The Lord of the Ring: The Return of the King Level Overview

We get an overview of two of the game's introductory levels.


With The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King shipping this week, we thought a primer for aspiring orc slayers wouldn't be a bad thing. Here, then, is an overview of the first levels you'll play in the "path of the wizard" and "the path of the hobbit" courtesy of lead level designer. Bret Robbins.

The Path of the Wizard

The Road to Isengard
Located at the southern foot of the Misty Mountains, in the valley of Nan Curunir, Isengard is the fortress home of Saruman. In the center of its circular grounds is the 500-foot Tower of Orthanc. Originally built by Gondor, the tower fell into disuse, and Saruman was given permission to dwell there. At that time, Gondor was unaware of the evil that Isengard would come to represent--or the threat it would pose. After forming a dark alliance with Sauron, Saruman set about converting Isengard from a beautiful natural setting to a smoke-belching factory for producing his vast army of uruk-hai.

You'll have to deal with orcs and really surly ents in this level.
You'll have to deal with orcs and really surly ents in this level.

Gandalf's journey to Isengard gives him the opportunity to aid the tree ents in their fight to destroy Saruman. This level shows off the jungle-swamplike environment where the ents live.

Because enemies in this level hide and attack from a distance, you must use a ranged attack to dispose of them quickly. All characters have the ability to destroy explosive objects. You must use your ranged attack to defeat many enemies with just one blow. Gandalf uses his magic ranged attack to do just this about 25 seconds into the video. The huge ents walk around and attack orcs. Be sure not to stray too far into their paths, as they may inadvertently step on you, since their only concerns are crushing the orcs. The final stretch has Gandalf protecting an ent who is trying to break down a dam. Ranged attacks are essential, so you must use these to dispatch orcs on the other side of the water.

The Path of the Hobbits

Escape from Osgiliath
The town of Osgiliath, located only several miles upstream from Minas Tirith, is the last human-held refuge against the forces of darkness. Lying between the mountains of Ephel Dúath and the banks of the Anduin River, the garrison at Osgiliath is where the men of Gondor expect to make a desperate stand against Sauron's forces. Knowing a siege will be inevitable, the soldiers of Gondor hope to prevent Sauron's forces from crossing the Anduin here so that they may prevent an attack on Osgiliath's more stately sister city, Minas Tirith. It was also here in the ruined city of Osgiliath where Faramir brought Frodo and Sam with the intent of delivering The One Ring to Gondor. From here, Frodo and Sam were released and resumed their trek into the dark lands of Mordor.

You wouldn't think that
You wouldn't think that "stealth action hero" and "hobbit" would be interchangeable, but there you go.

Sam, Frodo, and Gollum are on the run in this level. Travel through the towers and the sewers to escape Osgiliath--where getting through is the objective, not killing orcs.

Watch out for the nazgul. They can track Frodo and capture him if they get too close. When you are in the open, the red meter builds as the dark riders sense The One Ring. When red fills the circle, you only have seconds to get under cover. Any longer than that and the nazgul will capture Frodo, thus ending the quest! The player's speed is put to the test here, as sometimes it is better to run from a fight. The hobbits don their Elven cloaks (their special ability) and avoid detection by sneaking past enemies and circumventing battle. Listen for Gollum and Sam's banter, as their alliance weakens as the level progresses.

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