Republished with permission of gamepeople.co.uk game reviews.
Adam Fast joins our resident family gamer team to bring his thoughts on Lord of the Rings: Conquest.
My experience with Lord of the Rings: Conquest from beginning to end was one full of disappointment and irritation. From the limited combat to the confusing and downright erroneous campaign structure, I was left frustrated and angry that a beloved franchise could succumb to such depths. Straying so far away from the original source material, Conquest is a wretched game devoid of any character or depth that would endear itself to any gamer. If you have a love of anything Tolkien then stay well away.
The very first moments of this game brought me back to a moment in 2001, where after many years of waiting, the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings unveiled itself to me on the silver screen. The way the New Line Cinema logo unfurled itself and the first few bars of Howard Shore’s fantastic score was a perfect prelude to the magic I was about to watch.
Fast forward to a few days ago and whilst that logo still has the power to hold me in place, the experience that followed it was everything that the films were not.
After a dicey prologue where I was instructed in the way of the Warrior, the Scout, the Archer, and the Mage, the game moved on – wait, let’s stop right there. Somehow it has become acceptable to have a common-or-garden magic class in a Lord of the Rings game. Saruman and Gandalf were certainly described as wizards, but I never remember them flinging fireballs or sending sparks of deadly lightning from their fingertips. It was so confusing that many of my family thought this was a bizarre Star Wars / Lord of the Rings crossover game.
What was even more confusing was the strange structure of the single player campaign. Starting off the game with the huge battle on Mount Doom is perhaps a little over-ambitious. Especially when the game itself can’t even hope to pull off such a grand event in a visual form. Moving from there to Helm’s Deep is fine and then progressing to Isengard all makes good, logical sense. But then going to Moria to defeat a Balrog that is seemingly different to the one Gandalf defeated in the films? What!? All of a sudden the game had taken me back in time, resurrected Gandalf the Grey, and sent me the task of killing trolls and a new Balrog, all with the help of Rohan soldiers. My family is not anywhere near the geek I am with Lord of the Rings lore but even they understood that this is not what happened in any book or film.
I can understand that Moria is a great environment for having a battle but why fabricate something like this when you have an awesome and exciting story already laid out by the films? It makes no sense at all.
After a break to cuddle some kittens and play cars with my son, I returned to Conquest hoping that I’d been a little too harsh on it. Yet the moment I starting fighting goblins again problems spat back at me like an angry camel. Not only was the narrative screwed up, but I found the combat getting increasingly more difficult and shallow. Getting caught by multiple enemies resulted in death far too many times, and it seemed that unless I chose the exact class for the level I was on, it would be impossible to get very far.
The final straw came when I had nearly reached the very end of a particular level where, thanks to a combination of my character glitching into the scenery and being unable to block any attacks, I was dead. Fine, all I need to do is respawn at a previously captured point and try again. But due to an outdated ‘life’ system which ends the game once you’ve used all your lives up, I had to replay the entire level again which had consisted of nearly an hour’s worth of play. In this day and age of videogaming that’s simply unacceptable.
I’ve heard many tales of people ripping out game discs from their consoles and snapping them in anger – and I’ve always thought that would never happen to me. After all, I’m known as Mr. Patience around these parts, but I came so close to snapping Conquest into as many pieces as I could that I gave myself a nose bleed.
In conclusion I’m afraid to say that Conquest had no redeeming features whatsoever for me and it has to be one of the worst current-gen games I’ve had to play. I was hoping for an epic and involving experience whilst the family sat back and watched with awe as I battled the forces of Sauron and liberated Middle-Earth. Instead, all they got was a very angry thirtysomething who foamed at the mouth and did his best to stop a never-ending barrage of curse words flowing from his mouth. All I got was elevated blood pressure.