It’s another year and time for another Lord of the Rings game. J.R. Tolken’s work has been immortalized in the movies, and now gamers can fight the glorious battles of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings: Conquest. Playing key battles as either the dark forces or the fellowship you vie for control of the lands to vanquish your opponents. The game isn’t tied to any movie release per-se but is obviously based around the movies; ultimately is the game any good, and is it worth spending your money on considering the current dry spell of games available.
Conquest lets you choose between four different character classes. You have your standard sword bearing Warrior, who is good for getting up close and personal and hacking the opposition in submission. The Mage is a support character who can heal allies and dish out ranged and close quarters attacks. The Scout is a stealth character who can cloak and stealth kill tough opponents. The Archer is your typical ranged attacker who proves useless in close quarters but excels from afar. Each class needs to be played differently to get the most benefit, if you wade in for example with the Archer class, then you’ll likely suffer an untimely demise at the hand of an orc or whoever. Knowing which class to choose for each situation is paramount to success, and luckily you’re able to change class at any time when near a friendly zone.
The gameplay is pretty much hack and slash as you attempt to conquer various key locations on the battlefields. You and your AI team must press forward and reach the capture points, hold the capture point for it to become your own. Once you gain a capture point, you’re then able to spawn from that location on the map. The general idea is to keep pressing forwards until you have secured all capture points and reached the final objective. There are some minor deviations on the theme, but generally this is the basis of the gameplay.
The enemies are a varied bunch, depending on which side you are fighting for. Not only will you encounter the basic grunt characters, but you’ll also come face to face with AI controlled Warriors, Mages, Archers and Scouts. Naturally these guys are tougher to beat and when surrounded by numerous foes, can prove to be quite tricky. There’s a tactic to use your AI team mates as support, which seems quite obvious, yet some AI problems means that you’ll often won’t get healed by supporting Mages, when you most need it. This does prove to be quite frustrating and can lead to you merely choosing a Mage character and sticking with it (healing yourself has its benefits).
There are times during the battles that you are able to take control of a hero character, which are the typical leading characters from the books/movies. These include the likes of Aragon, Gandalf, Saruman and The Witch King to name but a few. These characters have better attacking abilities than the standard classes and can make the difference between winning and losing.
Playing the game is pretty straight forward, with very few tactics involved, other than experimenting with the right classes for the tasks at hand. The only issues arise in terms of the actual combat itself, which can be quite unforgiving. The tougher opponents seem to be able to juggle you a lot and if you’re unlucky then you’ll spend a lot of your time on the ground unable to counter or do anything other than watch your character get tossed around like a rag doll. Then there are the incredibly stupid edges which lead to certain doom if you fall off them. These are scattered around the maps and whilst it’s easy to avoid them, often you’ll be performing a combo and your character will launch into the abyss mid-combo. It’s utterly poor game design and ruins any semblance of fun you might be having slashing away at enemies. It’s also quite hard to lock onto opponents at times, and sometimes you’ll want to unleash a combo onto the nearby Warrior, when you’ll actually hit the non-threatening group of orcs instead – leaving the Warrior a chance to unleash a juggle combo onto you which lands you into a pit of death…great. There’s some shoddy game design in Conquest which mars what could have been a semi-enjoyable game. If you are easily frustrated then these moments are sure to raise your blood temperature.
When considering a game of this magnitude, you have to expect that the graphics are not going to be the most detailed. It’s the same story for most free-roaming action games of this nature. There are some moments which look pretty decent, however for the most part the graphics are functional at best. The hero likenesses are quite good, and there’s some neat details on things like trolls. Generally the texture detail in the environments lets the game down in terms of being a graphical showcase for the Lord of the Rings. I guess the game is not trying to be, but still, a little more polish would have made the recognizable battle locations more appealing.
The game’s combat suffers the most in terms of graphics because the animations are few and extremely stiff. Perhaps a lack of frames or just a general absence of finesse make the combat not only look dated but feel it too.
A movie soundtrack is enough to remind you that you’re playing a Lord of the Rings game. With the over familiar horns fanfare when you complete your tasks, and the somber tones of an orchestral score as you battle away at your enemies sets the scene far better than the graphics do. The general sound effects are functional and as you would expect, with lots of repeated grunts and groans to paint your ears with the sounds of battle. The only real glimmer of expertise comes in the game’s narration between levels which has been performed in a professional manner and is very fitting to the subject matter.
Conquest is not the longest of games to complete and can be done so in a day of solid play. There are two campaigns to fight, and three levels of difficulty to choose from. Beyond the single player experience you can then set up your own team deathmatch modes versus the AI or better yet, take your actions online and battle others in ranked or unranked matches. With so many high profile titles still being played from last year, finding a decent game is probably more a challenge than anything the game throws at you. Either way, there’s enough to do here if you’re a fan of the series and don’t mind replaying the same stuff over and over. For anyone else, then you might feel a little short changed.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest is an average game at best, which could have been improved in so many ways – better graphics, more refined combat, decent camera etc. A distinct lack of polish really hurts, and as already mentioned, there are some moments which will have you hurling abuse at the TV or left in shock and awe at how poor some of the gameplay is. There are some moments that will lull you into a false sense of security that it’s not all bad, but these are far and few between. If you’re a fan of the series or a younger gamer then there is probably lots of enjoyment to be gained here. If you are not a fan and perhaps better acquainted with more depth, then this game is best avoided. Conquest is decent rental fodder for gamers looking for something new for an afternoon. Beyond this its appeal is very limited and drowns in a sea of similar action games.