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    jp's Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (GBA)

    [October 30, 2006 01:48:58 PM]
    When I started playing the evil campaign (using Saruman!) I was curious as to whether the scenarios would be the same or not. Basically, I was wondering about the narrative. When you play good, you're supposed to win, right? I mean, after Helm's Deep, the riders of Rohan can now go to the defense of Gondor..and so on and so forth. Basically, your string of sucesses builds up to the final battle where you hope Frodo will destroy the ring in time.

    So, how does a string of sucesses end with Frodo not destroying the ring? It sort of feels like if you're the bad guy, the scenario progression should be different, right?

    Well, the truth is that the missions are the same. Same scenario, though the initial setups vary of course. (when you play good, you feel overwhelmed by evil, and vice versa)

    Does it all make sense in the end? Sort of. I had forgotten that there are a lot of scenarios which are effectively "loss" for the good side. When I played them as good I had to basically try to hold out as long as possible. (Osgiliath, for example). When you play the same missions as evil, they make more sense...because if you win at Osgiliath, that makes sense with the story!

    Anyways, I just wanted to comment on how interesting it has been to re-visit those key moments of the books in game form. To a certain degree you get the sense that it doesn't really matter what happens, since the next event will happen anyways, but it's still a remarkable experience in how well it works.

    Another thing I don't think I've mentioned is how each scenario has some flavour text to introduce it. I always read them to get in the frame of mind to play the particular scenario and I've found that they add a lot to the fun of the experience. Truth is, if this game wasn't Lord of the Rings themed, I'm not sure it would be as enjoyable as it is... but somehow that doesn't feel very fair, does it?
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    [October 26, 2006 04:51:04 PM]
    I've finished the first half of this game! (there are two campaigns: good and bad, I just finished the good one).

    The last mission, called something like "The Black Gate Opens" was actually a lot more tense and exciting than I expected. I would even venture to say that it was dramatic and heroic! The setup is basically like that in the movies: you're troops are outside the black gate to Mordor and vastly outnumbered. It is a last ditch attempt to, hopefully, distract Sauron from Frodo's mission. (I was curious as to whether I'd have to play that! Thankfully not). The goals of the scenario are to hold out as long as you can since, after the 15th round, Frodo will (during a random turn) destroy the ring.

    Somewhere around the 10th round I had lost all my heroes. Aragorn died valiantly taking out some trolls, and the others soon followed. This is usually the kiss of death in this game. No heroes means no command points which means no actions! I momentarily toyed with the idea of restarting but quickly thought against it. C'mon, let the fighting men of Gondor (as well as the elves) show Sauron that they count for something too! Slowly, but surely, they were being decimated. The 15th round came and went.. the Gondorians were starting to lose hope, though they were proving more resourceful than expected. They even dealt a few striking blows by eliminating some evil heroes and commanders..

    ..and then

    Frodo lives!

    ..and destroys the ring!

    I was really close to cheering... what a GREAT experience. :-)
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    [October 23, 2006 01:31:24 PM]
    I've been thinking about the relationship that this game has with the Lord of the Rings movies (it's an official licensed game) as well the books in general. In particular, I've been musing on how these key events in the game are shaped by playing the scenarios.

    When you play the game, you pick a main character that you'll use for all(?) the game. I chose Aragorn. Certain scenarios let you pick additional characters that will accompany your main character.

    Now, what does it do to your understanding of the game when you play a scenario set in Bree and you pick Theoden to help you out? As far as I know, Theoden never set foot in Bree in his entire life. Neither did Eomer, Eowyn or a bunch of other characters... so, isn't it weird when you're playing in Bree and you have Theodon riding around knocking down black riders?


    I've noticed that I've started to pick the characters appropriate (or close enough) for the scenarios. That means I haven't used Boromir in a while...and Theoden has featured prominently in all the Rohan/Gondor scenarios.

    However, why do I do this?

    I've rationalized it somewhat by thinking things like: "I'm sure the game designers have designed the scenarios so that it makes most sense tactically to choose the appropriate characters" and "I bet the correct characters get bonuses in the right scenarios". The truth is, I think I'm picking the correct characters just because I'm so familiar with the story and characters that it causes me great cognitive(?) o emotional distress to use the "wrong" characters.
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    [October 22, 2006 12:23:57 PM]
    I think I can now say that I "get" this game. I've beat it. :-)

    What I mean by this is that, all of a sudden, I haven't had trouble winning any of the scenarios. In fact, some of them I'm able to win quite categorically.

    Why is this?

    I guess I learned how to play it, what things to pay attention to, how to make the most of the units available, when to press an attack, when to hold back, when to use the heroes, etc.

    Of course I still make mistakes, but they're never serious enough for me to lose the game.

    Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. I still enjoy playing this game. The new missions are interesting because of the different units, tactical deployment, winning conditions, etc.

    I guess the major difference is that the pleasure of playing this game now has more to do with watching a well-executed plan develope rather than the tension and excitement of having to deal with a challenging situation. Sometimes its engaging to watch everything fall into place rather than enjoying the stress of having to juggle a situation where everything is falling apart around your ears.

    I've really enjoyed how the game has transitioned into this new, and different, kind of pleasure.
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    [October 15, 2006 12:03:58 AM]
    I'm surprised by how much this game was panned in the reviews I saw. It really isn't that bad at all. Actually, its really kind of good!

    This game is a strategy game with a very different flavor from your FF tactics, Advance Wars, and whatnot. It's actually very much like a boardgame strategy game. With many of the good things, and a few of the bad, from that medium.

    I've already played quite a few missions (7-8?) and have lost more than my fair's a basic rundown of some of the things I've found interesting:

    1. They used Peter Jackson's face to represent the "woodsmen" units. LOL!

    2. I spent the first couple of plays learning that it is important to learn about the units you have and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

    3. There is a very interesting tension between using your hero characters (who are obviously better than the rest) and having them lurk in the back. Basically, as soon as you move them forward, they instantly become the AIs prime target. This is actually what a human player would do, since the heroes are REALLY important and it is a pretty serious blow to lose them in the middle of a battle.

    4. The battles are in a seemingly completely random order. In other words, while they are all important scenes from the books/movies, they don't occur in chronological order and aren't organized by location either. This is pretty strange, in my opinion...and I'm still trying to figure out why the designers chose to do it this way. (challenge segmentation anyone?)

    5. If you lose a battle, you don't lose the experience you might have made with your heroes until the died. I really like this! (it makes me feel less bad when I lose a battle)

    6. Other than your main hero, you can't use secondary heroes in the next battle if they died in the previous one (they're injured). I also like this because it forces you to rotate the different characters a bit, because trust me. They will die now and then.

    7. You can't save mid-battle. Ouch. Bad idea...'cause the battles aren't short.

    8. The battle field is always divided in 3 "columns" (left, center and right flanks). You have "command points" to spend on having units perform actions in each zone. So, for example, if you have 1-2-0 points, one unit from the left flank can act, 2 from the center, and none from the right. How many points you get is random, within a range dictated by your heroes (some give you more points, some less). This system reminded me of Richard Borg's Memoir '44 (boardgame, check it out!). I'm sure Borg used the same system in his previous game (Civil War game, can't remember the name) and I'm curious as to whether this design element was stolen from his design, from somebody else, or what...

    So, long post, but it's a cool game and it deserves it!
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    jp's Lord of the Rings: The Third Age (GBA)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Something better came along

    GameLog started on: Monday 9 October, 2006

    GameLog closed on: Wednesday 1 November, 2006

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    So far this game has interesting ideas and should be a neat tactical RPG. A nice surprise!

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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