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Lord of the Rings Conquest

Preview: Pademic reveals its fantasy battler

We're guessing here, but we don't believe JRR Tolkien laid out any plans for a third-person Lord of the Rings action game before he passed on. But Star Wars: Battlefront developer Pandemic Studios are happy to fill in the blanks.

Lord of the Rings: Conquest is basically a version of Battlefront set in Middle-earth, drawing from the incredibly successful movie trilogy directed by Peter Jackson and featuring all the universe's battles such as Helm's Deep, Minas Tirith and the Mines of Moria, as well as a few surprise extras.

You can play as four classes in the game, Warrior, Archer, Scout or Mage, on either the side of good with Gandalf and the hobbits, or with those evil berks Sauron and Saruman.

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"Personally, I'm a fan of the Scout and his ability to cloak," says the game's director Eric Gewirtz. "He can sneak up behind enemy units while cloaked and do devastating attacks and grabs.

"Unfortunately, attacking leaves him exposed and he's not so good in head-to-head combat, so you have to keep moving and find a safe place to cloak again. It really adds a whole different dynamic to the game."

If you find you're getting tired of the sneaking-about skullduggery, however, all you do is simply choose a different class when you are killed and (as with multiplayer shooters) jump straight back into the raging battle with new abilities.

The combat melee system has apparently been revamped since the last Battlefront game, so that it'll be a very different - but balanced - experience if you first play as a Warrior in Helm's Deep, then decide later in the battle to take on Saruman's Orc army as an Archer.

If you're successful on the battlefield, you'll unlock hero characters such as Aragorn, with his lethal sword-slashing prowess, or evil monsters such as the Balrog, who has a fiery sword with which he can immolate innocents.

There'll also be the ability to ride mounts such as horses and Wargs, and other creatures such as the mighty Oliphaunts or the tree-like Ents - huge hulking units that move slowly but unleash massive attacks.

Plus, Gewirtz is promising that you'll be able to play with a range of siege equipment including giant towers, catapults and battering rams, so the forces of evil can kick Gandalf's back doors in - so to speak.

As well as two full single-player campaigns that can be enjoyed in four-player co-op, there'll also be an instant action mode with up to 16 players able to join in the Lord of the Rings hacking and slashing online.

While we're yet to get hands-on with Conquest, being able to sign up with Sauron's twisted minions, raze Middle-earth to the ground and see those smug elves and hobbits get a sound thrashing is worth getting a tiny bit excited about. Who needs the stupid books anyway?

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