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Platform

Xbox 360

 

Genre

Action

 

Publisher

Electronic Arts

 

Developer

Pandemic Studios

 

ESRB

T (Teen)

 

Released

January 13, 2009

 

 

‑ Lord of the Rings fans will enjoy the ability to play as a variety of characters and creatures from the Tolkien universe

‑ Epic-sized battles during missions that feature multi-tiered objectives

‑ Very good hack & slash gameplay featuring different classes of fighters, each with unique power-up moves

‑ Horseback combat

 

 

‑ Way, way too short of a single-player campaign, which can be completed in 4-6 hours

‑ Many fans will be angry and upset of the “re-imagined” Middle-earth story in the “Evil” campaign

‑ Mediocre online mode

‑ Too easy to simply run ahead of the fighting pack, avoid the game’s often-fierce battles, and move to the next objective point

 

 

Review: Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle Earth II (360)

Review: Left 4 Dead (360)

Review: Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (XB)

 

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Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Score: 6.5/ 10

 

The newest Lord of the Rings licensed title from Electronic Arts and Pandemic Studios, is a double-edged sword for fans of Tolkien’s Middle-earth realm of hobbits, elves, wizards, orcs and trolls. On the one side of the blade is a razor-sharp hack & slash action title, teeming with a plethora of Tolkien heroes and creatures to choose as playable characters for epic battles against waves of enemies in missions with multi-tiered objectives. However, dulling the blade, there’s a sure-to-be-upsetting twist.

 

lord of the rings conquest          lord of the rings conquest

 

In Lord of the Rings: Conquest, gamers not only can play as Middle-earth’s heroes, they can take on the role of Sauron and his forces of darkness in the “evil” campaign. This re-imagining of Middle-earth’s history, which kills many of Tolkien’s beloved heroes, is sure to infuriate legions of Lord of the Rings fanatics, especially after taking into account the ridiculously short single-player campaign, somewhat too easy gameplay and mediocre online that Lord of the Rings: Conquest offers.

 

On the Gandalf side of the wizard war, War of the Ring, gamers get to play from the “good” side of the Middle-earth fight, which basically revisits the storyline followed throughout the movie trilogy. Choosing one of four classes, key battles seen on the silver screen are fought yet again. A warrior, mage, archer and scout

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class each bring different skills to the fight, with each possessing a powered-up “special” such as a flaming sword for the warrior or a three-arrow shot by the archer. Lord of the Rings: Conquest effectively gives gamers an epic sense to each battle, which is broken up into smaller objectives before a final resolution. There is definitely arcade-like gameplay that relies on

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mindless, frenetic button mashing action, providing much more of a bloodletting thrill than one might expect.

 

While the four classes are pretty generic and not differentiated enough from each other to give one seemingly a big advantage during battles over another, there are a few gameplay choices that break up the hack & slash monotony. If for whatever reason a gamer wants to switch classes during the game, that possibility can be made reality. Not only can the gamer switch classes, he can switch species, too, as gamers can select to be Middle-earth creatures during certain levels. Ever want to be an oliphaunt, troll or a balrog? Here’s the perfect opportunity, and these creatures, particularly the troll, are much stronger than any of the other classes, making it a summer Shire breeze to rip through enemies easily. And a final gameplay bonus, gamers that score enough will be given the choice during each particular level of playing as one of Middle-earth’s heroes/villains.

 

Yes, gamers can be a villain, as the “twist” of Lord of the Rings: Conquest is that there’s an evil campaign. But this is where Lord of the Rings aficionados could conceivably get really, really angry. The “evil” Rise of the Sauron campaign rewrites Tolkien’s story, presenting a much bleaker (and rather depressing) alternate reality where Frodo is killed and essentially the entire Middle-earth is destroyed by Sauron’s minions. Gameplay’s the same, with the same four classes – only orcish in origin.

 

lord of the rings conquest          lord of the rings conquest

 

Turning the Tolkien tale on its ear doesn’t really bring anything relevant to the gameplay. Really, how difficult does it seem to be to slaughter a small army of hobbits? Anybody that answered that query with “not very” is 100% correct. Like mentioned before, the “evil” campaign is sure to upset many a Lord of the Rings fan.

 

But that anger won’t last long, because gamers won’t spend much time with Lord of the Rings: Conquest’s single-player campaign. All the violent frivolity from the hacking & slashing will end much, much too quickly, as a typical gamer should be able to complete both campaigns in 4-6 hours. Alleviating the game’s brevity is a strong co-op mode, which brings up the gameplay enjoyment a few notches. Another fleeting but fun feature is the fighting sequence that allows gamers to ride horseback through their foes, although it’s too easy to just run roughshod over an enemy with the horse, resulting in an instantaneous defeat for the trampled adversary. Another gameplay glitch allows a gamer to simply run ahead to the next objective checkpoint, completely ignoring any enemies along the way, and that cuts down on some of the enjoyment and challenge.

 

With the single-player campaign being unbelievably short on gameplay hours, there is at least an online presence to extend the playing time. However, although not too bad with a up-to-16-player team-based deathmatch as a highlight, it’s just nothing more than rather mediocre, nowhere near the fun or addictiveness of other similar notable Xbox Live titles such as Halo 3, Gears of War 2 or the latest two Call of Duty games.

 

Unlike the memorable Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings film trilogy (which are used to provide Lord of the Rings: Conquest’s cut-scenes), this newest EA Lord of the Rings title is more like the latest summer blockbuster: fun for the short time it lasts, but instantly forgettable once it’s over. Nothing more than a mindless hack & slash packed with plenty of short-term action starring the Lord of the Rings cast of characters, Lord of the Rings: Conquest is disappointing (especially considering developer Pandemic Studio’s strong history of good games, most recently Mercenaries 2), because it has a shorter-than-a-Hobbit single-player experience with unremarkable multiplayer gameplay. And the re-telling of the classic Tolkien tale to suit an alternate “evil” story, planned as a enticement, is sure to infuriate many Lord of the Rings fans instead.

 

‑ Lee Cieniawa

lcieniawa@armchairempire.com

(March 3, 2009)

 

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