Lord of the Rings: Conquest – THE REVIEW

Few series’ have had as many epic battles as the Lord of the Rings. From Minas Tirith to Helms Deep and from The Black Gate to the Mines of Moria, there have been swords slashed, spears stabbed and shields smashed. And now Pandemic has given us the chance to re-create these revered battles in Lord of the Rings: Conquest. In LotR: Conquest, the player will participate in the most famous battles of the series and then some, as either the good or the evil. But has it re-created the extravagant conflicts well?

In Lord of the Rings: Conquest, players take control of either the good (humans, elves) or evil (orcs) sides from the famed Lord of the Rings series. During the vast majority of the fighting done in the game (there is a LOT of fighting too) you will be playing as a run of the mill trooper much like the Star Wars: Battlefront series. The troops are broken up into four separate classes; the Warrior, the Archer, the Mage and the Scout. Each of the classes has its own distinct advantages and disadvantages that balance out the gameplay fairly well.

Conquest’s best mode is undoubtedly its campaign, a rare feat considering today’s multiplayer-driven gameplay and strange considering the game’s multiplayer-driven format. The War of the Ring campaign sees you take control of the good forces in an attempt to cast the ring into the fires of Mt Doom. This is fun for a while but it is something that was covered by the movie-game tie-ins. The Rise of Sauron campaign is a much more compelling option and you will feel a sense of morbid glee as you cut down wave upon wave of heroic men. The final scene in particular is disturbingly brilliant in its wickedness. Both campaigns use footage from the films to piece together the story, however the evil campaign once again reigns supreme by using the same footage in different orders which does an effective job of dramatically changing the events of the series.

The actual gameplay in Conquest is its main downfall. The combat is incredibly simple button mashing with very little in the way of combos which makes for a fairly tedious experience at times. This is not always the case though as some of the battles have a fantastic cinematic theme and it is exhilarating to take on hordes of enemy troops and become a hero. Yet these invigorating moments are all too often replaced by equally frustrating moments when you are left lying on the floor unable to return to your feet as you are maliciously stabbed to a gruesome, helpless death. The combat is engaging for a short period of time, after which it feels like a case of ‘been-there-done-that’ regardless of character class or battle scenario.

Another bump in the proverbial road is the AI of both your allies and your enemies. Your questionably named allies, which can only be defined as such because they look vaguely like you, will stand in your way, refuse to come to your aid and will vehemently attempt to destroy the first enemy that comes into their view, rather than protect you as you charge head on into a crowd of vicious looking orcs. The enemy AI is equally infuriating and comes across as feeling cheap on too many occasions. You will find yourself wailing upon tens of enemies at a time with ease only to be knocked down by a pot shot attack and then left stranded on the ground while your allies take their sweet time about helping you out. It is the same way that many wrestling games work, once you are down you will inevitably stay down until you die. Barring a miracle / ent of course.

Lord of the Rings: Conquest features some moments of absolute brilliance. Using Aragorn to charge right into a swarm of approaching orcs feels just as heroic as it looks and single-handedly felling Oliphaunts with Legolas is great to watch and play. One other major edition is taking control of ents and wreaking havoc upon the once intimidating enemies by any means necessary. And one of the best moments I’ve had in gaming for some time came when I was crushing Hobbit’s homes, children and dreams with a Balrog. It is these kinds of gameplay periods that really make Conquest a great experience but the likelihood is the not long after you are done beating down on your opponents like the metaphorical Government mule, that you soon be launching your controller towards the nearest solid object.

Once you are done with the campaign modes, the most obvious thing to do would be to try out some of the multiplayer. There are four kinds of multiplayer and they are all fairly standard with Hero Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, Capture the flag (Ring) and Territories. At the beginning of each battle, players will choose a soldier class, but once a team is a certain distance from victory, the top-scoring player is granted the possibility to take control of one of the hero characters which is a good incentive for players to ‘get amongst it’ and rack up some points. Although this can inevitably lead to situations in which the odds for the team without the Hero character become insurmountable. With support for up to 16 players there is definitely more fun to be had when playing with and against human controlled characters as opposed to the dodgy CPU characters found in the campaigns. However, when a group of opposing players decide to take advantage of some aggravating exploits to prevent you from getting close to your objective; it brings you back down to feeling as if you are playing the CPU once again.

LotR: Conquest sounds fantastic. Featuring an incredible soundtrack that mimics the movies’ majestic orchestral themes, it feels as if you are in the movies fighting a desperate battle at The Black Gate or storming Helms Deep. The cut scenes taken from the movies also add to this effect of immersion and the deviously crafted Rise of Sauron cut scenes will delight many LotR fans.

The Final Word
There are few licenses that can be as excessive or grandiose than Lord of the Rings without being perceived as pretentious. Fortunately, Conquest continues this theme with some splendid looking battles and cleverly crafted campaign modes. However, button-mashing combat and frustrating AI bring this game down to a more ordinary and disappointing level.

- MonsterVine Rating: Average

By Andy Jackson