Third Age – Total War is a mod for Medieval II Total War Kingdoms that is considered to be one of the best Lord of the Rings games and the best part is that it is completely free as long as you have the expansion for Medieval II.
Taking place in the Third Age of Middle Earth during the events of Lord of the Rings, the game aims to allow players to take control of any large faction at this time.
The full list includes:
- High and Silvan Elves
- Orcs of the Misty Mountains.
While you would imagine that this game would be way out of balance because of the vast hordes of orcs under Sauron’s control it is actually very balanced. There are many more orcs in a unit than men but the orcs are much weaker than the men. It is almost breathtaking the first time you are playing as Gondor and there are literally thousands of enemy orcs running down the plane to attack your elite Gondorian guard and you think that there is no way that you can survive yet your men are unfazed. While they do loose a few men in the battle they stand strong and kill at least 10 orcs to one man’s death.
It is really cool when you have your men defending in the middle of a bridge in Spartan formation ready to defend themselves to the last man from the huge horde of orcs and they actually win because the orcs could not flank around them and attack their armor from the back. This allows you to absolutely demolish the enemy orc army.
Of course it is also a lot of fun to control the enemy side and have literally around 5 thousand orcs under your command and then having AI controlled support armies allowing you to have up to 50 thousand orcs on a battlefield going up against a few thousand Gondorians. You send in your hordes and they quickly surround the enemy and they go into a circle formation and you have to fight every last Gondorian guard till the last man dies.
Not only are there large scale battles but there are also heroes on the battlefield. Nearly every major character that took an active combat role in Lord of the Rings is in this game. While Gondorian guard can take down orcs 10-1 Aragorn’s party can take over 50-1 yet he is hardly a match for the Ring Wraiths and their fell beasts or if he finds the ring…Sauron himself. Yet all of them are hardly a match for the Balrog…yeah there is a Balrog! Oh and there are also Oliphants with groups of archers mounted on its back.
The good news for the world is that once a character dies it is dead forever. While you will want to put your hero on the front line you will not want to leave them there too long or you might not have a hero anymore. Being able to control Gandalf as he saves the men inside Helms Deep is honestly one of the best moments that you can ask for in any game. I can’t wait to see how Turbine handles this battle but for now this mod has no competition in the Helms Deep/Minas Tirith department.
The landscapes in this game (much like LOTRO) are absolutely breathtaking. They have taken influence from the books and movies to re-create the world of J. R. R. Tolkien in a believable way and yet still keep its fantasy flair. When you see Minas Tirith under siege it looks just like the movies and you can’t help but have a smile on your face knowing that you are responsible for how the battle turns out with the choices you make. Also they did an amazing job with the Moria landscape as they made it really feel like an underground civilization and you want to control it just to say that you took over Moria.
If you don’t want to take the time for a long campaign to retake all of Middle-earth then you might be interested in the quick battle system. Let’s say you just want to scour the Shire. Well you can do that and can even set up what units come to the battle on each side. So let’s say you want a Balrog to go up against thousands of hobbits…well you can do that! You can also do infighting so maybe you want to see the Witch King fight against an army of heavily armored trolls…well you can do that. Maybe you want to see hobbits fight the Gondorian Guard…well you can do that too. My favorite though has to be Sauron flinging thousands of hobbits into the air.
There is also Multiplayer worked into the game so that you can fight the quick battles with friends. You each get to pick you faction and troops and then can fight anywhere in LotR. I have only done this a few times, yet when I do it is a lot of fun. The best part is that the game is balanced enough so that you don’t have to worry about who “actually” won.
Third Age – Total War really should be a full $50 game and you can get it for free if you already have the Kingdoms expansion to Medieval II. It is honestly my second favorite LotR game right after LOTRO. There is not much in this world that is more fun than leading thousands of orcs in a siege against a city in Middle-earth. Considering that the most you should pay is $10 at GameStop ($8.45 at Amazon at the time of this article) for the core game and then download a mod it is an amazingly good deal.
Note that all pictures were used from the ModDB post of Third Age – Total War