Middle-earth Like Never Before!
December 22, 2008 – Pandemic Studios is known for high quality action/adventure titles; most notably, the Destroy All Humans! and Star Wars: Battlefront series. Both franchises are acclaimed shooters that use highly destructible environments and tons of onscreen action to immerse the player in an engrossing, action-filled world. While Destroy All Humans! used humor, crazy weapons, and a unique alien protagonist, Star Wars: Battlefront went for a more visceral approach by replicating large-scale battlefields.
Borrowing liberally from the Battlefront model of gameplay, Lord of the Rings: Conquest will simulate familiar, lesser-known, and original battles from the movies, books, and devs’ imaginations in mission-based levels. In addition to the Battlefront-heavy mechanics, Pandemic has also given a nod to the Destroy All Humans! series by allowing players to take on these battles from the point of view of the evil forces of Mordor. As such, players will enjoy not only the standard campaign of good characters, but will also fight a secondary campaign as Uruk-Hai, The Balrog, and even Sauron himself. In fact, players will be able to choose from four confirmed classes, including warrior, scout, mage, and archer, and they will also be able to choose between good and evil heroes, including Aragorn, Legolas, Boromir, Saruman, the Nazgul, Grima Wormtongue, and many more on both sides of the struggle for the One Ring.
Gamers will enjoy taking on the world of Middle-earth from both perspectives. Early code shows a nicely balanced gameplay experience of being both a hero and a villain. Slaughtering orcs and other nasty beasties with heroic gusto should be great fun, and burning and pillaging The Shire and massacring the helpless hobbits should be eerily satisfying. Combat from both perspectives looks to be fluid and intuitive, though the mix of light, medium, and heavy attack combos may result in a button-mash rather than something a bit deeper. Also, there appears to be overly simplistic and clichéd mission objectives. Hopefully, the goals in both campaigns will be more complex than “set fire to the hobbit holes” or “take out the enemy archers.” Fortunately, epic boss battles are present throughout the title, so even lackluster mission objectives should be overshadowed by the grandeur of more complex “BBG” fights.
Levels in LOTR: Conquest will cover about nine different environments. These encompass such places as the Mines of Moria, Cirith Ungol, Pellenor Fields, Rivendell, Isengard, Helm’s Deep, Weathertop, Bree, Rohan, and more. These expansive environments are detailed and true to Peter Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth and J.R.R. Tolkien’s descriptions. What’s more, the technical presentation in Conquest is promised to be nearly flawless despite the inclusion of so much onscreen action. The only hitch we can foresee is that the Teen rating has left much of the gore out and tamed some of the brutality that should go hand in hand with the actions and finishing moves players will perform. Nevertheless, LOTR buffs should find a lot of visuals to enjoy in Conquest. To top it all off, Howard Shore’s epic score will feature prominently throughout the title.
Moreover, the sweeping single-player campaigns are only one part of the equation. Players will get to play with a total of four people locally, or up to 16 online in competitive and co-op modes of play. Running through the campaigns via split-screen or LAN at home should be great fun, and using your friends’ smarts rather than depending on friendly A.I. will significantly raise the game’s appeal. Additionally, duking it out with online competition will give the title legs past the initial ten hours of play. Online competitive modes include standard conquest, capture the flag, and deathmatch modes, as well as an all against one tag mode where one player plays as Frodo trying to keep the ring away from everyone else.
The Lord of the Rings has proven to be an intellectual property with major star power. The books created the fantasy genre, and the movies have endeared millions around the world to the characters and story. Still, the video game adaptations largely have yet to capture the magic the other mediums have. Pandemic Studios is looking to break this mold of interactive mediocrity set by previous tie-ins by giving players a lot of freedom in a lavishly detailed world. Stay tuned for our full review of the final product when it releases in mid-January.
August 5, 2008 – Tolkein’s 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 weren’t 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 Tokein’s trilogy. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is a similar game and while it isn’t an RTS like most LOTR-related games are, it’s 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. You’ll play from mission to mission with story sequences while chronicling the action that happens in the background of Tolken’s 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, it’s 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, you’ll 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 game’s battle mechanics are fairly simple, and you’ve essentially got light and heavy attacks. It’s a simple button-masher, but you can also string together combinations for more damage. Context-sensitive controls don’t have as much a presence in Conquest, and it’s in this way that the very simple puzzle-solving situations come up. For example, in one level you’ll have to destroy a few ladders laid up by orcs seeking entrance to a castle. The solution? Swing your sword (conveniently, it’s 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. You’ll get plenty of opportunity to experiment with the different classes and decide which your favorite is, but you’re 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. It’s a simple formula, but provided it is done right, it’s 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 we’ll have to wait until its release this Fall to see how it’s been handled.
Even once you’ve 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, you’re given a brand new set of missions and objectives as well as an opportunity to see the game’s battles from a different perspective. It’s a bold move and the added perspective is sure to add a lot of depth to the game’s 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.