End Boss Month #23: The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age

Folks, we are almost a week from the conclusion of End Boss Month. Throughout this blog series, I've highlighted a wide variety of final bosses. Some known for their devious personalities, others for their devious gameplay, and yet others for being just all-around devious. But it is here, before we head into the final seven, that I'd like to highlight a particular final boss that frankly makes even Alpha-152 look like a masterstroke of creativity by comparison.

Which is truly an odd thing to say when I’m talking about a boss from game set in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien crafted no shortage of villainous forces and personalities in his fantasy universe. And none of these foes are more evil, more conniving, and more dangerous than Sauron, who once used the power of a ring to bring ruin to all in his way. His massive, glowing eye, which sits atop Barad-dûr as a ghastly, intimidating presence, is an iconic symbol that instills fear upon all those that enter its gaze.

So of course it makes perfect sense to cast the Eye itself as a boss fight. A final boss fight. In one of the worst games ever based on the Lord of the Rings license. I speak of The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age.

Sauron's eye is wide with shock and dismay.

For those of you that are not familiar with The Third Age, it is an RPG that follows the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with a design stolen "borrowed" from Final Fantasy X. Or at least, the game clumsily plods along the same general path as the trilogy. Actually, that’s not accurate, either. What The Third Age is, is a goddamn piece of self-insertion fanfiction.

That’s right. Fanfiction. In which the protagonists are not Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, or any of the other names one would expect to see in anything related to The Lord of the Rings. It is a cast of original humans, elves, and dwarves; the Fellowship that follows the Fellowship that Mary-Sues their way from one major event in the trilogy to another. It’s absurd enough to see them team up with Gandalf to slay the Balrog, or join ranks with Aragorn to kill the Nazgûl. But at the end of the game, they somehow, in defiance of all narrative logic established by the trilogy, manage to climb to the top of Barad-dûr and confront the Eye of Sauron face to…giant, flaming eyeball.

I…what? How the hell does that even work? Who approved this shit? What in…why? Just, just why?

Feel free to take a deep, disappointed sigh, if needed.

Okay, are we good? Splendid. Let’s go to the video tape. Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

What the hell kind of an ending is that? You kill the Eye of Sauron, and then the ending is just a bunch of scenes from the movies stitched together with Gandalf’s narration. Scenes which include the collapse of Barad-dûr and the Eye’s explosion.

Uh…okay? So, did this Diet Coke Fellowship manage to survive the destruction of the towering evil structure? Yes? No? Oh, who the hell cares. One should never expect much from a game based on a licensed property, but Sauron deserves better than to be treated as the final boss in this trainwreck.

I'm sorry that I had to bring this game and this fight up, but with the greatest fights come the not so greatest, and I'd be remiss if I didn't include Sauron's bastardized boss fight incarnation in this feature. But with this out of the way, join us again tomorrow, as we start our final week of End Boss Month and return to bosses that are, well, not insanely fiction-breaking.

13 Comments
14 Comments
Posted by Hailinel

Folks, we are almost a week from the conclusion of End Boss Month. Throughout this blog series, I've highlighted a wide variety of final bosses. Some known for their devious personalities, others for their devious gameplay, and yet others for being just all-around devious. But it is here, before we head into the final seven, that I'd like to highlight a particular final boss that frankly makes even Alpha-152 look like a masterstroke of creativity by comparison.

Which is truly an odd thing to say when I’m talking about a boss from game set in Middle-earth. J.R.R. Tolkien crafted no shortage of villainous forces and personalities in his fantasy universe. And none of these foes are more evil, more conniving, and more dangerous than Sauron, who once used the power of a ring to bring ruin to all in his way. His massive, glowing eye, which sits atop Barad-dûr as a ghastly, intimidating presence, is an iconic symbol that instills fear upon all those that enter its gaze.

So of course it makes perfect sense to cast the Eye itself as a boss fight. A final boss fight. In one of the worst games ever based on the Lord of the Rings license. I speak of The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age.

Sauron's eye is wide with shock and dismay.

For those of you that are not familiar with The Third Age, it is an RPG that follows the events of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with a design stolen "borrowed" from Final Fantasy X. Or at least, the game clumsily plods along the same general path as the trilogy. Actually, that’s not accurate, either. What The Third Age is, is a goddamn piece of self-insertion fanfiction.

That’s right. Fanfiction. In which the protagonists are not Frodo, Gandalf, Aragorn, or any of the other names one would expect to see in anything related to The Lord of the Rings. It is a cast of original humans, elves, and dwarves; the Fellowship that follows the Fellowship that Mary-Sues their way from one major event in the trilogy to another. It’s absurd enough to see them team up with Gandalf to slay the Balrog, or join ranks with Aragorn to kill the Nazgûl. But at the end of the game, they somehow, in defiance of all narrative logic established by the trilogy, manage to climb to the top of Barad-dûr and confront the Eye of Sauron face to…giant, flaming eyeball.

I…what? How the hell does that even work? Who approved this shit? What in…why? Just, just why?

Feel free to take a deep, disappointed sigh, if needed.

Okay, are we good? Splendid. Let’s go to the video tape. Be sure to watch all the way to the end.

What the hell kind of an ending is that? You kill the Eye of Sauron, and then the ending is just a bunch of scenes from the movies stitched together with Gandalf’s narration. Scenes which include the collapse of Barad-dûr and the Eye’s explosion.

Uh…okay? So, did this Diet Coke Fellowship manage to survive the destruction of the towering evil structure? Yes? No? Oh, who the hell cares. One should never expect much from a game based on a licensed property, but Sauron deserves better than to be treated as the final boss in this trainwreck.

I'm sorry that I had to bring this game and this fight up, but with the greatest fights come the not so greatest, and I'd be remiss if I didn't include Sauron's bastardized boss fight incarnation in this feature. But with this out of the way, join us again tomorrow, as we start our final week of End Boss Month and return to bosses that are, well, not insanely fiction-breaking.

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Posted by Jay444111

I did play a bunch of this game on the PS2 a few years back... It wasn't terribad like you are making it out to be... but if it only just focused on the damn fellowship instead of this dumb party filled with nobodies! Also... the final boss is sauron... You know what... I could accept the fact that if this was an alternete continuity where frodo failed and Sauron gets his body back. That would be MUCH better than... a giant flaming eyeball...

Posted by Mento

I loved how goofy Third Age's premise was. Like you're playing a bunch of suspiciously familiar characters that could feasibly be just off-camera during most of the important scenes in the movies. It reminds me of these old Dragon magazine (I think) adverts for the Star Wars tabletop RPG, where they'd take screenshots from the original trilogy and point to some interesting looking background extra and say "What's this guy's story?" Like you'd want to play as a low-level Rebel Alliance dude who stood at the back of the "many Bothans died to bring us this information" briefing, or some anonymous hoodlum at the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Self-insertion fanfic is a fine way of putting it. I guess that's why the KOTOR setting resonates, because there aren't major characters running around that you're eternally playing second fiddle to in terms of plot importance. Maybe the next LOTR RPG could take a leaf from their book, if they haven't already.

Also, how many nerd points do I earn for bringing Star Wars into a Lord of the Rings discussion?

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Posted by TaliciaDragonsong

The game is fun to play, has some cool mechanics (the surrounded battled for example) and interesting boss fights with cool characters like the Watcher in the Water.
It had flaws, a shitload of them, but pretty good game overal.
 
I agree with the bossfight however and most of the stuff past Moria.
They went a little nuts with the license.

Edited by Irvandus

I actually enjoyed this game. Never finished it and now I'm kind of glad I didn't.

Posted by Hailinel

@Mento said:

I loved how goofy Third Age's premise was. Like you're playing a bunch of suspiciously familiar characters that could feasibly be just off-camera during most of the important scenes in the movies. It reminds me of these old Dragon magazine (I think) adverts for the Star Wars tabletop RPG, where they'd take screenshots from the original trilogy and point to some interesting looking background extra and say "What's this guy's story?" Like you'd want to play as a low-level Rebel Alliance dude who stood at the back of the "many Bothans died to bring us this information" briefing, or some anonymous hoodlum at the Mos Eisley Cantina.

Self-insertion fanfic is a fine way of putting it. I guess that's why the KOTOR setting resonates, because there aren't major characters running around that you're eternally playing second fiddle to in terms of plot importance. Maybe the next LOTR RPG could take a leaf from their book, if they haven't already.

Also, how many nerd points do I earn for bringing Star Wars into a Lord of the Rings discussion?

All of them. You earn all the points.

And I think that the sort of KOTOR RPG you describe was what The White Council would have been, had EA not canned development.

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Posted by Jimbo

I remember enjoying it too. It's funny when you get Aragorn right at the end (I'm sure that happens?) and you might as well have God on your team.

Posted by jakob187

Third Age handled the whole "licensed LOTR game" idea very poorly. War in the North did it better in terms of both narrative and overall gameplay, even if it was just another Snowblind loot-driven hack 'n' slash. At least they pushed their OWN story that took its own paths down our throats rather than the crazy shit that Third Age tried to do.

I can imagine what that meeting was like when EA decided to make Third Age:

"Hey, what do the kids like?"

"Final Fantasy."

"Hey, that's a fantasy game...and LOTR is a fantasy universe. We should do that with LOTR. Makes sense, right?"

"Why do we keep calling it LOTR?"

"Who the fuck cares? Throw money at it and make it sell."

That end boss fight was one of the most idiotic things I've seen since "make them play through the entire game twice, Ghosts 'n' Goblins". Nice blog, sir.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

Note to self: When confronted by an immortal demi-god in the form of a giant, flaming eye, run up and stab it a bunch. Works every time.

Posted by Encephalon

Holy shit! You fight the Eye of Sauron? The actual physical flaming eye at the top of the tower? And it's not even the Fellowship that does it, but some generic randos that don't exist in the books? Maaaaan. I don't care how stupid that idea is, The Third Age scores points for sheer audacity.

Posted by Eujin

@Hailinel: I was SO GODDAMNED EXCITED for the white council. It sounded fantastic.

I would love Skyrim in Middle Earth. Damn you, EA

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw

@Mento said:

Self-insertion fanfic is a fine way of putting it. I guess that's why the KOTOR setting resonates, because there aren't major characters running around that you're eternally playing second fiddle to in terms of plot importance. Maybe the next LOTR RPG could take a leaf from their book, if they haven't already.

This, precisely. It pains me to say that they do the exact same thing in just about every Lord of the Rings game ever made. Lord of the Rings Online at least has a few lesser known areas, but it still shoehorns its stories around the antics of the Fellowship. Tolkien created this huge, wonderful world with a staggering backstory, and all game developers seem to be able to do is make the same game with the same generic ass idea.

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Posted by dbz1995

It was a multi-player TBRPG, so I could play it with my brother. It's my favourite TBRPG bar Chrono Trigger. 
 The wonders of offline multi-player, even though you could just as well pass the controller.

Posted by Sean2206

I got this game for the PS2 years ago and from what I played I enjoyed it. I got badly stuck in it and never went back to finish it, although after seeing that final boss I'm sort of glad I didn't. I enjoyed this game and it's premise kind of like a highlight reel of fights and events from the films with suspiciously familiar characters. From what I remember the boss fights were good but clearly that last one was the exception.

On an unrelated note in writing this I have been reminded of Lord of the Rings: Tactics on PSP, I liked that game, it was pretty under-rated.