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GW Xbox > Xbox Previews > Preview Page


Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring


Universal Interactive


Fall 2002

Extremely High

Tolkien's best-selling trilogy is coming to life in the form of an Xbox exclusive title, and we have all the magic in our in depth preview.

For as long as anyone can remember J.R.R. Tolkien has been a master of the fantasy universe. His novels have paved the way for today's authors to create their own world of intrigue. Universal Interactive and new development studio WXP are preparing to bring J.R.R Tolkien's worldwide best-selling trilogy to life in the form of an Xbox exclusive action, adventure, role-playing blend. For many years Tolkien's novels have been leading the way in the fantasy genre. Between the years of 1985 and 1990, four titles were released based on the hit books. Unfortunately, none of them sold like expected. Thanks to the Xbox console, this fifth Lord of the Rings title might be the one to hit the market hard.

In just a few short months gamers will have to make the decision between WXP's Xbox exclusive and Electronic Arts' multi-platform LOTR title. As both games are based on the hit movie and series, they are sure to feature similarities. When it comes down the stretch, the decision will be a tough one. Unfortunately, WXP's only competition is not merely on the Xbox. Nintendo's Zelda series has been leading the action/adventure genre for as long as many can recall. With no real basis to take on the multi-hit series, Microsoft is hoping that WXP's upcoming LOTR title is the one to compete with Link and his "o' so pretty" Princess.

New Line's epic re-creation of Tolkien's masterpiece sold like candy in the box office, and shined like gold at the Golden Globe Awards in the same short period. Gathering all the exciting details from the movie, and expanding on the imagination and creativity of Tolkien's novels, WXP hopes to deliver to the vast amount of hype its upcoming title has already established.

The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring sets the player on a quest not just to recover but to also wipe out a dominant magical amulet known as The One Ring. Throughout the hunt, players will explore three diverse characters, each becoming available depending on the scene in the game. The player cannot alternate between characters, instead that feature is already preselected by the game. The first male protagonist to be explored is Frodo Baggins, a courageous hobbit and ringbearer that relies on speed, agility and stealth to survive. When it comes to combat, Frodo's weaknesses become apparent, as his magic dagger is the only thing keeping him alive. The second character is more like a big fighting machine. Aragon, also known as Strider, is a transferred king who shines when it comes to battle. His style and techniques will help the player defeat large amounts of evil creatures all at one time. Last and certainly not least is Gandalf, an old and wise wizard known for his supreme magical abilities. Each of these characters has his reason for being in the game and will serve a significant role in reaching success.

During pursuit of The One Ring, players will explore eight distinctive locations. The extensive journey begins in the Shire (a peaceful region in the west of Eriador), heads along Hobbiton (a serene rural village home to Bag End and the great Party Tree), Bree (a hectic town of both Men and Hobbits, home of "The Prancing Pony"), Weathertop (a high peak at the top of the Weather Hills where once stood the grand watchtower of Amon Sul), where it continues by the Ford of Bruinen (a shallow crossing of the river Bruinen), Rivendell (Sheltered valley full of magic, healing and singing. Also home to one of the Elves' Second Age sanctuaries, Moria (an ancient underground realm abandoned by the Dwarves and taken over by legions of evil Orcs and creatures) and concludes in the Banks of the River Anduin (the greatest river in all Middle-earth.).

What makes LOTR stylish is that the game isn't completely "level-based", but also isn't in the same vain as a game like Project Ego. Certain sub-quests command for the player to explore and chat with villagers, but if that demands too much time and work, the player can simply walk around town slaying creatures and exploring the enormous setting. There are no set rules on what needs to be done, nor is there a timeline guiding when the goals need to be completed. One of the coolest things in the game has to be that while in combat, the player may call upon the aid of any other Fellowship member. All it takes is a simple combination of buttons and selections, and help appears nearby. With the characters each having singular abilities, the player must use strategy in selecting which to call in to lend a hand..

The way the storyline plays out in the upcoming title requires heaps of attention. Cut-scenes, pop-up text and cartoon comics are all a possibility in evolving a game's plot. To help keep the gamer updated throughout his quest, WXP has added something called a "camping mode". Surprisingly, no marshmallows or beer will be available. In this small section of the game, all the characters will group together and discuss exactly what is going on with each inside their own world. At the end of the camping trip the player will feel much more present in the game's atmosphere, knowing exactly what is happening to the characters behind him.

Plenty of focus in WXP's upcoming title is based on being "realistic". In order to help achieve their goals, professional actors have been hired to voice over each character. A large variety of facial animations and movements from the AI also makes playing the game almost as genuine as watching it on the big screen. And because Tolkien writes with a high emphasis on level of detail, the reproduction of the lush environment in his novels becomes a quite tricky task from the designers behind the project. In addition, loads of research is being done on the game's villages and individual natives in order to reproduce them flawlessly along the book's indications.

Being designed since day one as an Xbox title, we can expect WXP to squeeze out a lot of the Xbox's graphical juice out of the system. From what has reached the media so far, LOTR is looking nothing short of stunning. Lush environments, striking characters and maximum item details are already present in the game's early development stage.

If the upcoming game were an exact rip of the movie and books, it would have probably taken away to those that were already aware of the endings. To make things a bit more surprising to even the LOTR fanatics, WXP has developed a new finish to the game, different from the film and series of books of course.

In terms of enemies, the player will encounter many of the same one's present in the movie and books such as Dark Riders, unattractive green Trolls, monstrous Balrogs and bizarre looking Orcs. Each rival has strong points and weaknesses, finding them is all up to the player.

Other secondary characters from the book include; Sam (an expert gardener and a friend of Frodo's), Merry (a hobbit from Buckland), Pippin (the youngest of the roving hobbits), Legolas (the Elven Prince of Mirkwood), Gimli (a strong and fiery dwarf), Boromir (the Eldest son of the ruling Steward of Gondor), Bilbo (Frodo's older cousin and a retired explorer), Galadriel (Queen of Lothlorien), Tom Bombadil (known as larwain Ben-adar to the Elves) and Nazgul (frightening servants to the Dark Lord).

Unluckily, it has been stated that LOTR will not feature any sort of broadband connection use. The title still remains a single player based video game. Looking at the game's later 2002 release, utilizing Xbox Live (Microsoft's Xbox online network) is always an option.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is shaping up to become quite easily one of the more important Xbox titles of the year. No exact release date has been scheduled to WXP and Universal Interactive's upcoming title, but speculation has it that the game is gearing up for an October 2002 release. If the game matches even the smallest sliver of success the movie acquired, then it's a surefire hit. The magic is coming.

Matt Thomas
Wonders if his ring has magical powers too...

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