Tuesday, February 10, 2009

20cc reviews: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Last week, I signed up to Gamefly. As reluctant as I am to actually pay money for something, I realized that the monthly charge is probably a better deal than the slightly ridiculous Blockbuster rental fees, and the library is substantially larger. So I got an account and ordered LotR:C to play with Biscuits. I was at first impressed with the game. It felt much better playing alongside a friend, and the game seemed more promising in a real level, rather than just the tutorial. The feeling didn't last very long, however.

Although it continued to be amusing, the game was too full of problems for me to enjoy it for more than five minutes before thinking, “Wait, how does that make sense?” The plot was a convoluted mess, that was not only inconsistent with the books and films, but didn't even hold true to itself. This became first apparent in the second level, when Gandalf kills Saruman during the destruction of Isengard. Then, at the beginning of the evil campaign, Sauron arbitrarily “resurrects” every evil hero that had been killed, including Saruman, the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, and the Witch-king of Angmar. He also summons Balrogs on several occasions, which should have been well beyond his power.

Of course, I can't focus exclusively on the plot, because then the review would be over, and you (anyone reading this) would be feeling betrayed and bitter. Or not. Regardless.

Ignoring the holes in the plot, the game actually managed to be pretty enjoyable. At least enjoyable enough that I felt like picking it up again after I had put it down. It did, however, have a somewhat rushed feel. This game, like Silent Hill: Homecoming, had been on my radar, slipped under it, and then released much sooner than I expected. Also like Homecoming, it suffered from the quick release. The campaign mode was very, very short. I picked it up late Friday night, and we beat the good campaign in a few short hours, went to sleep, woke up on Saturday, and beat the evil campaign in a few even shorter hours. Each level felt the same, and none of them had the replay value of Star Wars: Battlefront, Pandemic's magnum opus. I was interested enough to make it through the campaign, but I can't see myself ever going back.

The classes were interesting, but not particularly original. There's a warrior, archer, scout, and mage. The scout actually looked like the most noteworthy, but it didn't fit my play style well enough. You would have to talk to Biscuits about that. Otherwise, the archer felt slow, the mage felt weak, and the warrior felt overpowered. One thing that struck me from the demo was that the warrior is given a set of special attacks that cause his sword to glow with fire and give the player an absurd edge. Also, the enemy ranks are bolstered with the “grunt” class, which isn't playable. This seems to defeat the purpose of the Battlefront style game, in which the player is no more or less powerful than the enemy. Also, it meant that once I got to the point in the game when I was fighting real enemy warriors, it was infinitely frustrating that they block almost every attack I threw. It could take two minutes to defeat a single enemy. Biscuits also complained endlessly about how useless the scout's cloak ability was, even though enemy scouts seemed to become completely invisibly. In addition to the base classes, either side has a “vehicle,” for lack of a better term. For the Alliance, this unit is the Ent, and for Mordor it's the troll. The two play the same, with a heavy attack, a light attack—which is just as good for splattering little infantry units all over the ground—a health regeneration ability, and the ability to pick up enemy units, crush them, and then use them as projectiles.

Then of course there are heroes, which all felt exactly like the base classes, but with more health. Their special attacks were changed aesthetically, but not functionally. They are mostly modified warriors, except Gandalf, Saruman, the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr and Legolas. The three wizards are perhaps my favorites, because they combine the basic mage's spells with an actually functional melee attack. Of course there are a couple of super heroes (pun intended): Sauron and the Balrog, both of which are amazingly fun, just because they make people go splat.

In summary, the game is short, the replay value is nonexistent, the plot is scattered, the classes are broken, and the evil heroes include the Lieutenant of Barad-dûr, the Witch-king, the Balrog and Sauron. Make with that what you will, though since Gamefly asked, I gave it a 4 out of 10. Just don't hold me to that.


  1. For the non-existent people who share the same taste in games as I do, this game wasn't even fun to make fun of :P

    Though it was funny when the tree-man was too big to fit in the doorway and had to kill himself.

  2. They're called Ents, oh thee of little knowledge. Also, I can't be held accountable if Biscuits couldn't figure out the "get out" command, if there is one. Honestly, I never really needed one, now that I think about it.