That Time Lord of the Rings Got a Final Fantasy Game Ripoff

The box art of Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, featuring Berethor the Gondorian, Idrial the Elf, and Hadhod the Dwarf fighting the Balrog of Moria alongside Gandalf the Grey.

This really occurs in the recreation and it’s each superior and dumb as hell.
Image: EA Games

The Lord of the Rings films got here out at arguably the top of online game film tie-ins. The sequence obtained every part from traditional hack-and-slash action games to strategy titles, however one of the weirdest and most fascinating of all of them was 2004’s The Third Age. Part Final Fantasy knock-off, part movie retelling, it requested a bizarre query: How do you inform the story of the Fellowship of the Ring, with out the Fellowship really being there?

The reply: you make your personal Fellowship with the serial numbers filed off.

Although there are no Hobbits to be found in The Third Age’s retinue, its motley social gathering primarily follows in the shadow of the Fellowship in Lord of the Rings from the get-go with an nearly comical closeness. There are two Gondorians, a Knight named Berethor and a Ranger named Elegost, two Rohirrim, a member of Theoden’s guard (Éoaden) and a villager (Morwen), an Elf (Idrial), and a Dwarf (Hadhod). Opening with Berethor being ambushed on the strategy to Rivendell to accompany Bormir’s social gathering to the council of Elrond in Fellowship of the Ring. From there it’s a 30-hour re-imagining of the Lord of the Rings films with RPG mechanics that may solely be diplomatically described as stolen out of the again of a truck labeled “The Kids Like That Final Fantasy X, Right?”

Image for article titled Revisiting the Weird Legacy of Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

Screenshot: EA Games

It’s comical how shut behind the common Fellowship—a factor you’ll be able to apparently simply develop into by gathering a few random folks about, as an alternative of it being some type of formal title like the one Elrond grants Frodo and his retinue—is to the precise one all through the occasions of The Third Age. Guided by psychic communication from Gandalf—in the kind of unlockable clip reels from the movies and new Sir Ian McKellen narration (why didn’t he suppose of doing that with Frodo after the Fellowship obtained separated? His loss of life and rebirth doesn’t cease him chatting to Berethor!)—Berethor and his buddies race from the forests round Rivendell to Moria. Then from there to the villages of Rohan and Helm’s Deep, and ultimately Osgiliath, Minas Tirith, and even actually the high of Barad-dûr to go take turns poking at Sauron’s large eyeball to finish the recreation.

Aside from uncommon moments the social gathering is definitely alongside essential LotR characters—serving to Gandalf battle the Balrog in Moria and the Witch King at Minas Tirith, or serving to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli maintain Helm’s Deep—they’re explicitly in the main Fellowship’s shadow, simply off-screen or mere moments behind them. At one level in Moria it’s your social gathering that will get to look at the Dwarven skeleton Pippin knocks free plummet by means of the ceiling to land proper in entrance of you. At one other, as you ascend Minas Tirith’s ranges throughout the siege to help Gandalf, you actually attain the high as Denethor runs screaming previous you in flames, turning his loss of life into one thing that undoubtedly wants the Benny Hill theme taking part in in the background:

But for all the fully uncommented-upon absurdity of having a LotR recreation play so near the characters and occasions of the movies (however with unique protagonists), it’s the moments the story of The Third Age steps distinctly away from the premise of the movies that it’s maybe the strangest. Early on in Gandalf’s film-reel communique with Berethor, you study that the wizard has tapped you for some type of greatness that Berethor can not bear in mind in the slightest (presumably it’s “we’ll let you go poke Sauron’s eye with a stick in 40 hours while Frodo does the actual work”). In truth, Berethor can’t actually bear in mind a lot of something at the begin of the recreation, aside from that a) he abandoned the prior battle for Osgiliath between the Gondorian forces below Boromir and Faramir’s command and Sauron’s orcs, and b) he’s meant to meet up with Boromir’s social gathering at the Council of Elrond. And but, all through early components of The Third Age, Berethor is plagued with these visions—each the warnings of his import from Gandalf and ultimately darker threats from Saruman (a returning Christopher Lee).

It’s ultimately revealed that Berethor is seemingly the most put upon human in Middle-Earth. Prior to the occasions of the recreation, he was sinisterly ensorcelled by Saruman who believed Boromir would succumb to the Ring’s energy and declare it for Gondor at the Council of Elrond (or wrest it from Frodo). With Berethor as Saruman’s unknowing confederate at the assembly, he would awaken as The Gondorian Candidate and take the ring for Saruman. But he didn’t! And Berethor was advantageous, as a result of…causes. Because he stood subsequent to Aragorn for a bit at Helm’s Deep? It’s left unclear. But that’s not all! He pulls what can solely be described as a “Reverse Aragor.” First, there’s a fully lifeless romance subplot the place first Berethor falls for Idrial after she rescues him at the begin of the recreation, just for her to go “wait, we’re introducing a Rohan girl so that you can really find yourself with as an alternative. In addition, throughout the second battle for Osgiliath it’s revealed the motive Berethor fled the first time round was resulting from the indisputable fact that, like Frodo, he was stabbed with the Witch King’s Morgul blade. Unlike Frodo nevertheless, this didn’t slowly poison Berethor and switch him into a Wraith, it simply…did nothing till he needed to pry the Morgul blade’s tip out of his chest mid-fight in order that he might do hurt to the Ringwraith.

Image for article titled Revisiting the Weird Legacy of Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

Screenshot: EA Games

It’s… bananas. Made all the extra bananas that this absurdist Middle-Earth fanfic is wrapped round a perfunctory knockoff of the fight mechanics of Final Fantasy X which, at the time, was one of the most beloved console RPGs round. It makes revisiting The Third Age like taking part in a bizarre combine of fairly advantageous turn-based Fantasy RPG in between moments of Ian McKellen lore-dumping Lord of the Rings to you. And but there’s a attraction in its unintended zaniness that few different LotR video games have captured since. There have been higher taking part in video games—the Shadow of Mordor/Shadow of War duology, for example—however none have fairly so captured the themes at the coronary heart of the films and J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. It’s all there, in its personal bizarre manner: the thought of perseverance in the face of darkness, that the impossible amongst us can rise to the event and develop into heroes, that future will be challenged and brought into your personal arms. It simply occurs to throw one hell of a Middle-Earth-shaped kitchen sink at you in the course of.

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