Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review
- Posted January 19th, 2009 at 15:49 EDT by Steven Williamson
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The only thing epic about Lord of the Rings: Conquest is its musical score.
- The enjoyable LOTR hero segments
- The high-quality soundtrack
- The unbalanced and awkward combat
- The shallow gameplay
- The outdated graphics
Who can forget the moment when thousands of Saruman's Uruk-Hai swarmed toward the Rohirrim’s stronghold at Helm’s Deep and the mighty Gandalf led the charge downhill on his white steed full pelt into the black Orc masses? The Battle of Helm’s Deep from The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers was an epic big-screen moment that will long be remembered amongst Tolkien fans.
Admittedly, it’s an unenviable, verging on impossible task for any developer to try and emulate such an powerful scene as The Battle of Helm’s Deep, but anyone who does have the nerve to take on such a legendary fight, and indeed create a game using the much cherished Lord of the Rings license, should at least try and do Tolkien’s world some justice. Unfortunately, in Lord of the Rings: Conquest, the latest action game to be born from the famous brand, Pandemic Studios just hasn’t tried hard enough.
What Pandemic has done is take its existing Star Wars Battlefront series’ class-based system and thrown it half-heartedly into a Lord of the Rings setting, barely improving on its past formula. Lord of The Rings: Conquest is Dynasty Warriors meets Star Wars Battlefront meets a clumsy interpretation of the Lord of The Rings franchise. It’s a lackluster and mediocre attempt at recreating some of the most famous battle scenes from Tolkien’s universe and, much to our disappointment, it just hasn’t worked out that well.
LOTR: Conquest gives you the choice to play on the side of good or evil, offering two campaigns with alternative endings, but almost identical gameplay. Side with the good guys, the likes of which include Gandalf, Rohirrim and Aragon, and you’ll fight in the War of The Ring against the forces of evil as you partake in classic battles, such as Minas Tirith and Pelennor Fields. Side with the bad guys, however, and you’ll get the opportunity to slay elves and Hobbits in the guise of Sauron and his minions. On paper it seems like an exciting premise, but one should never judge a game by its design doc.
Knocking the living daylights out of Hobbits whilst in the guise of a troll or a giant Balrog certainly appealed to us more than playing as Gandalf, Aragorn or the barely menacing Ents (humanoid trees). So, we were disappointed to discover that we first had to play the campaign as the good guys before unlocking the evil crusade. Nevertheless, it was an incentive for us to mash our way through eight repetitive, unexciting and uninspiring levels in order to see what the dark side offered. Without that incentive, we would have happily given up within the first half an hour. Sadly, we discovered that it doesn’t matter which side you choose to play as because the majority of both campaigns see you pitted as one of four nameless classes as you partake in plenty of monotonous "kill whoever crosses your path" objectives.
The campaign revolves mainly around capturing points on the map and then defending them from the attacking hordes. It’s kill or be killed, as simple as that. You head toward a territory, indicated by a flag, and then you mash your buttons and rack up combos in order to kill the enemy and gain the plot of circular land. There’s a brief respite in the action before enemies lunge toward you once again as you're tasked with fending them off for a certain period of time, keeping them away and out of your circle until the status bar at the bottom of the screen changes color, indicating that you’ve been successful. The fights lack intensity. The backdrops are simplistically and sparsely designed, lacking the polish of many current-gen games, whilst the scale of the battles are meager when you compare them to the Peter Jackson's movies, with dozens of enemies on screen rather than hundreds. It just lacks the overall epic feel that we expected from the LOTR license, whereas the relatively small battlefields and twitchy combat make battles feel more like playground brawls than the intense, meaningful trade of blows we hungered for.
The basic class-based system doesn’t particularly make things any more interesting. Each of the four classes: Warrior, Mage, Archer, and Scout, has ... (continued on next page) ----