The E3 2008 event is underway, and we took the opportunity to sit in on a demonstration of The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, the upcoming action game from EA's now-internal studio Pandemic. The game will offer hack-and-slash action, which Pandemic suggests will continue along the same lines as Pandemic's earlier Star Wars: Battlefront series, but it will take place in the high-fantasy Lord of the Rings universe depicted in Tolkien's world-famous novels and Peter Jackson's award-winning movies.
In the game, you'll be able to play as one of four different character classes, two of which will be melee-based (the sword-swinging soldier and the dagger-wielding scout), and two of which will used ranged attacks in battle (the spell-slinging mage and the arrow-shooting archer). You'll actually be able to change which character class you're playing on the fly while going through the game's various objective-based missions, though most of those missions will involve hacking and slashing your way through crowds of enemies.
We had a chance to see two of the game's four character classes in action, the mage and the scout. The robed mage attacks his enemies by hurling magic spells, such as devastating lightning bolts, as well as by using acrobatic flourishes of his staff, which resembles the one carried by Sir Ian McKellen's Gandalf character in the motion pictures. The scout wields a dagger in each hand and alternately stabs and kicks his enemies from the front, though his most powerful ability is to make himself invisible. While hidden, the scout can instantly dispatch an enemy with a vicious stealth kill, though considering that the game will be rated T for teen by the ESRB, there will be no gouts of blood or flying body parts. Combat seems built around performing combination attacks, as well as dodging and weaving through enemies while judiciously using your character's special abilities, and picking up the small satchels (which boost your character's health) that are dropped by defeated enemies.
Apparently, the game will feature a two-part campaign of about 15 levels total (Pandemic estimates that the campaign will take about 10 hours) in which you'll first play through as the Armies of the West and reenact the events of the novels and motion pictures. You'll also periodically end up playing as various superpowerful hero characters, such as Aragorn, Gandalf, and Legolas. The second half of the campaign will take place from the perspective of the armies of Mordor in a hypothetical scenario in which The One Ring had never been destroyed. In this campaign, you'll battle the forces of light and assume the role of evil hero characters, such as the corrupted wizard Saruman and the dark lord Sauron himself. In addition to playing through the campaign by yourself, you'll be able to play through the game cooperatively, either in split-screen view in your living room or online with friends. The game will also have other multiplayer modes such as team deathmatch and an unusual mode that pits Frodo the ring bearer against bloodthirsty ringwraith players who must hunt Frodo down.
Though the early version of the game we saw seems like it has a ways to go before it's shipshape, Conquest should offer fast-paced hack-and-slash action that is accessible for players of all skill levels. The game is scheduled to ship later this year.