The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review for PC

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review for PC

Conquest Fails to Deliver its Epic Promise

The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy that has more video game potential than most gamers can handle in a lifetime. Games branding themselves under this banner range across all genres of gaming and, most recently, EA and Pandemic Studios teamed up to bring us The Lord of the Rings: Conquest.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest screenshot

Conquest is hailed as being the next “Battlefront” game from Pandemic Studios, the developers responsible for the widely acclaimed Star Wars: Battlefront. It is a third-person action game that involves large-scale battles, character classes, “vehicle-like” classes, and hack-and-slash gameplay.

It was odd at first, seeing Conquest’s visuals for the first time. The game’s many video trailers and advertisements looked great, but for some reason that quality doesn’t always make itself known during play. Even with all graphic settings set to their highest, Conquest looks a little dated. Sure, it isn’t horrible to look at, but considering it is an early 2009 title, gamers will expect a little more eye candy. There are moments where the visuals will light up and look great, but they don’t happen very often. Instead, there are a lot of jagged edges and sloppy textures that will keep players from enjoying the environment the way they should.

Character models are a little more detailed and polished than the environments, but the lack of variety ruins the experience. When you’ve seen one Orc or Gondorian grunt, you’ve seen them all. The combat animations don’t exactly redeem the visuals either. Choppy and stiff-looking movements plague each character class’s special attacks. And, while certainly a stylistic thing, the glowing and aura-like colors that burst from weapons seem a little odd in the realm of Tolkien lore.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest screenshot

Conquest definitely borrows heavily from the movie franchise. Whether it’s juxtaposing scenes from the official movies, borrowing the voice of Hugo Weaving to do the narration, or using the plot of the movies to determine the battles in the game, one would think it would be hard to go wrong. Unfortunately, gamers require a little more than content stripped straight from completed projects.

Aside from Huge Weaving’s narration, which is very well done, the voice acting in Conquest is less than enjoyable. When enemies or allies are killed, the same exact sound effects are played repeatedly. This can become especially annoying when using a class that can kill several enemies quickly, as the player will be bombarded with the same grunting sounds over and over. The invisible commander of the battle will also shout at the player during the game as a reminder to what the current objectives are. While this does serve a practical purpose, playing as an Orc and hearing “Capture that area, maggot!” is only fun for a short while.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest screenshot

The music, like the cutscenes, is taken straight from the movies, but this is one of the game’s redeeming qualities. Sure, while it isn’t exactly an original idea, the music from the movies is undeniably good and, therefore, does a great job in Conquest.

Conquest’s gameplay is a mixed bag. On one hand, it is modeled after the successful concepts laid out in popular titles like Star Wars: Battlefront. On the other hand, that great level of execution doesn’t seem to be present here. First, the game provides the player with a choice of four different characters classes: Warrior, Archer, Assassin, and Mage. Each class has its own unique special abilities and attacks, but each one is universally one-dimensional. For instance, while the Archer’s main purpose is to launch volleys of arrows, it lacks sufficient melee attacks. While this seems to make sense in theory, seeing all the archers in the game dancing back and forth to avoid melee looks very odd, not to mention that it isn’t very fun. Another example is the mage class, which can fire spells from a distance, heal himself and surrounding allies, and also protect himself and allies from arrows with a dome-like shield. Conversely, like the Archer, the Mage has no substantial melee abilities, despite having a large staff.

The Warrior and Assassin classes, while focusing on the melee combat, have very little range, but this isn’t nearly as important, since most combat in Conquest is melee combat. And, most of the special attacks are performed in melee, such as running behind a Troll, climbing up its back, and then sliding down the front with your sword slicing the whole way. Assassins also have a special ability to turn invisible, allowing them to perform sneak attacks that can kill even the toughest of enemies in a single blow.

While there is some enjoyment to be had from playing each character class, none of them seem well-rounded enough. But, Pandemic didn’t limit the gameplay choice there. Instead, they’ve 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.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest screenshot

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 Helm’s 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 player’s 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 player’s character can get to his feet again. It isn’t 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 Conquest’s 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 isn’t 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 aren’t playable from the good campaign. Unfortunately, after killing so many elves and hobbits, it is made brutally obvious that the gameplay and experience isn’t 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-player’s. 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 you’ve been waiting to experience those epic battles you remember from the movies, Conquest will let you do that. Unfortunately, they won’t seem nearly as visually stimulating, action-packed, or epic as you remember.

Poor textures, stiff animations, and poorly laid out environments make the many battlefields difficult to appreciate. 3.5 Control
The standard controls are easy enough to master, but lacking depth and that desired level of complexity. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Top quality music from the movies and a creditable narrating by Hugo Weaving is marred by generic and annoying voice acting and less-than-decent sound effects. 2.5 Play Value
Fresh and interesting gameplay concepts aren’t fully realized. Instead, they are hindered by uninteresting and repetitive combat, an evil campaign that is basically a replay of the good campaign but in reverse order, and a limiting multiplayer that only allows a max of 16 players at once. 2.7 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Choose Your Side in the War of the Ring: Play through all the battles from the films and fight through an all-new story in the Evil campaign.
  • Play How You Want: Wield a sword, shoot a bow, use stealth, or conjure magic. Take control of Trolls, Oliphaunts, horses, catapults, heroes, and villains: the choice is yours.
  • Epic Online Battles: Featuring 16-player clashes in a wide variety of different modes.

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