Today at Universal Interactive's booth on the E3 show floor we got to check out an early build of Surreal Software's new action-adventure game based on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Although the game is quite early in development, it's definitely showing a lot of promise.
Surreal's Fellowship game will obviously ride the wave of hype created by the Fellowship movie released last December and the upcoming second movie, The Two Towers. What makes Surreal's game unique, though, is that unlike other Rings games, it's not actually based on the movies. You won't see any likeness of Elijah Wood or hear any of Ian McKellen's voice in this game; the story, the characters, and the look of Middle-earth itself are all being reimagined by the Tolkien fans that staff Surreal.
Since Surreal's Fellowship of the Ring doesn't follow the movie, it isn't forced to mirror the pacing or sequence of the scenes in the film, and this is likely to be the game's biggest strength. The PS2 Fellowship will give the player a lot of freedom to explore Middle-earth, which would have been unavailable with a direct movie license. Furthermore, the art design of the game is also independent of the work done for the film. In fact, Surreal is working closely with the Tolkien estate to make sure its game is in line with the author's original vision of Middle-earth.
Fellowship of the Ring on the PlayStation 2 is an action adventure from the third-person perspective, and throughout its levels you'll play as three of the main characters from the novel: Frodo the hobbit and ringbearer, the ranger Aragorn, and the wise old wizard Gandalf. Each of these characters is different, of course, and Surreal says each will therefore be tailored for different kinds of gameplay. Because of his small stature, Frodo is stealthy and will want to avoid enemies as often as he'll fight them. Gandalf will be geared toward magic use, of course. Aragorn, the only character actually playable in the E3 build, is a more traditional hack-and-slash kind of character, as his gameplay reflects. We got to see two levels in the demo--one outdoor area at Weathertop and another inside the mines of Moria. Only some of Aragorn's fighting moves were available, and we got to fight only one kind of orc, but the control and variety of combat were impressive. So far, Aragorn can do sword combos and a jab move and can stab fallen enemies. The developer says he'll be getting more abilities as development progresses.
The visuals in Fellowship of the Ring are also quite solid. The Weathertop level has nicely detailed terrain with a pretty impressive draw distance, and there was a lot of dynamic lighting evident in the darkness of Moria. Keep an eye peeled and watch GameSpot for more information in the future on this very promising reinterpretation of an old classic.