IGN has a review of Electronic Arts’ Return of the King game, and unsurprisingly there’s some news that will only muddy the spoiler waters. The vibe for the game itself is extremely promising. You can read the full review here, but I’ve grabbed a few excerpts to discuss the parts which may affect the movie.

There’s been a little bit of fuss about this article. First IGN amended its report (see below), now we have a statement from the EA Team working on the game via TORn Gaming Havens. Gaming Editor Flinch writes:

“As if this whole Sauron vs. Aragorn business couldn’t get more confusing, we now know for sure that in EA’s Return of the King you will not fight Sauron anywhere during the game. We have it on a relatively good authority that scenes were filmed portraying Aragorn fighting Sauron, but it was decided somewhere in the planning that a change like that wouldn’t work, and it has since [assumably] been changed back to the way it should be, no physical Sauron kicking folks around. So to put the rumor to rest, the official word from the team over at EA is “The Player will not fight Sauron in the game.”

As EA is dedicated to making this game as close as possible to the film, I think its safe to say Aragorn will not fight Sauron in the film either. If you have any questions on EA’s ROTK, or any of the LOTR Games, feel free to e-mail Gaming Havens@TheOneRing.net.”

That seems pretty conclusive news for fans of the game, and very promising for the Tolkien purists as well.

My original report below:

The game showed off some interesting twists that may reveal new things about the movie. For instance, in the Paths of the Dead level, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas must pass through a horribly dark underground passage in which they must fight the undead traitors from a previous war in order to earn their respect and thus get them to follow Elfstone to the enemy ships before Minas Tirith falls. But in the book, they don’t fight the ghosts, Aragorn, being the true heir and rightful king, beckons them to follow and when they reach the ships, he unleashes the horde of ghosts upon the enemy.

I cannot recall seeing this previously as a substantial and credible movie rumour. That being said, Jackson may want to up the ante on Paths of the Dead, and make it even more dangerous. The logic could well run something like this: Baldor died attempting the Paths, why should it be less dangerous for others?

Some very recent news via Swedish paper Aftonbladet may give a little bit of credence to this.

In another little twist, we already know that Sam must rescue Frodo from the tower (in the Cirith Ungul level). But in book, he basically ascends the tower unscathed, because the orcs have already killed themselves over Frodo’s mithril coat and other booty. But in the game he must sneak by and/or fight them to rescue Frodo.

Again, I can’t dig up any previous rumours or set reports describing anything like this.

Update: Someone also wrote to remind me of shots from the Cannes 2001 screening of Sam fighting at Cirith Ungol.

From our own Quickbeam’s report from Joram from Ringbearer.org over at Tolkien Online. Less specific, it only says that there is an Towers/RoTK scene where Sam yells: Sam “that’s for my old gipper!”

Interestingly enough, EA says there will be boss fights with predicable enemies such as Shelob and the Witch King (the leader of the Ring Wraiths in the attack on Minas Tirath), but more surprisingly, there is a “final showdown” with Sauron. What?!!!??!! That’ll be interesting given that there is no actual face-to-eye confrontation with Sauron himself in the book…

By far the most controversial of the possible changes, but seemingly the least likely in the light of information we received just a couple of days ago that indicated Jackson is rethinking everything about Sauron physically appearing in Return of the King. Check out this report for the background.

Very important note: IGN has since removed from its article references to a “final showdown” with Sauron in the game, possibly at the request of EA. This could well mean there will be no Sauron showdown in the game – and hence no reason for movie purists to tear their hair out. Maybe we will get some definitive word on this from EA soon (word which we now have – Dem.) …

It’s wise to consider that Jackson is still patching the film together, and will be working on it up till the very moment he has to deliver it to New Line. Things must still be open to change. And remember that Jackson said in the last issue of the LoTR fan mag, that of the three films, RoTK would be closest to the book:

Q. How closely will you be sticking to the book in The Return of the King?

A. The Return of the King is quite close to the book. There are notable exceptions. The first thing with RotK is that we still have to wrap up The Two Towers. We have the Isengard sequence—in which they go to Isengard to deal with Saruman, who is imprisoned at the top of a tower—which is at the tail end of TT book. It is now at the beginning of RotK. Likewise, we don’t have the scouring of the Shire, which is a major chapter at the end of the book….

…When the ring is destroyed at the end of RotK, that is really the climax of the film. Those two things are the notable major exceptions as well as Shelob [my emphasis], which is another spill-over from TT—Minas Morgul, the stairs of Cirith Ungol and into Shelob’s tunnel are now in RotK.

When fans of the book see that sequence, I think they will understand immediately how impossible it would have been for it to be in TT. It feels so right to be where we’ve got it from a story point of view—for reasons I can’t discuss now! At this point, we don’t have Ghân-buri-Ghân, the Wild Man that the Rohirrim come across on their way to Minas Tirith in there. I don’t know if this will change with us doing pickups, but I doubt it.

Having said that, the rest of RotK movie is going to follow the book reasonably well. What I like about RotK is that the story is the centerpiece of the film, more so than in the first two films.

Well, having put the Sauron rumour to bed for the moment, what can be said about the rest? In part, I stand by what I said – interpreting game scenes back into the movie is perilous stuff. Games scripts operate differently, and need much more action and conflict to drive them. These sorts of scenes are something I would expect to see in a game.

And – as several people have written in to point out – the Two Towers game diverged from the film in places (eg: a Orc/Troll battles in Fangorn Forest). So although EA does seem to indicate RoTK will follow the film more closely, it’s probably wise to keep this in mind as well.

However, we do have a tiny bit of separate evidence for fighting at both Cirith Ungol and the Paths of the Dead. Perhaps strangely, I’m not worried about the former – I think it’s a scene that could work in the context of the film and stay true to the book as well.

I think it’s still way too early to conclude “the worst”, but I am feeling a little bit anxious about Paths of the Dead.