Platform: PS3 (Also on 360, PC)
ESRB Rating: T
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Pandemic Studios
Review by: John Gustafson
There is no denying the cultural impact The Lord of the Rings had on the American public and world during its film release, and it is a no-brainer when it comes to translating that fandom to video game form. Over the years, LOTR has seen multiple game incarnations focusing on different aspects of the lore. The Lord of the Rings: Conquest seeks to emulate the major army clashes on consoles that were so expertly enacted on the silver screen.
It would be perfectly understandable for players to have a sense of déjà vu when they begin playing Conquest, as it essentially is a theme swap of the Star Wars: Battlefront games of last generation. Two armies lay siege to one another on a large battlefield with the winner completing a set number of objectives and scoring the required amount of points.
The campaign starts with the forces of good battling the armies of Sauron, reliving pivotal movie/book scenes. Troop load-outs consist of warriors, archers, mages and scouts. Fulfilling certain parameters will bring a playable “hero” to the fight until their health is depleted. Once the good campaign is completed, Sauron’s army becomes playable in an alternate “what if” scenario. Playable character sets remain essentially the same, as do the hero characters, albeit with a different presentation. The bad side is easily the better of the two, giving gamers a refreshingly new story to play. Yet, in the end there is little difference between the two armies and the classes play relatively the same.
Combat consists of limited attacks depending on what load-out players select, devolving into “hack ‘n slash” gameplay. Ranged combat and melee essentially fall into a button-mashing trap when enemies are around, and defeating major foes such as trolls is relegated to simple quicktime events. Further marring the experience, clunky melee combat leaves the player watching the character finish an animation before inputting the next command. Everything falls into a repetitive grind with little shaking up of the experience.
As with the Battlefront series, Conquest features a heavy focus on multiplayer. With 16-player Team Deathmatch (self explanatory), “Capture the Ring” (flag), and “Conquest” (territories/king of the hills), players compete in objective-based modes with friends or strangers. The nice departure from the terrible AI is unfortunately marred by connection issues, drops and regular lag.
Conquest’s presentation happens to be a mixed bag as well. The orchestral arrangements are taken directly from the films, connecting the game well with its source and delivering a rousing experience. Hugo Weaving’s campaign narration is also quite acceptable, but most of the voice acting is downright annoying paired with the aggravating announcer. The character models are easily some of the worst of this current generation with low texture resolutions and poor color choices.
Conquest is an acceptably average title. Fans will enjoy the bad guy campaign if nothing else than for the chance to rewrite the mythology, as well as seeing the battles come to life. As a whole, though, the title is a rehash of an old game with a new coat of paint. That is not necessarily bad, but there is not enough to differentiate Conquest from Battlefront.
For more info, www.pandemicstudios.com/conquest