|System: PC, PS3, X360||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Pandemic Studios||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, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-18||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Derek Hidey
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.
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 Conquests visuals for the first time. The games many video trailers and advertisements looked great, but for some reason that quality doesnt always make itself known during play. Even with all graphic settings set to their highest, Conquest looks a little dated. Sure, it isnt 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 dont 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 youve seen one Orc or Gondorian grunt, youve seen them all. The combat animations dont exactly redeem the visuals either. Choppy and stiff-looking movements plague each character classs 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.
Conquest definitely borrows heavily from the movie franchise. Whether its 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 Weavings 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 music, like the cutscenes, is taken straight from the movies, but this is one of the games redeeming qualities. Sure, while it isnt exactly an original idea, the music from the movies is undeniably good and, therefore, does a great job in Conquest.
Conquests 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 doesnt 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 Archers 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 isnt 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 isnt 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.