Video Game: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
aka: Lord Of The Rings The Third Age
"Words hold great power: to capture the mind, to enrage the heart...but it is things that cut to the heart of the matter."The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age
—Gandalf the Grey
is a pair of similar video games based on Peter Jackson's film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings
In the version released for the GameCube
, PlayStation 2
, the plot follows your expanding group of heroes as they follow (and try to assist) the Fellowship of the novels and the movie.
The version released for the Game Boy Advance
allows you to command the heroes of good or evil
and the soldiers alongside them as they fight for control of Middle-Earth in several (canonical and non-canonical) battles of the War of the Ring.
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Game Cube / PS 2 / Xbox Version
Tropes in the home console version provide examples of:
- All There in the Manual: An ingame one. For some reason, a good chunk of the exposition isn't covered in cutscenes, but in orbs sent by Gandalf, Saruman, or the plot—if you aren't keeping up with them, you'll never realize that Hadhod has a dead son, for example.
- Bottomless Magazines: No matter how long a battle lasts, or how many battles you do in a row, Elegost never runs out of arrows.
- Brainwashed: Berethor is under Saruman's control for most of the game, compelled to track Boromir for a reason unknown to himself, but would have led to him stealing the One Ring eventually.
- It is later revealed that he was struck with a Morgul blade during the earlier battle for Osgiliath. According to the Witch-King, he was intended to be a sleeper agent who would wreak havoc in Minas Tirith and throw open the city gates, softening the defenses for the full Mordor invasion. Fortunately, Berethor breaks through his brainwashing in time.
- Canon Foreigner: All of the main party members.
- Combat Medic: Idrial (several of her spirit skills), Eaoden (skillset revolves around transferring his HP and AP, allowing him to act as a sort of "battery" for the other characters), and anyone with the Lifecraft elfstone.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: While the game does allow for some variance, enemies seem more likely to gang up on "the little guy" of the group (whoever seems to have the lowest stats) Example: By the time Morwen joins the party (about 35% through the game) all the other characters are likely to have found a great deal of useful and powerful equipment, raising their armor and stats to effective levels. Morwen, like any new party member, still has basic gear and lower stats, making her an easy target. Enemies seem to somehow know this and attack her more than other party members and until she gets better equipment, she can get taken down in as little as two hits. To further twist the knife, the game seems to refuse to allow the player to find any equipment for her.
- Cut Scene Power To The Max: At the beginning of the game, Idrial finishes of two Ringwraiths with the Water Stallion, a Spell that you likely won't get until at least halfway through the game and will not be able to finish off Ringwraiths (Who are somewhere between Elite Mook and Sub Boss in power depending on when you meet them) in one hit without serious boosting.
- Damage-Sponge Boss: The Witch-King. His damage output is pretty much negligible and you can perpetually stall his turn, but due to his high defenses and the fact that he counters every hit you make with an incredibly long-winded animation just to bonk you on the head, the fight takes forever. Most of the late enemies and bosses tend to count, but he's one of the most obnoxious.
- To a lesser extent, the Nazgûl enemies the player fights in East Emnet Gullies and Osgiliath. While they generally don't do that much damage, they have a ton of HP, and the battles with them generally last a long time.
- The Balrog, it was WAY more HP than anything you fought before, and more HP than a decent of enemies fought after it.
- Enemy Scan: Courtesy of Elegost.
- Elemental Powers: A few of the characters have attacks like this.
- Making a Splash: Idrial uses a few spirit attacks made of water, and a few of her other spells have water animations.
- Shock and Awe / Green Thumb: Elegost has a high-level skill that summons a lightning storm on his enemies. In addition, another high-level skill allows him to bind his enemies with roots.
- Playing with Fire / Dishing Out Dirt: Hadhod has a few fire skills, including a meteor and a dragon spirit, though one skill is used to defend against enemy fire attacks. In addition, he can raise shields of earth in front of his allies.
- Everyone Calls Him Barkeep: Strangely enough for a game in which playable characters have names. After Berethor's introduction to Idrial, not many people call each other by name, but rather refer to their races and jobs: Human, Knight of Gondor, She-Elf, Ranger, Dwarf, etc...
- Which makes it especially jarring when the party splits up during Minas Tirith; Eaoden shouts some orders to Berethor, Idrial, Elegost and Hadhod, referring to them by name.
- Expy: Each character is this to one of the existing characters. Berethor is Boromir as The Atoner and The Hero, Elegost is Aragorn as The Lancer instead of Supporting Leader, Idrial is Arwen as a warrior, Hadhod is Gimli with stoicism instead of humour, Morwen is Éowyn and Eaoden is Éomer.
- Gainaxing: Watch Morwen's chest when she starts to walk around in the cutscene directly after you rescue her.
- Giant Space Flea From No Where: During the Battle of Pelennor Fields, the party is suddenly warped to the top of the Tower of Barad-Dur to fight the Eye of Sauron as the game's disappointingly easy final boss.
- Game Breaker: Idrial's auto-revive spell is completely broken. It auto-revives a character on death with full health and mp and they immediately get to attack and Idrial can cast it on herself. This means even if she dies on the very next attack, she still has an opportunity to cast it before she dies, meaning once she casts it on herself, you are invincible and it impossible to lose except by choice.
- Gameplay and Story Segregation: Elegost has a sword that he uses in cutscenes, yet he never uses it in actual gameplay.
- Morwen is introduced as a competent Rohirrim warrior who is fighting three orcs...alone. Then you actually try playing as her and, well....
- Making matters worse, you can't switch her out at this point, since this is meant to be her introductory battle.
- Guest Star Party Member: Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Éowyn, Faramir, and even random elves assist you at times.
- Lazy Backup: Only three heroes can fight at the same time. If all three are killed/knocked out it's a game over while any other characters look on.
- Level Grinding: Once you get the Travel option, this becomes a lot easier. It's also a good way to raise things like crafting stats or the stats of new characters without placing them in direct danger.
- Life Drain: The Leech spell, available through the Shadowcraft spell or one of Eaoden's skills. Elegost has a similar technique, Drain Shot.
- Second Age swords also do this, but only Berethor and Idrial can use them. Another feature that's Broken; it's actually more effective to equip Idrial's second-best sword because it's Second Age and her best one isn't.
- Lower Deck Episode: The conditions of this game's creation forced the developers to avoid any content which was not in the film adaptations (no Tom Bombadil allowed, for instance), so the main group exists entirely in the Fellowship's shadow, tailing after them and largely confronting the same things, if only after the fact.
- Hilariously, EA would gain the rights to the books one year after the release of the game.
- Magic Knight: Eaoden and Hadhod. Idrial can try, with varying results.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: Averted, with "Evil Mode". You get to play the forces of Sauron (including Sauron himself!) and fight the heroes, but if you think it's going to be easy, you're wrong. The extra loot you gain from this mode is generally worth it, including weapons the player wouldn't find anywhere else.
- Though one thing that falls in the player's favor with Evil Mode is that you know exactly who to target with your attacks to avoid the worst of your old party's techniques. The order usually goes: movie character dies first (if present), then Idrial.
- Praetorian Guard: Berethor is a member of Gondor's version; a captain in the Citadel Guards.
- Remember the New Guy: Berethor and his gang seem to mysteriously show up during all key events of the movies, sometimes teaming up with canon characters. Such as helping Gandalf kick the Balrog's ass.
- Romantic False Lead: Berethor and Idrial seem like an item initially... but then Morwen shows up and it's revealed she's Berethor's fiancée.
- RPGs Equal Combat: Not so much as a single NPC that isn't out for your head, save the elven archers who perform the Rain of Arrows Perfect Mode attack.
- Shoot The Shaggy Dog Story: The party (somehow) ends up fighting the Eye of Sauron atop Barad-dûr. Since the tower collapses once the Ring is destroyed, and we never actually see the party's whereabouts afterward (we just get a monologue about the beginning of the Fourth Age), well...
- Shown Their Work: The game is extremely non-canon, but there is one thing the developers got right; besides the elves, very few people actually do big, flashy attack magic, instead performing morale-boosting Status Buff skills and elaborate weapon techniques. The main character has a healing spell, but that is explicitly an elvish blessing.
- Status Buff: Several, most for the player from Berethor's Leadership skills.
- Status Buff Dispel: Also several, but the player is mostly limited to Eoaden's Dispel skill and the completely identical Dispel found in Shadowcraft.
- Those Two Guys: Hadhor and Elegost have shades of this, as they are introduced as friends in their introductions, and at one instance when the Love Triangle starts causing problems, they just look at each other and shrug.
- Useless Useful Spell:
- Averted, surprisingly enough. There are a crapton of status effects you can inflict, and any individual monster (except a couple bosses) are only immune to around half of them at a time. Elegost can tell you which ones you can use. While some of the later bosses are immune to most of the more powerful ones, in most cases there's at least one status effect you can abuse to a significant degree (for instance, stalling the Witch-King indefinitely). Another example is the Mûmakil, immune to Stunning, Crippling, and Sleep, but vulnerable to Melee Bind techniques. Its two melee techniques are Sweep Tusks (which removes one character's AP) and Stomp (which stuns everybody). With a single binding, it's two most annoying attacks are sealed, leaving it with a couple of wimpy damaging attacks, and turning That One Boss into Damage-Sponge Boss.
- May or may not be played straight with some of the more optional skillsets... Such as crafting (which requires lots of grinding before becoming useful, and leads to item hoarding and skipping a character's turn) and stealing (self explanatory, considering only consumables are lootable and the vast variety of items are of questionable use). A lot of minor items have obscure effects as well, such as reducing blunt/slash/pierce/fire/water/etc damage for a few turns when the type of an attack is difficult to determine.
- Visual Initiative Queue
- Wake-Up Call Boss: The Balrog. He is the second "true boss" in the game, and is the final boss of Chapter 3: The Mines of Moria. The game is rather easy up to this point, but Balrog shows up to wipe the party. For reference, the first boss, The Watcher in the Water has 3,112 HP, Balorg has 72,317 HP, and the third boss, Gríma Wormtongue, has but 14,927 HP. Justified: The Balrog is a huge fire-and-shadow demon of the ancient world, while Gríma is only a normal human who's been corrupted (and given a few powers through it, it seems).
The worst part of the Balrog isn't his obscene amount of hit points (that just makes him a Damage Sponge boss), nor is it the amount of damage he does, since you can and should have several ways to offset that by this point in the game if you've been unlocking skills correctly. By far the worst part is that 2 of his attacks hit your entire party and drain nearly all their AP in one shot. Without Gandalf's Wizard Drain, only Idrial would have a reliable way of replenishing her own AP. If Idrial doesn't have Aura of the Valar and Power of the Valar note , it would be nearly hopeless without Gandalf. In fact, it's entirely possible to let the party die and just have Gandalf kill the Balrog.
Game Boy Advance Version
Tropes in the Game Boy Advance version of The Third Age provide examples of:
- Authority Equals Asskicking: In two missions, as evil, you get to play as Sauron himself — and he is ridiculously powerful, though he is not immune to death if you misuse him.
- Awesome but Impractical:
- The Witch-King's combination of Rage and Flurry — sure, he could do ridiculous amounts of damage, but to make it worthwhile he has to be in melee range of as many as four units. This doesn't happen often, and even if you pull it off, he's most likely not going to make it out without a fair amount of damage. Furthermore, pulling this off uses some of his limited Command and Spirit Points, which could be used better for some other purpose.
- For that matter, when you have Sauron, he possesses both the Flurry and Strength of Mordor abilities, meaning that he can hit up to three units and force them all to fail a morale check and flee (if they don't die first). Again, however, this requires getting him almost to melee range, but on the upside, Sauron is a much better leader than the Witch-King so he can readily take some Mooks alongside him.
- The combination of Elrond, Legolas, and Haldir; first you have to unlock Haldir by beating The Black Gate Opens on hard difficulty, then you have to get all of them fully upgraded and find a mission where you can use all three. However, if you get them all on the same flank — The Last Alliance comes to mind — both Elrond and Haldir can use Keen Eyes, adding 3 range to all units on the flank, and Legolas can use Sweep Attack to snipe up to four units from 15 squares away. The best part is that all three of them can now do full damage at the far end of their range, meaning you can toast entire packs of units from multiple screens away ... you just need to have the Command Points and Spirit Points to do all that in one turn.
- Awesome Yet Practical: Many primary heroes' unique abilities.
- Gandalf has Blinding Light, which causes all enemy units on the same flank to take several morale checks and, if they fail, to simply flee (backing them off and rendering them useless for a turn).
- Elrond has Elven Duress, which actually gives the enemies a Command Point penalty on the next turn — and a decent chance of suffering Disorder and losing them all.
- Aragorn has Curse of the Dead, which isn't really that powerful but can deal damage to people you can't reach across the flank.
- The Mouth of Sauron has Eye of Sauron, which allows all evil units on his flank to do additional damage, even if it only works against heroes.
- Saruman has Swarm Of Crebain, which not only deals hefty damage but stuns the target for one turn.
- Among non-unique skills, the Witch-King has Invulnerability, which cuts the damage he takes in addition to making him invincible to all Mooks for one turn.
- Boring but Practical:
- Aragorn can also use both Arms Mastery and Sweep Attack to boost his damage and attack multiple foes in one turn, and since he has half-decent attack range he can find more opportunities than the Witch-King to successfully pull it off.
- The Witch-King's Terror ability. Few things suck as much as the Defense of the Beacon mission, where he will use it incessantly to root your outnumbered and outflanked forces to the spot wherever they stand.
- The Evasion skill. Rarely useful, but when you want to assassinate a fleeing hero, reach a target location or just get the hero to wherever they're needed, it comes in handy.
- The Hold Fast! and On Your Feet! abilities, for good and evil respectively; healing is hard to come by.
- The Cavalry: Riders of Rohan and Gondor Knights on the side of good; Dark Riders and Warg-riders on the side of evil. All of them have high Hit Points, resilient morale, punishing attack power, and the ability to move, attack and move again in a single turn. Each side occasionally gets missions where they have to use such units (or defend against them) en masse.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Siege weapons have the Inaccurate "talent", meaning they're supposed to miss 50% of the time ... but the computer seems to have a much higher hit rate with them than the player. Particularly annoying in the Assault on Osgiliath mission, since while the expendable Gondor knights can and must charge forward at will, the good heroes cannot get any more than four spaces from the bottom of the map before the enemy immediately focus-fires on them with the two Orc catapults.note
- Elite Mooks: The Army of the Dead, the Ents, and any cavalry on the side of good; Uruk-hai, Warg-riders, Ringwraiths and Trolls on the side of evil.
- Boss in Mook Clothing: Ents, Trolls, Ringwraiths and Mûmakil boast stats comparable to or well exceeding any hero-level unit.
- Expy: Strangely enough, an example on the scale of an entire mission. The unlockable level Balin's Tomb is basically the same as Flight From Moria, only set inside Moria and without any elves or woodsmen.
- For Massive Damage:
- Of all people, the Mouth of Sauron is the damage king: with a base damage of 6, plus upgrades adding 4, plus maxed-out Rage adding another 4, and maxed-out Eye of Sauron adding another three, plus a potential Onslaught adding 2, he can theoretically have an attack value of 19 against a hero, meaning he is capable of dealing 38 damage in a single hit. (For comparison, no good hero or unit has any more than 30 Hit Points on normal difficulty.) On the downside, he can only attack at melee range and has an annoying habit of failing morale checks when he actually takes damage.
- Saruman, too, brings the pain: base damage of 4, Rage for another 4, possible Onslaught for another 2, leading to a base damage of 10 for a maximum hit of 20 to any single unit (at range, no less). On top of that, he can hit again with Swarm Of Crebain, which when maxed-out deals 3-12 damage, bringing his maximum offensive output to 32 in a single turn.
- For the good side, Gimli is your man: base damage of 6, upgrades adding 3, maxed-out Arms Mastery adding 3 more, using Entwater adding 2 more, and a possible Onslaught for 2 more, bringing his single-hit damage value to 16 for a theoretical maximum of 32 in one smack of his axe.
- Glass Cannon: The Uruk-hai Berserkers qualify. They have some of the best movement in the game outside mounted units, and are absurdly powerful, easily capable of one-shotting Good's basic soldiers. On the flipside, they have minimal Hit Points and nonexistent defence, so you'll be very lucky to get more than one attack off before they die.
- Gondor Calls for Aid: The entire literal purpose of the Defense of the Beacon, Mount Mindolluin, and Charge of the Rohirrim missions.
- Guest Star Party Member: Several, including:
- Théodred, in the level Crossing of the Ford;
- Several Ringwraiths, mounted and on foot, in the non-canon level Darkness Upon Bree;
- Merry and/or Pippin, in several levels throughout the game;
- Prince Isildur, in both the tutorial levels as well as the unlockable level Sauron Comes;
- Sauron himself in the levels The Last Alliance (as Evil only) and Sauron Comes.
- Hero Killer:
- Éowyn's unique inherent ability, "Shieldmaiden", grants her +3 base damage against any Evil hero and makes her a competent assassin. That said, you may want to keep her safe to make good use of her Hold Fast! healing ability.
- The Mouth of Sauron's unique ability, "Eye of Sauron", grants +1 damage per upgrade level to all nearby Evil units when attacking Good heroes. Essentially, once maxed out, it turns everyone on the flank into an Expy of Éowyn for one turn.
- Hold the Line: Several missions award the player victory points simply for holding a crucial point or just surviving for a set number of turns.
- The Juggernaut: Mûmakil. They only show up twice (Ambush At Ithilien and Pelennor Fields), but are nigh unstoppable whenever they appear. Consider this: they boast by far the highest Hit Points in the game, unflappable morale, brutal attack power, AND the Shock and Double Move talents. On top of that, any unit in their way automatically fails a morale check and is forced to flee, rendering them useless for a turn; worse, if they cannot escape thanks to surrounding units or terrain, the unfortunate target is trampled to death where they stand. As a result, killing a Mûmak is a pretty satisfying achievement, whenever you can pull it off.
- In the Pelennor Fields level, if you are playing as evil and if you move the Mûmakil down at least one space on the first turn, when the second turn comes and the Army of the Dead arrive, you can run it straight down and trample over Aragorn before he can fire a shot. The Mûmakil can then proceed to disrupt and kill the Army of the Dead while the rest of your minions curbstomp the handful of Rohan cavalry gathered at the top of the map and then mop up whoever is left standing.
- Just You And Me And My Guards: In the Pelennor Fields level, a massive Evil army (with a Mûmakil to boot) faces down a handful of Rohan cavalry and the few heroes who lead them. Then turn 2 comes ... and the Army of the Dead appear across the entire bottom edge of the map.
- Killed Off for Real: Playing on Sauron Mode. Injured heroes still regain their health between combat, but any who fall in battle are gone for the rest of the campaign. Even playing without Sauron Mode, heroes who fall in battle will be unable to be fielded in the next battle before they are available once again.
- Luck-Based Mission / Staying Alive: On the side of Good, The Black Gate Opens is all about this. You have to survive at least 15 turns and as long as necessary after that point until Frodo randomly destroys the One Ring. The bad part is, without impeccable unit management and substantial luck, it's an utter Curb-Stomp Battle in Evil's favour, even on the lowest (normal) difficulty level.
- No Campaign for the Wicked: Subverted. You can play an entire campaign as either good or evil, but they still fight through the same battles, just on different sides (and with the occasional difference in numbers and placement of Mooks and heroes).
- Off the Rails: You can do it with regularity. For one example, you can have Elrond, Théoden and Boromir assaulting the Black Gate at the end of the Return of the King levels; conversely, you can have Saruman and Wormtongue defending it.
- Took a Level in Badass: All of your primary and secondary heroes can do this via upgrades, but one that really stands out is Saruman. During the course of his upgrades, he gains range, Spirit Points, a defense bonus, and goes from average leadership to the best in the game ("Exemplary", beating out even Aragorn, Théoden, and Sauron himself). His abilities allow him to heal the whole flank, boost his damage, drop a punishing debuff on any given unit from far away, and deal hefty damage while stunning the target (effectively a second attack). True, his Hit Points still suck, and he's only average at moving from place to place, but he's downright spectacular at leading an army — which is his job.
- Video Game Characters: The heroes, both good and evil:
- For the forces of good:
- Aragorn: Jack of All Stats, Supporting Leader
- Gandalf: Magic Knight, Squishy Wizard, Blinded by the Light
- Elrond: Lightning Bruiser, Genius Bruiser, Forest Ranger, Cold Sniper, Combat Medic
- Legolas: Cold Sniper, Forest Ranger, Fragile Speedster, Knife Nut, Rain of Arrows
- Gimli: Mighty Glacier, Pint-Sized Powerhouse, Axe Crazy, Damage Sponge
- Théoden: Royals Who Actually Do Something, Fragile Speedster, The Cavalry
- Éomer: Four-Star Badass, Lightning Bruiser, The Cavalry
- Éowyn: Action Girl, Combat Medic, Hero Killer
- Boromir: Four-Star Badass, Mighty Glacier, Stone Wall
- Faramir: The Captain, Jack of All Stats, Cold Sniper
- Haldir: Forest Ranger, Cold Sniper, Sixth Ranger
- For the forces of evil:
- The Witch-King: Lightning Bruiser, Mighty Glacier, The Dragon
- Saruman: Squishy Wizard, Shock and Awe, The Starscream
- The Mouth of Sauron: Genius Bruiser, Glass Cannon, The Dragon
- Gríma Wormtongue: Fragile Speedster, Dirty Coward, Lethal Joke Character
- Lurtz: Cold Sniper, Jack of All Stats
- Sharku: The Cavalry, Lightning Bruiser
- Gorbag: Glass Cannon, Lightning Bruiser
- Grishnakh: Fragile Speedster, Dirty Coward
- Uglúk: Combat Medic, Mighty Glacier, Damage Sponge
- Gothmog: Four-Star Badass
- Shagrat: Lightning Bruiser, One-Man Army, Sixth Ranger