Footage of an unreleased Lord of the Rings video game prototype has been released more than a decade after it was originally created.
Published online by ex-director of Travellers Tales, Jon Burton, on his development focused YouTube channel GameHut, the footage shows an incredibly faithful recreation of the Peter Jackson movies running on Xbox 360 hardware.
Originally conceived to show how the LEGO game developer could faithfully adapt the then-upcoming Hobbit adaptation, Burton’s prototype was a million-dollar pitch that never evolved into a full-fledged release.
The Lord of the Rings prototype shows numerous different aspects of the movies that had been impressively recreated.
There was a free-roaming stealth section as Frodo where the player could sneak, hide, throw rocks to distract enemies, climb trees, use eagle vision, jump on top of enemies and attempt to fight them.
The second Lord of the Rings prototype demo showed a recreation of the Isengard battle between Gandalf and Saruman with full spellcasting and The Force Unleashed style interactions.
The third level was another stealth section in Deep Hallow Woods, depicting Frodo’s evasion of The Black Rider. If players were to be caught by the Nazgûl, they would have to resist the temptation of The One Ring.
Finally, Travelers Tales had expanded upon one of the most awe-inspiring moments of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy – Gandalf’s battle against the Balrog. It’s a very good-looking recreation for Xbox 360 hardware.
That isn’t all Travelers Tales created. Alongside the full levels, The Lord of the Rings prototype also featured numerous tech demos. These included Aragorn fighting Urukai. Frodo and Sam avoiding Nazgûl at Weathertop, a massive battle for recreating the prologue battle and Sam and Frodo exploring The Shire.
The prototype never turned into anything. Whilst then-director Guillermo Del Toro was impressed with the demo and gave his blessing for the developer to create an adaptation of the live-action Hobbit movie, Warner Bros has different ideas.
“In the end, Warner Bros decided that they wanted a game that wasn’t based on the movie but happened in the same world at the same time,” Burton said. “I disagreed with that approach as I felt you could release a movie based game with the movie and then do a game in the same world as a sequel down the line.”
Warner Bros would eventually take this approach for other games based on The Lord of the Rings. Both The Lord of the Rings: War in the North and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor are stories set alongside events that happen in the same timeframe as aspects of the films or books.
Travelers Tales would go on to create adaptations of The Lord of the Rings in LEGO form, including LEGO The Hobbit.