ground, but movement suffers as a result.
Electronic Arts hopes to have the game on store shelves later this fall, in time for the holiday shopping season. The final version should clock in with roughly 30 hours of single-player gameplay, but will also include an ad hoc multiplayer mode that will support as many as four players.
7/22/2005 Frank Provo