Fly You Fools
If I happened to be playing a word association game and my adversary mentioned the Lord of the Rings films, inevitably the first word to come to my mind would be epic. When compiled, these films account for one of the biggest box office pulls of all time, in no small part due to their incredible source material, talented casts and director, and massive scope. Nowhere is this scale more prevalent than in the numerous warfare scenes that litter the trilogy.
These enormous battles full of thousands of orcs, elves, and men desperately fighting for their very existences make the Lord of the Rings films a close to perfect foundation for combat-intensive video games to be based upon. Now imagine boiling the entirety of the films’ epic conflicts down to six encounters of capture-the-flag and you have the basic idea of what to expect from Lord of the Rings: Conquest on the DS.
In this 3D polygonal button-masher, players are given their choice of three different character types to control. One could play as the warrior unit, having the most strength and power of the characters but no ranged attack to speak of. Of course, the polar opposite is the archer unit who attacks quickly and from a distance but deals less damage and is more susceptible to death. Lastly, the gel that holds groups of these two character types together are the mages. Mages have a moderate attack power, ranged attacks, and make up for their lack of strength and speed with their ability to heal themselves and others.
Since each character type has its own specific strengths and weaknesses, choosing the right character for each situation can be important to progressing through Conquest’s campaign mode. While having a mage handy when trying to survive a timed onslaught is probably a good idea, controlling a warrior would be better for your own direct assaults. Players will even gain access to some special units to control including Ents and Cave Trolls during specific battles. Luckily, players are also able to switch between their available character types at any point to help them complete their ever-changing objectives.
Each mission in the campaign mode is made up of several smaller objectives that need to be completed in order to achieve victory. These tasks can range anywhere from protecting a specific character to eliminating a certain number of enemies. While there is a good assortment of tasks to complete, most will revolve around command points. Several command points are located throughout each map in the game, serving as indicators for who is in control of certain locations.
If a command point is red it is currently under the control of Sauron, while the good guys are displayed as blue. Players can, and will need to, gain control of enemy command points by standing within their colored circles until their color changes. Once under your army’s control, friendly command points add more soldiers to your cause as well as a new place for players to respawn after meeting their untimely demise. While command points can be taken over at any point during a mission, they will often quickly fall back under enemy control unless capturing them is a specific objective to complete. Waiting around to see what fate befalls your freshly captured command point usually results in witnessing constantly respawning enemy characters, at least until the point has been recaptured by the enemy.
Sadly, this is just one example of how the A.I. ruins your experience. As a game based on battles that take place between massive armies, one would rightfully expect some form of teamwork.
Teamwork seems to be the last thing on any of your teammate’s minds, as they will blindly run from one objective to the next, not giving a second thought to formation, working together with other units, or even their own personal safety. However, bad A.I. isn’t exclusive to just your teammates either, as many enemies will remain unaware of your presence, even while being hit by ranged attacks. You will also often come upon groups of enemies just standing around while the battle is supposed to be raging on all sides.
While the stupidity of the characters in the game will likely frustrate you, the game’s presentation won’t do much to alleviate your anger. Much of the time, telling the difference between your teammates and foes is next to impossible. From the game’s isometric 3D view, orcs and humans look about the same even with the small circles of color at their feet that are meant to be used to differentiate between them. This view also makes it incredibly difficult to tell where you are and where you need to go, making players almost exclusively rely on their top screen maps for direction.
Both of these issues are only made worse by Conquest’s excessive character pop-in and horrendous slowdown. Groups of enemies will often appear on all sides of you as you move about because you’ve somehow walked right into the center of them before they decided to become visible. This gets annoying rather quickly, since being surrounded by enemies usually results in death, respawning, and the inevitable long walk back to where you were located just before the pop-in ambush. Usually, as a direct result of these appearing forces, or just too many characters/too much action onscreen at once, Conquest’s action will slow to a crawl. These dips in speed won’t necessarily affect the gameplay, but they definitely make the already lethargic pace of the game feel that much more sluggish.
These problems, combined with its relatively short length, help to keep players from having what should have been a truly enjoyable Lord of the Rings experience. Playing through the campaign mode as both the good and bad guys will only take you around four hours total. The conquest mode doesn’t add much to the game either, as it is essentially the campaign mode but without the objectives. While the multiplayer can add some longevity to the title, the game itself just isn’t that much fun to play due to its nagging issues. Perhaps the overall brevity of Conquest is for the best as this is one that seems best left for rabid fans hungry for any portable Tolkien fix.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.4 Graphics
Since the environments are all fairly dark and the characters tiny, it can be very difficult to even tell who is who most of the time. 2.5 Control
The traditional controls work well when the game isn’t slowing down, but the stylus controls can cause some unnecessary problems. 3.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Some music from the films mixes with decent sound effects to create an appealing aural experience. 1.7
The game is incredibly short and has several issues that directly detract from the little gameplay that is actually present. Conquest has some good ideas but suffers heavily from bad execution.
2.2 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.