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Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review

Blake_Morse By:
GENRE Adventure 
PLAYERS 1- 16 
PUBLISHER Electronic Arts 
DEVELOPER Pandemic Studios 
T Contains Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Guess I'll keep on Ramblin' On.

Let’s say that one night at a party, Dynasty Warriors and Star Wars: Battlefront are having some drinks. They both have a few too many, one thing leads to another… and nine months later a little baby is born. They name it Lord of the Rings: Conquest. But there’s a problem. You see, all that alcohol had an effect on the baby. It's not a full retard like Simple Jack, more a “special” man-child like Forrest Gump. While it is a bit slow in some departments, it’s capable of surprising us all in interesting ways.

click to enlargeI'm sure we all know the story by now, so I think it's safe to skim through the plot: A hairy midget finds a ring, hairy midget gives ring to hairy midget nephew, ring turns out to be evil, hairy midget nephew goes on epic quest to destroy evil ring with a dwarf, elf, ranger, and a couple other hairy midgets. Most of the levels in story mode are based off the various territories explored throughout the film adaptation. What's nice about this game is that there is also another story that might as well have been torn from the pages of a Marvel “What if?” comic, in which Sauron retrieves the ring and goes on a killing fest throughout Middle Earth. It's a great alternate to the happy ending and makes for a great excuse to maul some hobbits.

The little miracle takes after its parents in a lot of ways. You can select a character from a roster, just like big poppa Battlefront. Mages, archers, warriors, and spies are all at your disposal. Each has a unique set of attacks and abilities that require you to learn multiple button configurations. Learning to use each unit at its maximum efficiency is key to victory in single player. Sometimes, you'll need to use the mage's shield ability to defend an area from archers, while other situations, like taking down a troll, require less finesse and more brutal strength. You might instead choose a soldier, jump on the beast's back, and hack it to death.

The concept of playable hero classes (after accomplishing certain tasks) is present as well. In fact, this is probably the one place where the game might actually trump its famous Papa. The range of special characters and their unique abilities is well beyond those of its Jedi forefathers. Hacking away at Ringwraiths as Aragorn with the power of an undead army and destroying wave after wave of Ents with a giant flaming sword as the Balrog are major highlights.

click to enlargeMost of the flaws tend to lean more towards the Dynasty Warriors side of the family. You'll find yourself fighting wave after wave of enemies on the battlefields of Rohan in a never ending orgy of blood and violence. There's always more troops coming from somewhere and it makes things impatiently difficult sometimes. Poor camera angles provide enemies with ample opportunities to stab you in the back while you're performing combos on whatever happens to be in front of you. And the few levels that have horses? Don't even bother trying to do mounted combat effectively.

Gone is the predecessor's troops vs. troops number system, replaced by a crude, weak lives system. This is where the imbalance really starts to show. It would be one thing to be given a hero in order to beat a level, but it's quite another to be on the same class level as all the foes you face and it makes for an imbalance in combat. On top of that, having to fight more than your fair share of enemies because your team's A.I. is so flawed becomes increasingly frustrating as the game drags on.

Conquest is much more linear than either of its parents; everything you do will be done in a certain order, and each task must be accomplished before you can move on. The linearity of levels is by far the biggest mistake they could have made for a game like this. Battlefront was great because even though it was a FPS at its heart, you had a ton of tactical options as to how you could crumble your enemies' defenses. Now all you have is... go to target A, stand around, kill some stuff, move to the next place, and stand around.

click to enlargeIf the A.I. weren't so imbalanced, or if you at least had the ability to give some basic commands to surrounding units, this wouldn't be too bad; in fact, it would be about the same as the Star Wars game. But instead you're left feeling like you're all alone in the middle of a war without a single friend. Playing story mode with a friend or two will take away a lot of the frustration and provide a much more enjoyable experience. In fact, that's when the game is at its most fun. If you have a couple buddies that are big LOTR fans, call them up and ask them to come over and help you return the one ring to Mordor, and you're sure to have a blast.

Most of non-story mode multiplayer is nothing you haven't seen before: capture the flag ring, deathmatch, and so on. What is very cool, though, is the hero deathmatch mode, where you have unlimited access to the most badass of both good and evil sides. But for the most part, it's all just a rehashing of the story mode.

While fans of the franchise will get a kick out of re-enacting their personal favorite battles, most folks will probably be wishing that hacking up hobbits was more like blasting Ewoks. And even if you do get a kick out of it, much like dating a crazy hot chick, the enjoyment will be short-lived once you start to look beyond the surface and see the glaring flaws. There is a lot that would need to be fixed before this game is up to par with Pandemic's past endeavours.

C Revolution report card
  • Good use of LOTR mythos
  • Innovative character classes
  • Playing as Balrog, Gandalf, etc.
  • Multiplayer story mode
  • Handicapped team AI
  • Wonky horse riding
  • Story mode is too linear
  • Bland multiplayer modes
  • Poor camera angles

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