“I love the smell of Hobbit blood in the morning. It smells like VICTORY!”
There have been a myriad of attempts to translate the Lord of the Rings universe into an interactive diversion. From Electronic Arts’ action/brawlers and later, their real time strategy efforts, to platforming in Sierra’s The Hobbit, J.R. R. Tolkien’s world has sought an appropriate medium. Pandemic Studios has found a potentially suitable genre, by creating a game that mimics the popular mechanics of their successful Star Wars Battlefront series. Lord of the Rings Conquest for the Xbox 360 and PS3 gives gamers the ability to play through two, eight-level campaigns as either the heroes or later, as the wicked soldiers of Sauron. Having the opportunity to slay helpless Hobbits may be incentive enough for some purchasers.
At the start of every battle, players choose from one of four basic classes: warriors are skilled at close quarter combat, archers have a powerful long-range attack, mages use magic, while scouts prefer invisibility and stealth. During pivotal moments however, player can choose from one of the personalities from the film; from Gandalf to Legolas. Additionally, players can ride trolls, horse, wargs, and oliphants, as well as control catapults and ballistae. As in most games with multiplayer player classes, some vocations are definitely more enjoyable that others. We found the projectile mechanics of the archer too simplistic, while scouts lacked personality. A large, yellow arrow ensures players are persistently directed to the next battle.
“Anyone hungry for fresh troll liver? I hear it goes well with a hearty merlot.”
Players use the left stick to move, while the right stick controls the game’s camera. The controller’s face button’s control basic attack, from sword swings to the mage’s healing spells. Sadly, the game’s combo system does allow not for interruption; players looking for a way to break a combo will feel frustrated by the simplicity of combat. Playing as Conquest’s baddies offers only a marginally different experience than directing the champions of Middle Earth.
Conquest offers three multiplayer game types: team deathmatch, conquest, and capture the one ring for up to sixteen players. Unfortunately AI bots are nearly brain dead, and do little to assist you in your quest for domination. Both CPU-controlled allies and enemies show as much intelligence as the typical Dynasty Warrior drone; making epic battles seems less than cinematic. Allowing two players to play through the two campaigns cooperatively helps alleviate this problem in the single player mode. We found the rare occasion of lag in sixteen player matches.
Flying the unfriendly skies.
Between interactive pieces of Howard Shore’s original score and Hugo Weaving’s excellent voice-over work, audio is one of Conquest’s high points. Graphically, the game sacrifices a bit of graphical sumptuousness for a solid framerate, which is a reasonable trade-off. Still, the developers at Pandemic did an excellent job of conveying the environmental splendor of Middle Earth, and really capture the visual design of the trilogy.
Fans of the Star Wars Battlefront games and Tolkien aficionados may feel drawn in like Gollum by the Lord of the Rings Conquest formula. While the two campaigns within the title are similar and a bit diminutive in length, the game’s multiplayer options proved enjoyable with a filled player roster. Fans of arcade-inspired brawlers may want to rent the title, to see if the action can maintain their interest level.