Review: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

John Funk | 29 Jan 2009 15:00
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The repetitious battles only seem worse when directly held up to scenes from the Peter Jackson films, which Conquest unfortunately does. Charging an impossibly vast army of Orcs in front of the gates of Mordor? That's pretty damn epic. Standing around outside the same gates waiting for the Orcs to come attack you (thoughtfully in waves of no more than ten at a time so that you can handle it - how polite)? Not so much. Remember that breathtaking scene in Return of the King where Legolas gracefully scales the massive Oliphaunt and brings it to the ground? In Conquest, it's become a simple Simon-Says quicktime event that any normal grunt can perform. I'm not even sure how the Mage is supposed to climb one of those things while wearing a glorified nightgown.

While the multiplayer is certainly a marked improvement over the lackluster single-player campaign, it feels like too little, too late. Since two of the game's four classes are entirely melee-based, large-scale fights often degenerate into a haphazard mess of wild button-mashing and ability-spamming. At least in Battlefront, you had the option to pilot some of the most iconic sci-fi vehicles of all time, from speeder bikes to TIE Fighters. In Conquest ... you get to ride a horse (or a Warg, but as with the classes, the difference is purely cosmetic). Nor is the horse particularly useful, since the controls are sluggish and you can get dismounted in a single hit anyway.

Part of the problem is that the formula that worked so well for a sci-fi third-person shooter like Battlefront doesn't translate perfectly to a swords-and-sorcery High Fantasy hack-and-slash, and it's likely that Pandemic knew that. It feels like they tried to compensate by adding bits and pieces from EA's (genuinely good) LotR movie tie-in games like combos, special attacks, and giving the player a limited number of lives instead of a finite amount of respawns for the team as a whole. Unfortunately, they just ended up with a game that feels inconsistent and stuck halfway between its two inspirations.

The goal might have been to take the best of both worlds from two wildly successful (and wildly entertaining) game series. Instead, LotR: Conquest just makes me want to go back and play the originals.

I'm not sure if the very idea of doing "Battlefront in Middle-Earth" was doomed from the start, or if the project went awry somewhere during the development process. One thing is certain, though: If you're looking for the One Game to Rule Them All, Lord of the Rings: Conquest isn't it.

Bottom Line: The entire game feels sloppy and phoned-in, the repetitious mission objectives turn Tolkien's epic War of the Ring into a bona-fide snoozefest, and the classes are largely unoriginal and boring to play. Don't even get us started on that announcer, either.

Recommendation: If you really want to see the Witch-King of Angmar get poked to death by a single lowly Archer, maybe you'll like Conquest. Otherwise, it's not worth much more than a (morbidly curious) rental.

John Funk actually went out to find his old copy of Battlefront after playing this game.

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