|System: PC, PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pandemic Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 13, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-18||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
While there is some enjoyment to be had from playing each character class, none of them seem well-rounded enough. But, Pandemic didnt limit the gameplay choice there. Instead, theyve also offered the ability of players to take control of larger, vehicle-like units that are placed on the battlefields. Trolls, Oliphaunts, Balrogs, and Ents are just a few examples of these devastating weapons. Playing as one of these specialized units brings some of the most satisfying moments in Conquest. For example, Ents have the ability to grab enemy units and then swing them as a weapon or throw them to do damage to groups of enemies or structures. Jumping into the role of one of these lumbering giants also provides a fresh perspective of the battlefield, which can be refreshing at times.
On top of the character classes, Conquest also allows the player to jump into the boots of the many heroes of Middle-Earth. Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf, Sauron, and the Nazgul are all controllable units. While the idea of hacking and slashing through a large battle as one of your favorite characters from the lore sounds amazing, Conquest makes it frustrating. For starters, players rarely get the chance to play as a hero from the start of a battle. Instead, playing as a hero is an option usually given right before the last part of a level, giving them barely any time to enjoy it. Moreover, once the game does allow the player to select a hero to play, there is only a single choice. For example, while playing the Helms Deep level, players are given the opportunity to play only as Aragorn, despite the obvious fact that Legolas and Gimli should also be available choices. So, while playing as a favorite hero character sounds great, Conquest is too restrictive in its delivery, which will often frustrate players to the point where they would rather play as one of the four generic classes than be forced to play as a hero character they dislike.
The hack-and-slash gameplay of Conquest is, frankly, frustrating. While the combat system allows for blocking and counter attacking, due to bugs in the game, enemies will consistently ignore a players blocks. This results in the player being hurled onto his back over and over again, forcing him to resort to a mindless and uninteresting strategy of mashing attack, attack, attack until all surrounding foes are dead. Worse yet is that once knocked to the ground, enemies are able to perform combo attack before the players character can get to his feet again. It isnt uncommon to have a fully healed character be killed while lying on the ground, attempting to get back up. Overall, the combat resembles that of the Dynasty Warriors series, but without the polish or variety of style.
Perhaps Conquests most enticing gameplay feature, which many were hailing as being a great idea (and it is), is the ability to not only play through the many battles of the story from the side of good, but also to play an alternate timeline from the perspective of evil. The game calls this campaign the Rise of Sauron, and begins with Frodo failing to destroy the ring. While the idea of leading an army of Orcs through Middle-Earth and laying siege sounds like an instantly gratifying experience, this particular realization of that dream falls sadly short.
In order to even play the Rise of Sauron campaign, players must first complete the good campaign. The fact that the evil campaign must be unlocked isnt a problem. However, what is a problem is that the evil campaign is essentially the good campaign, just in reverse order. The player will be set down on the same levels, many of them being identical to the ones already played on from the side of good. The evil campaign does allow the player to siege Weathertop, Rivendell, and The Shire, which is a nice touch, since these three levels arent playable from the good campaign. Unfortunately, after killing so many elves and hobbits, it is made brutally obvious that the gameplay and experience isnt really any different. Therefore, while new locales and fictional events unfold, the execution of the evil campaign concept falls terribly short of its full potential.
Once both single-player campaigns are completed, Conquest provides an instant action feature, which allows the player to revisit the battles from either sides perspective and with a variety of gametypes such as Team Deathmatch, Capture the Ring, and Conquest. If the player should get bored of playing Conquest alone, there is an option to play online via EA Nation. Players can connect and play with up to 16 players per battle. Unfortunately, the online gameplay is just as frustrating as the single-players. Combat is repetitive and brutal in that human players are much better at killing opponents that are lying on the ground than their A.I. counterparts. Moreover, while a player limit of 16 may be decent for the console versions of Conquest, it is hardly substantial for the PC version. While the average online PC game can play host to at least 32 players at once, Conquest seems a little inadequate.
While Pandemic Studios has attempted to bring their applauded formula to The Lord of the Rings in Conquest, the game is just missing too much finesse to impress most audiences. It does bring some enticing gameplay concepts to the forefront, but without proper execution and delivery, those concepts do very little to make this game deep or interesting. If youve been waiting to experience those epic battles you remember from the movies, Conquest will let you do that. Unfortunately, they wont seem nearly as visually stimulating, action-packed, or epic as you remember.
CCC Freelance Writer