So I just beat Lord of the Rings: The Third Age for GBA. I actually first played this when it was relatively new, and I was a young kid. It was very difficult for me back then, I couldn’t get past the third or fourth level, but now I was able to breeze through it all very easily. I did enjoy the game very much; I really couldn’t put it down from start to finish.
Strategy games have always been my absolute favorites, and the turn based tactics is always a good one. What makes this one different from most I’ve played is that you don’t move all of your units per turn; there are three flanks with units on them, and depending on your heroes on each flank, you get a certain amount of command points, each one lets you move a single unit. This definitely made for an interesting game dynamic, and it really took out a lot of the pressure of having so many different move possibilities. Instead of having to go through every possible move each of your units can make to maximize combat effectiveness, you usually want to choose the few units with the most attack power to spend your command points on, which makes making decisions a lot easier.
The way the gameplay is structured uncomplicates things greatly as well. Each unit has a melee attack, and then a range. Units deal less damage the farther they are away from your target, so the best choice is usually to get as close as possible before attacking. This takes out the fuss over how much range you have vs. your enemy, and how far away you should stay to out-shoot them.
One thing that took some getting used to was the fact that the game is on a square grid, but it considers diagonal movement as one move. In games like Advance Wars, a unit’s movement and range possibilities will be in a diamond shape, but in here, they are completely square. If you’re trying to escape the reach of a unit diagonally, you may look like you’re extremely far away, but in reality, they can actually catch you easily.
Not many units have special features or abilities either, which simplifies the game even more. All mounted units are able to move after attacking, and some units have marksmanship, which negates damage loss with range, but other than that, there’s not a terrible lot to calculate. Terrain is very simple, spaces can give either one or two shield defense, or take an extra one or two moves to cross.
Even so, there is possibility for some clever strategy to win disadvantaged battles. Hero targeting is a very viable strategy, especially when you’re smacking other units along the way to the enemy hero. Taking out enemy heroes will reduce their command points per turn and therefore reduce the total damage their army can do. After that you’re going to want to target enemy units with the greatest damage. Why? Because with limited command points, regardless of which units you attacked, the enemy would always attack with their greatest damage dealing units, thus maximizing their damage per turn. In this sense, it’s always worth it to take down a large enemy troll even if takes a long time, rather than picking off a bunch of little goblins first.
If you kill something on the same flank that your hero is on, you get exp, which can be used to get up to three specific equipment pieces per character, or up to four skills. The skills don’t take up command points to use, and can affect either the hero, or the entire flank. One thing I didn’t like is that when you’re choosing a hero, you don’t get to see their equipment and skill purchase options, so I chose the Witch King because he’s my favorite character, but he didn’t necessarily have the skills I liked.
The game follows the story of all three movies/books, and it lets you play battles that the movies only hint at.
I have to say, I know this is a little late, but I wish they made a sequel to this game, it was awesome.