At this year's Game Developers Conference, Sierra demonstrated all three major console versions of its upcoming action adventure game The Hobbit. The game is based on J.R.R. Tolkien's classic fantasy novel, and it follows the basic progression of the book, starting from Bilbo Baggins' introduction in Hobbiton and moving through all the major scenes of the story, including Mirkwood Forest, Laketown, and the Lonely Mountain. Primary characters from the book like Gandalf, Gollum, Smaug, and the dwarves make appearances throughout the game, but the only playable character is Bilbo. The development team has included a few areas in the game that are not included in the book, such as a complex, multilevel goblin cavern that features suspended railways, roads, working water wheels, and winding paths around giant stalagmites.
The Hobbit is a platformer-style action adventure game, and Bilbo is able to jump, climb, sneak around quietly, hang from ledges, and slide down ropes and ladders. Bilbo is also able to pole-vault long distances using his walking stick. The combat in the game is simple, Zelda-style hack-and-slash fare--there's even a lock-on feature that allows players to keep Bilbo focused on one enemy and strafe around it to dodge attacks. All enemies onscreen are indicated with a solid-colored triangle above them. The triangle hollows out as enemies lose hit points from attacks. Available weapons include a walking stick that Bilbo can swing in an arc to hit multiple enemies, rocks that Bilbo can throw, and the magical sword Sting, which glows and can be used to light dark passageways. The digital pad on the consoles' various controllers is used to quickly switch between the three weapons, with the fourth slot reserved for the ring of power, when Bilbo recovers it later in the game.
Simple role-playing elements are included in the form of courage points. Players can earn courage points by killing monsters and collecting the blue gems scattered throughout the levels. The gems also help direct players where to go next, and the courage points players earn can be spent at the end of the level to boost Bilbo's maximum health.
The simple style of gameplay and cartoonish art direction indicate that The Hobbit is primarily intended for younger players. However, the inclusion of so many recognizable characters and areas from the book should make the game appealing to Tolkien fans of any age. Sierra claims the primary quest should require about 20 hours of gameplay, with another five to 10 hours for optional side quests. The game is slated for simultaneous release on all three major consoles this fall, and a PC port of the game will follow soon after. The Game Boy Advance version of the game was not available at the GDC. For more information on The Hobbit, check out our