Monday, February 9, 2009

Player's Club: Lord of the Rings: Conquest reviewed

Posted By on Mon, Feb 9, 2009 at 11:14 PM

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The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Rated T for Teen

Released on Jan. 13

Developed by Pandemic Studios

Released by Electronic Arts

The Lord of the Rings saga, available in both book and convenient film formats, has always prioritized grandeur, pageantry, silly names, and ridiculously bloated lengths. A straight-up hack’n’slash button-mashing game adaptation might seem at odds with all that, but it’s not inherently a bad concept. The idea does have at least one major strike against it, though. It’s 2009, and Lord of the Rings is about as fresh and exciting as Jay Leno. The caboose to this Tolkien gravy train should’ve come chugging along a good while ago. Even Star Wars merchandise fell off the map between Return of the Jedi and the late-’90s special editions. Yeah, the first couple of Lord of the Rings tie-in games were surprisingly good at the time, but that was back when the title of “worst president ever” was still a twinkle in W’s squinty eye. Middle Earth and its characters are no longer exciting to visit in and of themselves, so any game will have to approach them in a fresh or novel way.

Unfortunately, little about Lord of the Rings: Conquest is fresh or novel in any way.

It’s similar to the popular Star Wars: Battlefront series, which isn’t surprising, since the same team developed both. Like the Battlefront games, you’ll choose a character from one of a handful of classes and fight through battles from the movies (the game owes far more to Jackson than Tolkien). Occasionally you get to control an iconic character such Aragorn or Gandalf. After fighting through eight levels as the heroes, you play through eight more as the bad guys. Both sides have the same classes, though, and the only difference is appearance. Apparently evil henchmen and valiant Fellowship members are both equally idiotic, as the artificial intelligence is consistently disappointing. It certainly looks like you’re fighting alongside an army, but you’re basically the only guy capable of accomplishing anything — if you’re capable of successfully handling the clumsy controls. Even the online multiplayer, ostensibly a chief selling point, is a drag, with uninspired game modes and unbalanced character classes.

There’s little to recommend about this awkward, repetitive title. Its only strengths are minor, and restricted solely to presentation. The graphics and music are perfectly acceptable for a modern-day game, but aren’t especially commendable. They just happen to be two of the few things about Lord of the Rings: Conquest that aren’t resolutely sub-par. So it’s got that going for it, which is nice.

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