|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pandemic||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, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Joseph Catalanotto
August 5, 2008 - Tolkeins classic Lord of the Rings trilogy triggered a set of three movies and, as was apt to follow, three video games. The action games based off the three entries in the trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King) were good enough but werent incredibly noteworthy.
Rather, LOTR games that are particularly great have been those that brought to life the history of Middle Earth rather than focusing on the specific plotline chronicled in Tokeins trilogy. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is a similar game and while it isnt an RTS like most LOTR-related games are, its an exciting title and is sure to please fans of the epic world created by Tolkein. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest plays out a lot like the popular Star Wars: Battlefront series with a Middle Earth theme. Storm troopers, droids, and blasters are replaced with orcs, humans, and more traditional weapons. That said, the way the game is structured is a lot like Battlefront. Youll play from mission to mission with story sequences while chronicling the action that happens in the background of Tolkens trilogy. Strangely enough, the DS is also getting a version of this game. While details are sparse regarding how the DS functionality will be specifically incorporated into gameplay, its a safe bet that the core mechanic will remain the same in the handheld version.
Each mission is a battle, with plenty of foes and allies to hinder or help you. Rather than taking control of a huge army, youll instead play as a single character taking part in the combat. Your character will often be required to complete specific sub-missions within the battle. For example, you may need to take out a specific foe, reach a certain area of the map, protect a certain unit, or a variety of other tasks. These items vary from mission to mission, and as a result each battle promises to be a fun, unique experience.
The games battle mechanics are fairly simple, and youve essentially got light and heavy attacks. Its a simple button-masher, but you can also string together combinations for more damage. Context-sensitive controls dont have as much a presence in Conquest, and its in this way that the very simple puzzle-solving situations come up. For example, in one level youll have to destroy a few ladders laid up by orcs seeking entrance to a castle. The solution? Swing your sword (conveniently, its a fire blade) and burn down the ladders.
One of the most important aspects of Conquest is its class system. There are a variety of different characters, but all of them are classified as archers, mages, warriors, or scouts, each with their own unique skill set. For example, the warrior is great for melee combat, while the scout can sneak around easily and the archer can snipe away at foes from a distance. Youll get plenty of opportunity to experiment with the different classes and decide which your favorite is, but youre going to have to use them all in order to complete the missions different objectives. The Warrior can charge up his blade and unleash a fire attack; good for taking down multiple enemies at once. The Scout may not be that great at combat, but he can make himself invisible at will, allowing him to lure foes away and sneak into guarded areas. Its a simple formula, but provided it is done right, its sure to be lots of fun.
Conquest is created by the same people behind the Battlefront games, so many aspects of those titles have been carried over to Conquest. Selectable characters, spawn points, and fairly epic battles were all part of Battlefront and are the core of Conquest. Of course, in so many ways, The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are fundamentally different, so adapting the addictive Battlefront formula to fit Middle Earth could prove to be a challenge. After all, that game mechanic is making the transition from an intense third-person shooter to an intense button masher? Regardless, the game looks promising and well have to wait until its release this Fall to see how its been handled.
Even once youve completed the game, Conquest promises to keep you busy because beating the main story will unlock a second story, which is completed from the enemies point of view. While the same battle mechanics and classes will remain intact, youre given a brand new set of missions and objectives as well as an opportunity to see the games battles from a different perspective. Its a bold move and the added perspective is sure to add a lot of depth to the games storytelling element. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is certainly one of the most exciting and promising games to be released this year. Get yourself ready for battle because the conquest begins this November.
CCC Freelance Writer