The Lord Of The Rings Tactics Review / Preview for the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)

The Lord Of The Rings Tactics Review / Preview for the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP)

Give your PSP the gift of combat this holiday season. by Cole Smith

December 1, 2005 – Proving that good things do come in small packages, The Lord of the Rings Tactics offers lots of deep gameplay that will stimulate the imagination in a huge world that will stagger the imagination. Imagine that!

We’re back in the Middle Earth. Play as either the Fellowship or the evil Host of Mordor as you battle it out in locations such as the Plains of Rohan, Helms Deep and Misis Tirith. There are some 50 missions to compete that require exceptional strategy skills. Your units will level-up automatically after successful completion of each mission. You do have the option to purchase upgrades for special attacks and spells but money is hard to come by. The war will be won with brains rather than brawn.

Lord of the Rings Tactics is not a mere revisiting of the movie battles, it incorporates a new storyline as well as some location, battles and characters that weren’t in the cinematic trilogy. Fans of the book will be rewarded with familiar characters, both main and secondary ones. There are cutscenes describing the events leading up to the war but unless you’re really up on the movies you won’t know what’s really going on. That knowledge is not of the utmost importance but it would certainly clarify a few things.

Characters such as Gandolf, Aragorn, Legolas, Balrog, Sauron and Frodo are all here but they are too evenly matched to make any particular character stand out. Characters that have uniquely powerful traits end up sharing their skills with other members of their unit. It’s well balanced but it kind of takes the fun out of acquiring or experimenting with different characters since they are so much the same. Regardless of how powerful your enemy is you can send a less powerful character to block their path. It’s not very realistic but when it works to your benefit you probably won’t be complaining too loudly.

Leveling-up allows you to customize your favorite character with more powerful weapons, armor and magical spells, but as I already mentioned these things cost money and it’s in short supply. You will more likely find yourself making purchases of one-time use items such as health. Not only is it cheaper but also necessary to stay alive.

Unlike the majority of RPG strategy games you don’t get to travel through the map under your own volition. This precludes you from locating bartering shops along the way. The only way you can purchase upgrades is through the interface. It’s not very exotic but it speeds things up. At the same time you just move your unit to the next mission area and take things from there.

Both armies will position their troops along the grid simultaneously. Once this is done the two teams will then enter the battle phase, also at the same time. This not only speeds up the process but offers a different twist to the regular style of gameplay that we’re accustomed to. This way you will have to guess at your opponent’s placement of troops and take the necessary precautions as to where you place your defenses. During the planning phase you can target a specific character and go after him but you’ll probably find a lot of weaker ones blocking your path. What comes around goes around.

The four-player mode is a great addition and will certainly beef up the replay value. Players have to create their own army with the points allotted them. Each game can be customized as point allotment, time limit and the degree of leveling. With such options each game will have its own challenges and rewards. The biggest reward is that each game has the potential to feel new. The variations will become less of a novelty as familiarity eventually wears you down.

Graphically this game is not a stunner but the characters and locations are easily recognizable. The maps are big and offer a lot of combat, though the environments aren’t as interactive as they are in some PC strategy games. Go figure. The music and sound effects are culled from the movie. There is some frame stuttering and some of the environments are too dark making it difficult to see all of the details.

Lord of the Rings Tactics is a real portable pocket rocket. You’ll never get this much action out of your cell phone.

By Cole Smith
CCC Reviews Editor

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