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Joseph Rositano
13 Feb, 2009

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review

360 Review | One ring to cause headaches for all.
One of Pandemic’s most popular games last generation was Star Wars Battlefront. While the game itself didn’t really do anything new for the third person genre, at the time it was a breath of fresh air as it allowed Star Wars fans to step foot on the battlefield in the shoes of regular stormtroopers. Since then the studio has been picked up by EA Games, which has lead to the Battlefront formula being reworked into a new Lord of the Rings game. Sadly, it seems Pandemic have lost their edge.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest features two single-player campaigns. One focuses on the heroes’ story as they battle the forces of evil in their quest to destroy the One Ring, while the other takes a more original approach and looks at how Sauron would rise to power had Frodo not destroyed the ring. Both stories are narrated by Hugo Weaving and are accompanied by clips from the Extended Edition DVDs – it’s all presented nicely and should appease anyone who had the slightest interest in the films.

Easy pickings for the fell beast.

Easy pickings for the fell beast.
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Right from the get go, the game has many similarities to Star Wars Battlefront. On the battlefield players assume the role of one of four different unit types – the warrior, mage, scout or archer. Each unit has their individual strengths and weaknesses, for instance, mages can cast powerful magic attacks, heal themselves, and protect allies from projectiles by creating a barrier. Despite their power they don’t have a strong defence, which means they can be killed by just a few hits. Scouts on the other hand, are more of a stealth unit and use their cloaking ability to sneak behind enemies and take them out with a single attack. Unfortunately, their overall attack ability isn’t quite up to scratch with other units, so they’ll be in trouble when surrounded by multiple enemies. It’s a lot of fun to experiment with the different units, and there are enough differences to suit nearly anyone’s play style.

At certain moments players will also get the chance to control a Hero character, ranging from the heroic Gandalf to the sinister Witch King. Sadly, there’s nothing really special about them; aside from the fact they have a few unique powers they are more or less a buffed-up individual trooper. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as it maintains a consistent balance and keeps everything realistic (unless you happen to control the Balrog, that thing is deadly). One thing that is disappointing is the lack of differences between factions. In other games the troopers of another faction normally control differently or have a unique trait that sets them apart. In Conquest however this just isn’t the case. The evil warrior units, for example, just have a darker costume than the good warrior units, which makes gameplay feel redundant after a while.

That still only counts as one.

That still only counts as one.
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Unfortunately, the game also feels like a button masher at times. AI opponents often rush at and surround you, and generally all you have to do is slash away until they’re out of your face. This fact isn’t really so bad by itself, but it’s more to do with the combat system. While each unit has its unique traits, the developers have incorporated a power-up system which utilises special ‘magic’ meters. Archers, for example, have meters which represent different arrows they can use including fire, poison and multi-shot. In contrast, warriors can set their blade on fire and perform an array of different slashes with their sword. Regardless of the unit, the special attacks are all coordinated on the X, Y and B buttons, and it just starts feeling repetitive during extended play sessions. Combined with the less than impressive AI, these small factors become irritating.

Despite all of the above, Conquest truly shines in its multiplayer modes. The single-player campaigns have you completing objectives such as defending or taking control over specific areas. In contrast, the multiplayer modes focus more on the battle as a whole. The modes in question are dubbed Team Deathmatch, Conquest and Capture the Ring. Team Deathmatch is by far the worst of these, as it again comes down to slashing away at opponents. On the plus side, the advantage of playing online is that people are more strategic which makes things much more appealing. The titular Conquest mode sees teams try to score points by capturing and securing bases. It’s a lot of fun coordinating raids on an enemy control point, giving support from afar as the archer or being sneaking and going invisible as the scout. The team who reaches the target score first wins the match. Lastly is Capture the Ring which is very similar to Capture the Flag. Instead of both teams having a flag though, there’s only one ring and your objective is to take it to the enemy command post. It’s worth noting all multiplayer modes can be played with bots and/or with up to four players via splitscreen multiplayer. Online, the game supports up to 16 players per match, and there is the option to play in private rooms if you don’t want to verse random players. During our play time, we found matches would occasionally be laggy, but generally they ran smoothly enough and caused no major problems.

Giddy up horsey! Ya ya!

Giddy up horsey! Ya ya!
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On the visual front Conquest is a mixed bag. Levels closely resemble locations and capture moments from the films adequately, which is always a good thing. On the down side, everything looks rough and isn’t as smooth as other games on the market. Character animations are also stiff; the game clearly isn’t pushing the Xbox 360 to its limits. Hell, there are even moments were the frame rate becomes a little jittery, it’s simply a disappointment Pandemic didn’t take the time to polish this. As for the soundtrack, you’ve got the films’ score playing in the background which captures some of the finer moments in battles. Sadly, apart from Hugo Weaving narrating the story, none of the films’ cast return to lend their voices to their respected characters, and what’s worse the replacements don’t even closely resemble them.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is by no means a terrible game. It can be a lot of fun if you’re a fan and has high production values in the form of clips and the musical score from the films. Sadly, it just lacks a final polish to make it stand out. The combat system is underdeveloped, environments and character models look rough and jagged, and there isn’t really a lot that hasn’t been accomplished in other games. Unless you’re a fan of the franchise and intend to play online, you’re better off giving this one a miss.
The Score
Despite having its moments, The Lord of the Rings: Conquest can only be recommended to die-hard fans.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Content

E3 2008: Check out Lord of the Rings: Conquest
15 Jul, 2008 10 screens to rule them all.
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest announced
08 May, 2008 Pandemic hard at work on another game.
6 Comments
5 years ago
I really like this game, I would have give it around a 7.5-8.
5 years ago
I am waiting for this to hit the bargain bins before I pick this up - I REALLY REALLY want this game ...
5 years ago
Yeah, I think if the price lowers considerably, I'll pick it up... the demo put me off :/
5 years ago
I would prefer battlefront 3 honestly
5 years ago
This game is not very good. 6.5 is generous.
5 years ago
I finished both single player campaigns last night. I quite like the game but it doesn't come close to the Battlefront games.
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  15/1/2009 (Released)
Publisher:
  Electronic Arts
Genre:
  Action
Year Made:
  2008

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