As in years past, Midway has a side room located outside of the main halls here at E3. Unreal Tournament 2007 isn't on display in public--unless you count the giant video screen outside--but we caught a glimpse of two other promising PC titles: Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar and Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War.
LOTR Online is, of course, the latest fantasy-based MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) to challenge World of Warcraft's dominance. The game draws more from Tolkien's original books than from the recent movie trilogy--a nice way to sidestep EA's LOTR movie license, no doubt. As is to be expected with an MMO, Shadows of Angmar isn't intended for solo gamers, but anybody who's looking to team up with like-minded hobbits, dwarves, and elves from around the world on a variety of quests may want to check it out when it goes into beta in June.
E3 is all about franchises--sequels, remakes, and reenvisionings of games that can often be older than many of the gamers who play them. That's why it's refreshing to see Rise & Fall: Civilizations at War, an all-new, real-time strategy title. You can follow in the footsteps of Alexander the Great as you lead your army to conquer the ancient world. The game boasts 22 levels and four ancient civilizations, and it can support as many as 5,000 units onscreen for epic battles in the spirit of Gladiator or Troy. While that may sound like old hat in the RTS world dominated by such excellent stalwarts as Age of Empires and Total War, Rise & Fall brings two new twists to the table: naval combat and heroes mode. The former feature utilizes boats as more than just troop transports--you can outfit your skiffs and triremes with weapons or use them to ram enemy vessels, for instance. The heroes mode, meanwhile, lets you jump into the battle in third-person (over the shoulder) mode in the guise of as many as eight of the game's heroic characters, including such historical figures as Cleopatra, Alexander, and Julius Caesar. And unlike a lot of the stuff you'll see at E3, you don't have to wait long for Rise & Fall--the PC-only title is scheduled to hit stores in June.