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Lord of the Rings Games

Review: Lord of the Rings: Conquest 68

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-so-precioussss dept.
Pandemic Studios, having enjoyed some success with their release of Star Wars: Battlefront II, sought to bring their style of action game to the Lord of the Rings universe as well. Since both Star Wars and LotR are widely regarded as classics in their respective genres, and both have a rich, deep fan base, the task would appear to be similar in scope. Many were expecting Lord of the Rings: Conquest to be, if nothing else, a playground for Tolkien fans to revel in the environments so vividly brought to life by the movies. Unfortunately, between the short, simplistic campaign and the shallow, uninspired combat, LotR: Conquest merely relies on its name for success, failing to bring the innovation or cleverness that the franchise deserves. Read on for the rest of my thoughts.
  • Title: Lord of the Rings: Conquest
  • Developer: Pandemic Studios
  • Publisher: Electronic Arts
  • System: Windows, PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS
  • Reviewer: Soulskill
  • Score: 5/10

LotR: Conquest starts you off with a training scenario in which you learn how to play each of the four classes: Warrior, Mage, Archer, and Scout. Each brings a set of unique attacks and special abilities to the table. Warriors flail about with swords, having standard attacks of different speeds and strengths. You can chain multiple attacks in a row, and you can use specific sequences of attacks as "combos," which can have a devastating effect on enemies. They are also able to parry attacks, and to occasionally toss a throwing axe at somebody, dealing damage and knocking them down. It's very effective for closing on those pesky mages and archers who like to stand at range. As warriors cleave their way through enemies, they build energy for special attacks, which imbue their sword with fire. One such attack drops the warrior low to the ground and charges enemies, effectively getting under their guard. Another is a flaming whirlwind, suitable for demolishing large crowds. The third is a powerful direct attack that can punch through an enemy's defenses, and there's also a powerful, spinning slash called a Crowdbreaker — it requires a full bar of energy to use, but can take out a group of enemies with ease.

The other melee class is the Scout. Their basic attacks are quick and less powerful. They also have combos, and more importantly, the ability to cloak themselves, turning almost invisible to their enemies. Anyone who knows you're there can still see a faint outline of your character, but it's easy for an enemy who's focused on something else to overlook you. You can pop out of stealth and attack as normal, or you can try to sneak around behind somebody for an extremely powerful backstab, which will kill most units by itself. However, it can be tough to do if your opponent is moving, and missing your opportunity will cause you to fall out stealth and be very vulnerable for a few seconds. Scouts also work on an energy system, though in a slightly different way; in addition to generating energy by normally attacking enemies, you gradually refill your bar just standing around. Using stealth slowly drains it, as do special movies. Scouts can move quickly by rolling, and they can chuck satchel bombs, which can be entertaining.

Archers are perhaps the simplest class. Most of the time they stand around shooting arrows in a manner reminiscent of Legolas. They have three ways to modify their arrows; multi-shot, which sprays several arrows out at once, fire arrow, which explodes wherever it lands (think Rambo), and poison arrow, which drops a cloud of poison where it lands, slowly draining the health of enemies nearby. The abilities are all on timers, so once you've used one, you simply wait for it to be available again. They can also throw a kick at anybody who gets close. Their range and mobility make them fairly powerful. Their arrows are easily dodged, especially from far away, but Archers can zoom in on somebody and hit them with a headshot, causing massive damage. Mages are probably the most interesting classes, primarily because they can interact with friendly units in addition to enemies. Their main attack is a bolt of lightning. The damage isn't high, but by holding the button, you can charge up the attack, which allows it to chain up to two times. Their special attacks are also on timers. They can throw a fireball, which will create a deadly field of fire wherever it lands, and they can knockback nearby enemies with a shockwave. They can also heal themselves and friendly targets, and they can put up a large spherical shield that will protect anyone inside from ranged attacks. A mage escorting a group of archers and warriors by using the shield to protect them and heals to keep them alive can be extremely tough to defeat.

There are two single-player campaigns — one for Good and one for Evil — which have seven or eight missions apiece. Each mission takes somewhere around 20-30 minutes, and you'll make it through the whole game in 8 hours or so. It has three difficulty settings, so if that doesn't sound like a lot of time, bump the AI up a notch so you don't just breeze through it. The game draws heavily upon the movies to tell the story. A narrator (Hugo Weaving) provides background information while clips from the movies are show overlaying a map of Middle Earth. They're often stitched together in a way that suits the purposes of the game's plot, so if you're a diehard fan, there will be opportunities to nitpick. The first campaign focuses on the forces of Good, and it provides a rough outline of the story in the movies, with some liberties taken to add to the gameplay. You start out as a soldier in the battle for Helm's Deep. Your character takes part in a series of objectives — defending the walls, falling back to the main gate, saving King Theoden, then re-taking the wall and beating back the Uruk-hai. If you're familiar with the story, it will play out mostly as you expect. You'll stumble across some of the main villains, such as Saruman, Wormtongue, and a Balrog, and do most of the fighting yourself. Periodically throughout the campaign, you'll be able control the familiar good guys — Gandalf, Legolas, Aragorn, etc. — who are slight variations on the archetypes you've been using, but rather more powerful.

The Evil campaign is a new story, beginning with Sauron's recovery of the One Ring, and his subsequent rampage through Middle Earth. That's not a spoiler — they tell you as much going into the first mission. Most of the missions are like that; you'll go to a well-known location (such as the Mines of Moria or Rivendell), fight through a series of destructive objectives, and kill a major character at the end. There's no suspense, no drama, and the major Good characters are brought into the fray with little fanfare. That's not to say the campaign is without merit; several mission objectives are very nicely done. For example, when attacking Rivendell, at one point you're ordered to storm the buildings and burn all of the books, while the elves panic and fight back around you. It's a nice touch; it feels like something the Uruk-hai would do. Another mission has you razing the Shire — again, something completely unnecessary and completely in character for Sauron's legions. The hobbits don't put up much of a fight, and it has a very brutal feel.

Throughout both campaigns, you'll occasionally get to fight some of Middle Earth's more impressive inhabitants, like the Trolls and the leafy Ents. Melee classes can climb on the backs of trolls and perform a devastating attack to fell them. It's a good thing, too — best of luck going toe to toe with one. Later, you're able to actually take control of your faction's giants. It's fun to run around smashing things as a troll, but it gets old quickly, and other games have been doing it better for a long time. You can also ride horses and Wargs. You can knock people over by riding into them, or flail to the sides with your weapon, but you're much more likely to just fall off as soon as an enemy gets near you. Maybe Pandemic was simply erring on the side of caution with regard to game balance, but riding is awfully unsatisfying. You'll encounter the giant, tusked Oliphaunts carting invaders around. Neat to see, but ridiculously easy to defeat by tapping the series of button presses that show up on your screen.

The AI in LotR: Conquest is more comical than effective. As your mage launches his fire nuke at a group of enemies, they'll alertly shout "Watch out, Fire Wall!" while blithely standing in the fire and dying. Nearby enemies won't hesitate to walk into the fire and immediately die if it lies between you and them. You'll also see the occasional enemy standing around, facing the wrong direction and trying to decide what to do for far too long. The AI also isn't good at backing off for the sake of fun. Oftentimes you'll get knocked down and surrounded, then beaten to death without regaining control of your character. Scouts pick odd times to one-shot you, as will archers, which can be frustrating as well. When discussing balance, game developers often say "It's easy to kill the player." This game is proof of that. Members of your own faction aren't any more helpful; progress made fighting toward your mission objective will often be lost when you die, as your allies quickly crumble without you.

The art is a mixed bag. The maps are pretty enough, and it's cool to see and interact with places like Rivendell and Isengard. The scale doesn't seem quite right, though. Everything is smaller than it appeared in the movies, and places like the Mines of Moria and Helm's Deep don't have that epic feel to them. The character models look pretty good, but there isn't much variation between the generic versions. It can be distracting to wonder when that group of orcs or elves running toward you acquired cloning technology. The Balrog is very cool-looking, though. The music is, of course, fantastic; they've added sections of the movie soundtrack to the game, and they did an excellent job of timing it for objectives and victories.

The game has several multiplayer modes in addition to the typical deathmatch scenarios: Conquest places a series of flags throughout a map, and your team needs to control each point long enough to raise your banner there. Capture the Ring places the One Ring in the middle of the playing field, the goal being to grab it and take it to your enemy's base. There are also a limited number of larger units (i.e. trolls, Ents, horses, etc.) that players can control, but they are not noticeably more powerful. You have the option of running with a bunch of AI friends and foes to fill out the field of war. They don't have much of an impact, but it makes things look more like an actual battle. Melee classes seem to be at a slight disadvantage here — between typical online latency and the propensity for real players to move away, it can be very hard to actually hit anything. Scouts in particular have a rough time. Anyone who's played for a while can pick up the blur of a cloaked Scout, and it's almost impossible to backstab somebody who is specifically trying to avoid it. Given that missing a backstab leaves you exposed and vulnerable, you're better off looking for another target. There's also Co-op play, which can be more entertaining if you've got a friend or three to play with. Perhaps the nicest part is having teammates is that they'll know to peel a pesky Warrior off of you before you get killed. A coordinated group is very, very tough to beat. Unfortunately, the combat, while more frenzied, is even less forgiving to your character's recovery time after performing a move. Completely miss with that heavy attack? Time to respawn. Again.

LotR: Conquest relies heavily on the movies to establish its style. Perhaps too heavily; there's not much in this game that will surprise you or make you wonder what's around the next corner. If you're not a fan of Lord of the Rings or you don't particularly care for this type of action game, Conquest doesn't bring anything new that would change your mind. On the other hand, if you're a nut about the books or movies, and would like a light, quick romp through Middle Earth (without minding the liberties taken with the plot for the sake of gameplay), this will fit the bill. The environments, regardless of scale, are quite recognizable, and it's neat to participate in the same fights you've seen in the movie theater. If you were waiting for the One Game to do justice to Tolkien's universe... well, keep waiting.

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Review: Lord of the Rings: Conquest

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 19, 2009 @01:53PM (#26517891)

    that the game is as long and epic as this article. Wow.

    • by Miseph (979059)

      yeah, it took almost as long to read as the opening credits to Fellowship took to watch. I started a boy of only 12, and by the end I was ready to collect Social Security checks and eat Werther's Originals.

  • Great.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Monday January 19, 2009 @01:57PM (#26517945) Homepage
    Now a video game trilogy of people walking to a fucking volcano.
  • ...(without minding the liberties taken with the plot for the sake of gameplay),...

    Oh God! I'm still hearing about how there were no Elves at that big battle in the second movie! This game will cause a few heads to explode!

  • Meh (Score:1, Offtopic)

    Just give me Uncharted 2 already. Nathan Drake can kick Aragorn's ass.
  • Pffffffffff (Score:5, Funny)

    by segedunum (883035) on Monday January 19, 2009 @01:59PM (#26517967)
    Where's the Lego Lord of the Rings version?
  • Why 5/10? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DeanCubed (814869) on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:12PM (#26518131)
    This game review feels like a book report. Lots of "here's the game and the story", and very little "here's whats good and what's not". Other than sub-par AI, which is standard for most games of this nature, why doesn't the game work for you? From your description, it sounds pretty cool, with two full-featured story modes and multiple classes. Other than the AI, the only major drawbacks you mention are that the art is "lackluster" which I guess means that if you've played other medieval fantasy games you won't see anything new, and that the game won't attract people who aren't already LotR fans. So, are you actually using a 10 point scale properly, and saying this is a decent, average game? Or are you using the scale that most online review sites use where everything under a 7 is a horrible travesty?
    • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:23PM (#26518243)

      How many times did any of the fighters in any of the books use an attack that caused their swords to burst into flames?

      This is a generic fantasy game ... with LoTR tacked on in a cynical attempt at differentiating itself and appealing to LoTR fans.

      LoTR does not translate well into a FPS. It DOES translate well to an old style board game where you handle the strategy of the various groups. Not the individuals.

      • by nschubach (922175) on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:47PM (#26518493) Journal

        I was trying to figure that out. I lost interest in the game when they introduced the first combo move as Square, Square, Square, Triangle, Triangle, Triangle, Circle, Circle ... I was thinking, "WTF! I need a cheat sheet to play this game!" Then they got into the "special moves" where you have to hold the button for a period of time then hit the most inconvenient button on the controller afterward.

        Also, I admit to not reading the books, but were there assassins that could make themselves invisible?

        • There were elvish cloaks which had the ability to make the wearer nearly invisible. Mind you they were only worn by members of the fellowship and elves themselves.

          • Well, seeing how they were elven cloaks and not particularly amazingly rare, I'm sure many other elves wore them from time to time. :)
            • Actually, they were rare... they were the cloaks of the Elves of Lothlorien, the colour of Mallorn - the trees that grew there.

              So no, other elves did not wear them, the only other elf that did was Legolas of Mirkwood.

        • by WDot (1286728)
          I do seem to remember some short guy in the books (probably a kid) that had some hardware that could turn him invisible, but he couldn't kill for crap and he was always being harassed by this monkey-goblin.
        • by CannonballHead (842625) on Monday January 19, 2009 @04:07PM (#26519467)

          Assassins that could make themselves invisible? No, not really. People that could hide very well? Yes. There is no "Shadow Dancer" a la Neverwinter Nights in the LOTR books. What you had were little hobbits that were hard to see in the first place, and could walk without making noise (that's a lot easier to do when you're three feet tall and have hair all over your feet ;) ). You also had "magical" (usually Elven) stuff that would blend in with nature. Also, you did have the rings of power, and they did cause the wearer to become invisible... or at least, the One Ring did. I'm not sure if any of the others actually did that or not.

          Actual invisibility only occurs in the books when someone is wearing THE ring. Very-hard-to-see happens quite often with Gollum and hobbits.

          IMO, for the most part, the books don't describe extremely powerful people, other than a few of the elves, Gandalf, and a few of the Nazgul... basically, people with rings of power (Galadriel, Gandalf, the ring-wraiths, and Elrond all have rings). Very skilled warriors (Aragorn, Boromir, Faramir, Legolas, Gimli), very knowledgeable people, and a lot of "good luck" tend to be what makes the events possible, not so much having lots of level 50 fighters =P

        • by Anpheus (908711)

          " where you have to hold the button for a period of time then hit the most inconvenient button on the controller afterward."

          So I can play it with my Rock Band controller? Awesome.

      • My buddy has the original LoTR strategy game. We spent four hours setting it up once, only to realize we were missing one quarter of the pieces. We considered making them ourselves, but we ended up shoving the whole thing back in the box and decided it would be better if we never touched that game ever again.
    • It sounds like a basic LotR version of Dynasty Warriors. That whole series has its fans and detractors, and any game like it is likely to fall the same way with those individuals. Personally, I pick up maybe 1 game in that particular series for each generation of consoles and play it occasionally. It's enjoyable, but not something I pin my hopes on for hours upon hours of enjoyment all packed into a period of a week or two the way I might some other games.

      • by nschubach (922175)

        Dynasty Warriors was at least a fun button masher. This puts you through the torture of remembering specific button combinations for each class and the tutorial made you switch classes and made it sound as though this was a major part of the game. I could probably master one or two classes, but they are all different. (and not in a good way...) They all play as though a different team created each class from the controls up. At the end of the tutorial, you fight Sauran and he completely ignores everyon

  • by Vandil X (636030) on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:13PM (#26518139)
    The people who come up with these franchise cash-in games should be fired.

    Alas, they went with the guaranteed seller that will no doubt create an impressive revenue spreadsheet, netting the project manager a bonus and a shot at doing another cash-in game next quarter.
    • by PCM2 (4486) on Monday January 19, 2009 @03:32PM (#26519037) Homepage

      Well, look at it this way: It sounds as if this game is none too good or fun to play. But suppose it was? What if it had excellent game play, great art, good ideas, and was an all-around winner ... but wasn't based on a licensed property?

      Based on my very brief time working in entertainment software, competing for shelf space in stores is hell. Games are a cutthroat business, and not everybody has the kind of marketing dollars Microsoft has to pump into the latest Halo franchise. How excited is your average gamer going to be about a game that takes place in Yet Another Generic Fantasy World (and let's not forget -- most Generic Fantasy Worlds are basically ripped off from Tolkien)? A game that doesn't get noticed dies, and then what happens to the company that invested all the money to produce it?

      On the other hand, suppose you had the exact same great game, and instead of some generic fantasy setting, you were able to secure a Lord of the Rings license and skin the characters and the game world based on that franchise. All of a sudden you have automatic marketing. Your game is going to get reviewed. It's going to get noticed. Now it's a success.

      So cut 'em some slack. Making a bad game is not a crime, it's just nothing to crow about. But for every game that you call "cashing in," there are probably a whole bunch of designers and developers sweating and fretting and toiling away on something that feels (to them) like a Hail Mary pass.

    • It sounds rather like these people should be promoted no? What business doesn't want the guys who go "with the guaranteed seller that will no doubt create an impressive revenue spreadsheet"?
    • by drsquare (530038)

      The people who come up with these franchise cash-in games should be fired.

      Alas, they went with the guaranteed seller that will no doubt create an impressive revenue spreadsheet, netting the project manager a bonus and a shot at doing another cash-in game next quarter.

      They should be fired for making something that sells well and generates profit for their employer?

      I don't really know who you are to say what games people should and shouldn't buy.

    • by Zalbik (308903)

      The people who come up with these franchise cash-in games should be fired.

      Alas, they went with the guaranteed seller that will no doubt create an impressive revenue spreadsheet, netting the project manager a bonus and a shot at doing another cash-in game next quarter.

      So, apparently these people designed a "guaranteed seller that will no doubt create an impressive revenue", and yet should be fired?!?!

      Remind me to stay far away from any financial ventures that you choose to start up, thank you.

  • by twl1973 (877541) on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:22PM (#26518229) Journal
  • Dynasty Warriors 4 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Monday January 19, 2009 @02:48PM (#26518513) Homepage
    I think gameplay in line with Dynasty Warriors 4 and the Samurai one would have been great for LOTR, lots of tactical stuff, etc...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Sparton (1358159)

      Wait, there's tactics in that game?

      I swear all you did was mash the attack buttons to kill waves of minions, and when the story said "oh snap, shit's happening over here!" you damn well went that way if you didn't want to autofail the level.

      I'm not gonna lie, me and (some of) my buddies love to pick up that game and kill some idiot dudes... but I don't think I'd call that "tactics", even for a beat-em-up.

      • by Skuldo (849919)
        The Two Towers and Return of the King movie games were basically that, pick them up some time, they're good fun.
  • "If you were waiting for the One Game to do justice to Tolkien's universe... well, keep waiting."

    Or play lotro (www.lotro.com)!

  • by VinylRecords (1292374) on Monday January 19, 2009 @03:26PM (#26518953)

    Positives:

    - Lord of the Rings license

    Negatives:

    - every other aspect of the game

    Total Score: 5/10 based on the immense strength of the license.

  • Played it (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    it's o.k.

    I can see how playing this @ a LAN or other lag free environment would be fun multiplayer vs, or co-op is fun.

    The balance between classes is pretty cool, and they tend to synergize well, so a greased team can be tremendously effective. Scouts picking off mages, mages shielding troops from archer fire, archers breaking up groups, swordsman meatshielding / pushing forwards.

    Archer and mages are unable to guard against melee attacks, so it's pretty easy to hack them up with the swordsman. Most classe

  • If you are interested in hack&slash on horses with tactical elements Mount&Blade is your game. There are also tons of historical mods available. http://www.taleworlds.com/ [taleworlds.com]
  • Classics? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "Since both Star Wars and LotR are widely regarded as classics in their respective genres"

    You seem confused: Lord ot the Rings is a classic work of literature.

    Star Wars is a pulp science fiction comic made into a movie.

    No comparison

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Only nerds think LotR is 'classic literature'. To everyone else, it's an at-times decent story set in an absoutely sterile and emotionally dead world, written by a man who was better at scholarship than fiction.

  • DRM? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by partowel (469956)

    What kind of drm does this game have?

    3 install limit?

    Requires constant internet verfication?

    What is it?

    EA is DRM. Period.

    What kind of slave program is built into this one?

  • I was visiting a friend today and he showed me this game on his PS3. We played for an hour and a half, and I had a good time. Its definitely not true to the theme, as I played Aragorn and was killed numerous times by lowly orcs, and I killed three Oliphants as a plain warrior of Gondor, but the locations looked like the movies, which didn't bother me, and the enemies looked like the baddies from the movies. We plowed through the third and second last levels of the good campaign with only one attempt, we

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