Review of Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Relive the magic of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy first hand in this sweeping reenactment from Pandemic Studios that places you in Tolkien's Middle Earth. Conduct sweeping, epic battles as they unfolded in films or find out how the legendary trilogy might have otherwise ended.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest Overview
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Rating: ESRB: Teen, PEGI: 16+
Released: January 16, 2009
The first big release of the year, Lord of the Rings: Conquest, has hit store shelves. It doesn't to live up to the promise of its sweepingly cinematic pre-release trailers (what game does?) and it falls far short of the wonder of the film franchise upon which it's based, but if you're renting rather than buying, this game is a fine weekend's worth of distraction.
Players of the 2004 hit Star Wars: Battlefront will immediately find themselves on familiar ground with this game. Pandemic, the same studio that produced Battlefront, developed The Lord of the Rings: Conquest, and it hasn't bothered embellishing on its original template even one iota. Unfortunately, while Battlefront was a welcomed update on a tired genre at the time of its release, Pandemic has utterly failed to learn from its previous mistakes in the intervening years. Conquest, like Battlefront, suffers from a clunky control system, reptitive gameplay, and an altogether unconvincing story. Luckily, a sonorous soundtrack, campy fighting faux pass, and the sheer joy of slaughtering Hobbits redeems this game from its potential bargain bin status, elevating it to roughly the entertainment value of an Evil Dead film marathon when share with a friend.
- Bad dialog and Mortal Kombat-style maneuver narration are comical
- Multiplayer mode renders combat system amusing
- Novel opprotunity to play a villain in a Tolkien setting
- Wonderful soundtrack and sound effects
- Awkward combat system
- Lackluster graphics
- Repetitive gameplay for single players
- Unimaginative opponent AI
Verdict: Try it, but don't buy it.
Review: Lord of the Rings: Conquest allows players to re-enact key scenes from the Peter Jackson's film trilogy over the course of two campaigns. The first campaign, which begins with the Battle of Helm's Deep and ends with the Battle of the Black Gate, loosely follows the events of the film and casts players in the role of one of several class of hero and, as often as not, one of the stars of the film.
Several stages into the game, the initial novelty begins to wear thin, and the entire affair becomes a waiting game. There's not a leveling mechanism or an experience system in place, so the battles dulls to monotony swiftly after advancing past Helm's Deep. Luckily, that monotony doesn't last long, because the initial campaign, though frought with difficulty (most of which arises from the combat system itself), is relatively short and easy. Think the final levels of Halo 3 set on "easy."
The game's control system is boring and occationally frustrating. The bored is the result of players being given a choice between four classes, (archer, mage, scout, or warrior) each of which attacks using the basically the same key combination with very little differentiation between even the different attack's effects. The frustration comes with the game's primary combat mechanics: knock opponents to the ground. All too frequently, players will find themselves helpless and flailing on their back with no way to speed the process of getting up. The situation is exascerbated by an inability to to tell where injuries are coming from.
Just about the time you're thinking of giving up single-player mode for something more interesting, the game begins to redeem itself. This is the beginning of the much-market second campaign. In this second campaign, players, cast as the Witch-King, give the half-pint Hobbit a right-hook and make off with the Ring. From this point on, players get to wallow in evil as they push the forces of good back through the previous levels to where the trouble all started, The Shire. Once there, the game reaches it climax with Sauron burning the Shire to the ground and butchering the panicked little Hobbits despite all Gandalf's attempts to interveen.
The truth is, by the time the Shire is really and truly the high point of this entire game. After hours of boredom and irritation over the game's lack of imagination and the combat system impeding progress at every turn, players will welcome the tear-wrenchingly riddiculous bouts of killing small, defenseless creatures.
It's painfully obvious that, despite the Pandemic's hype of the single-player system, this game was designed for multiplayer mode. Yes, touring the scenery of three great films is interesting. Yes, slaughtering Hobbits is hilarious, Yes, it's difficult not to break into laughter over the exurberance of the characters in battle. But this is where the game truly shines Many the shortcoming of its single-player mode can be forgiven once you've joined in battle against real human beings.
Up to sixteen players can join in a game in one of three modes: Capture, Conquest, and Deathmatch. The modes will be familiar to anyone who has ever played a multiplayer game online before. In Deathmatch, all of the players run about, frantically trying to kill each other in the guise of their favorite character (inevitably Gandalf). In control, teams attempt to take then hold strategic points on the map in a classic king-of-the-mountain game. Finally, the old stand-by that's been popular since GoldenEye, capture the flag. Only in this variation, you'll be scrabbling to snatch the ring from the best Gandalf, because, guess what? He can heal himself and zapp you silly.
The graphics throughout Conquest, which were roughly analagous to those of the Xbox roleplaying game Fable, would have been deemed excellent in a last-generation game but make a frustrating addition to the list of disappointments in a game based on a film famed for its sweep cinematography.
Depite the game's lack of graphical clarity, the environment is definitely the high-point of this game's single-player mode and one of its biggest attractions. The depth and complexity of Mines of Moria is worth the tedium of the passing through the opening levels alone, even though the blurred textures and indeterminate vistas leave players wishing their character would have thought to pop his contacts in before joining battle.
It should also be noted by consumers choosing which version of this game to buy, that the PC version features far smoother framerates and fewer graphical stutters by far than the XBox 360 version.
The sound effects of this game are its most noticeable feature, even from three rooms away. Evidently designed to delight youg children, the cacophany and battlecries, grunts, and weapons' classhing is so overwhelming it nearly drowns out the Mortal Kombat-style shouts of the game's commanders ordering your character to do whatever it is he pretty much had no choice but to do next. Meanwhile, Howard Shore's orchestral soundtrack is, as in the films, absolutely entrancing. It enhances the game experience in the early levels of single-player mode and lends the early moments of the game the same heart-pound rush audiences experienced in theaters. If you're in rowdy mood, the noise is just what the doctor order. If, on the otherhand, you are not a pre-teen or toddler, you may find yourself muting your television about ten minutes into the game.
Despite its many shortcomings, this is a great game for two friends in a silly mood to sit down to. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is an unintentionally lighthearted break in an industry of hits that more often than not leave you with a niggling desire to leave the lights on when you go to bed. Still, let's all hope that five years down the road, Pandemic Studios doesn't release a third variation on Star Wars: Battlefront, because two is just enough.
- Hard Drive Space: 6 GB Minimum
- Memory: 1 GB RAM or higher
- Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista
- Sound Card: A DirectX 9.0c compatible soundcard
- Video Card: The 256MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 or its equivalent
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