EA announced The Lord of the Rings, The White Council just prior to its summer press event, but the company gave us our first look at this role-playing game at the event itself. The White Council is set approximately 80 years before the War of the Ring seen in Peter Jackson's movies, so this frees up the narrative. The designers no longer have to worry about tying the gameplay into the familiar story, so that means that players will be able to create their own characters and tell their own stories in Middle-earth.
We didn't get to see any gameplay, but EA showed off art montages showing a huge variety of locales in Middle-earth, both good and evil. We're told that the combat is going to try and blend the third-person action of games such as The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Return of the King with the tactical combat of games like The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age.
EA also showed off a trailer (narrated by what sounded like Ian McKellen in his Gandalf role again). The trailer consisted of prerendered footage that looked impressive, but we were told that is the "target" for the visuals in the game. Scenes in the trailer showed off a dragon sleeping on a mountain of gold in a cave (allusions to Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit, perhaps?), as well as a hobbit battling a giant wolf, giants marching through a forest, a fellbeast flying over a Mordor castle, and a dwarf battling a dragon. In addition to McKellen's Gandalf, familiar characters like Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman were seen and/or heard--each voiced by Hugo Weaving, Cate Blanchett, and Christopher Lee, respectively, all speaking what seemed to be new dialogue.
It's still a bit early for full details on the game, but it's clear that even though the movie trilogy is two years in the past, EA is still committed to developing games based on The Lord of the Rings. We'll give you more details when we get them, but if you're a Tolkien fan or a role-playing fan, this is something to look forward to.