The Phoenix Network:
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Band Guide  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
Puzzles  |  Sports  |  Television  |  Videogames

Review: Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Lord of the bo rings is more like it
By MITCH KRPATA  |  January 20, 2009
1.5 1.5 Stars

VIDEO: The trailer for Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Lord of the Rings: Conquest | for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 | Rated T for Teen | Developed by Pandemic Studios | Published by Electronic Arts
When New Line Cinema released the first film in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation, the sentiment among fantasy fans worldwide was: "Please, please don't mess this up." But from the opening scene, an epic battle at the base of Mount Doom, you could almost feel the weight of millions of geeks' collective worry vanishing into the æther. I had the opposite sensation upon booting up Lord of the Rings: Conquest, the new video game that aims to let players participate in all the major battles in the Lord of the Rings canon. First, panic — "This can't possibly be this awful, can it?" — and then the sinking realization that, yes, Conquest really is that bad.

It's not that the game was ill-conceived from the start. The developer, Pandemic Studios, had been responsible for the well-received Star Wars: Battlefront duo, which mined similar territory within that fictional universe. I didn't play either of them, but given their healthy Metacritic scores and robust sales, Pandemic must have done something right. That makes it even harder to figure out what went wrong here. Lord of the Rings: Conquest botches so many rudimentary elements that I found it a trial to stay interested long enough to complete a single level.

The combination of sluggish controls and a terrible game camera is deadly. The battles are huge in scope, attempting to re-create the scale of some of the movies' most memorable moments. But the camera is locked in closely on your character and doesn't focus on immediate threats. For the most part, you have to control it manually, and your character is apt to be hit by some unseen foe behind him as you spin the camera around trying to figure out what's happening. The sweep of Jackson's carefully orchestrated battle scenes is replaced, in the video-game version, by an incomprehensible mess. In on-line multiplayer modes, especially, epic battles devolve into people chasing one another in circles, Benny Hill–style.

Basic combat is a button-mashing affair with a few combos, but since you can't lock onto a specific opponent, you'll find yourself flailing into empty space while Orcs hurl things at you from off screen. You can choose to play as one of four classes of character: the Warrior is your basic brawler; the Mage can heal allies and generate a magical shield; the Scout can turn invisible and assassinate foes; the Archer is a long-range threat. It's interesting enough to experiment with the different tactics each class offers, but it would have been better to have just one class that was truly fun to play instead of four that are pretty weak. On-line play is the only place it really matters which class you pick, but good luck trying to coordinate with a team of random strangers.

Conquest also showcases one of the more annoying design decisions in recent memory, a disembodied voice that shouts at you in an obnoxious, nonstop monotone about what's happening. The voice changes depending upon the species of your character: as a human, you hear a terrible American attempt at an English accent, but if you commandeer an Ent, you hear the sweet sounds of a marble-mouthed old tree with logorrhea. So is your character doing the talking? Unlikely, since he's constantly saying things he would have no way of knowing. It's bewildering, and maddening. The only respite is to turn off the game.

Related: Fallout 3: Operation Anchorage, Review: District 9, Review: Assassin's Creed II, More more >
  Topics: Videogames , Culture and Lifestyle, Games, Hobbies and Pastimes,  More more >
  • Share:
  • Share this entry with Facebook
  • Share this entry with Digg
  • Share this entry with Delicious
  • RSS feed
  • Email this article to a friend
  • Print this article
HTML Prohibited
Add Comment

Share this entry with Delicious
  •   REVIEW: ARMY OF TWO: THE 40TH DAY  |  January 27, 2010
    When I reviewed the original Army of Two , I found myself in the unfamiliar position of being the guy who liked something everybody else hated (as opposed the guy who hated something everybody else liked).
  •   REVIEW: BAYONETTA  |  January 12, 2010
    Here's the thing about Bayonetta : you have to take all of it, not just part.
  •   REVIEW: THE SABOTEUR  |  January 06, 2010
    When Pandemic Studios was shuttered on November 17, it seemed less another casualty of the economy than a mercy killing.
  •   WINTER WONDERLAND  |  January 04, 2010
    Do not adjust your calendar. Christmas has not been moved to March this year.
  •   2009: YEAR IN VIDEO GAMES  |  December 22, 2009
    At the end of each year, there's the temptation to identify a common theme among the games that were released.

 See all articles by: MITCH KRPATA

RSS Feed of for the most popular articles
 Most Viewed   Most Emailed 

  |  Sign In  |  Register
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
Copyright © 2010 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group