Synyster Graves

Lord of The Rings: Conquest

by on Jan.31, 2011, under Xbox 360

There’s something almost unnerving these days when you see EA plastered on the front of a game which isn’t a sports game. I usually carry on undeterred by this and remind myself about how much of a fan I was on Lord of The Rings: The Third Age on the Playstation 2. Lord of The Rings games have seriously been around the mill nowadays, I mean the inevitable release for each film being released came out and of course they also had a go with the real time strategy genre in the form of the two Battle for Middle Earth games. But this was different, this was more like a Dynasty Warriors style hack and slash game which you could pick up and put down at will, so I thought I’d give it a go.

With franchise games, you’re always slightly worried that it could stray significantly from the acutal point of the films and I was happy to see that the feel, graphics and music from the film was here too. You play a soldier of Gondor and you can select your class from a sword wielding warrior, an archer, a scout or a mage.

The tutorial when you start pretty much holds your hand for about fifteen minutes teaching you the correlation between pressing a button, and it hitting an orc with your weapon. Pretty straightforward, although I can see how may they need to cater for a bunch of idiots playing this game. And then they release you into the game, at which point you wish you’d actually started playing a decent game.

The most apparent thing immediately is how unbelievably awful the AI friendlies are. They are more stupid that words can descibe. They are sluggish, stupid and do not help you get any objectives whatsoever. They get in your way if your an archer and you spend the whole time shooting them in the back of the head as the inadvertantly provide a defensive shield for the Orc onslaught. The second thing you notice is how biased the enemies attacks are. The Orcs have the same classes as you except they seem to be twice as diligent. The Orc soldier class for example will block repeatedly and then kill you in pretty much one hit, but the blocking is also ridiculous as you can attack them from behind and they still manage to block your attacks despite being in their 180 degree blind spot. The archer does have some special arrows which are effective, providing you with a wide arsenal of attacks, if you can be bothered to wait about half an hour while it recharges. The mage can heal friendlies (not that thy actually do anything) and can fire lightning, but seems to have the hit points of a pink wafer. Essentially, every single class in this game is diabolically bad.

Oh great, another "one hit kill" enemy. Yeah that's fair.

The other massively important thing to note in this game is how ridiculously bad the combat is. Yes as a hack and slash game it doesn’t need to be more than mashing the X button and watching all the enemies die at your feet. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. Since the friendlies are about as much use as a sponge submarine, you are constantly overrun by enemies. In Earth Defence Force this is fine as you have a gun. In this you have a shitty sword and all your other attacks have to “charge up” before you can use them. But the fact which makes it appauling, is the fact that the enemies can hit you on the ground, like a Mortal Kombat juggle combo, and there’s nothing you can do about it, just lie prone face down taking a beating as if you’re a football hooligan surrounded by riot police. But this is senseless. Why would you choose to make it so that you can be hit on the floor repeatedly, yet cannot do it to your opposition? What were they thinking? And then comes the respawning time. In an offline single player game, the game will still continue while you’re respawning and choosing a new class. Online you can understand the need for continuation, this however is unforgivable.

If you can get over the CPU persistently cheating in combat, you’ll be pleased to know that you can be randomly killed with a one hit kill from a flying Fell Beast, like the Witch King in the movie. Since this is RANDOM, there is nothing you can do to prevent it, let alone combat it. It’s like the computer randomly decided that you should die, and does something about it. I cannot get it into my head how the game developers thought they would add that in and think people would respond well to it.

I think the biggest gripe in game is the severe lack of checkpoints. They are so far between each other and failing a level will cause you to restart that scenario from the beginning. There are no mid-level saves in the game and since you characters are all so weak, you will end up rifling through your lives faster than eating your cornflakes in a colinder.

The game commentary is annoying as there is a constant berating from a magical voice in the sky giving you perpetual orders and to be honest after ten minutes your thinking about switching sides or putting it on mute. Either way, it doesn’t help.

In co-op, the game isn’t any easier at all. As the game constantly batters you with a blitzkreig of cheap attacks and stupid objectives that entail ploughing into an insurmountable amount of enemies, you’re pretty much expected to win the entire war on your own. Remind you of anything? Medal of Honor perhaps, and oh look, that was an EA game too.

The scenarios to it credit are identical to the game, except for the fact that instead of defending properly like in the films, you’re left to do it on your own. For example, the Battle on the Pellenor Fields in the film had trebuchet catapults on the walls firing castles at the Orcs. In this scenario, it’s just you and a handful of warriors expected to take out two siege towers and a glut of Olyphaunts. Fair? Not at all. Once you complete the game you do get to play as the evil armies, which is quite entertaining, but not enough to save this game from being excruciatingly painful.

The multiplayer is where this game really does fail. The online community is pretty much dead, but even in local multiplayer, the deathmatch is painfully bad. You spend the whole time runnign about spamming other players with your attacks only to die repeatedly and you end up watching most of the match from spectator mode.

All in all, LOTR:Conquest is a horrendous game and both single and multiplayer modes are mind numbingly shite. The game feels rushed and the damage detection and balance are completely biased towards the computer controlled enemies. I suppose you could pick up a copy if you’re really a big fan of the films, but you’d be much better off getting one of the Battle For Middle Earth games or The Third Age, because Pandemic and EA have really taken their eye off the ball with this game. In a nutshell, it’s probably one of the worst games I have ever played.


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