The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is an action game developed by Pandemic Studios and published by Electronic Arts. It is based on the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and borrows many gameplay mechanics from Pandemic's Star Wars: Battlefront games. The game allows the player to play as both the forces of good and evil, and like The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, the latter option is based around Sauron stopping the One Ring from being destroyed and using it to regain his lost power.[1] On December 23, 2008, the PlayStation 3 demo was made available on the PlayStation Network[2] while the Xbox 360 demo was released January 2, 2009.[3]

Pandemic was aided by Weta Digital in developing the game. They provided many of their digital models, including the fell beasts. Pandemic also used elements that were cut from the films, and have taken inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien's original fantasy novel, such as a level based loosely around Balin's conquest of Moria, in which Gimli attempts to retake the dwarven city from the orcs. Some inspiration was less direct: the armies of Rohan and Gondor decide not to attack Minas Morgul in the novel, but a level in the game is based on what might possibly have happened if they had. The game uses Howard Shore's score to the films as its soundtrack.[1]

On Feb 16th 2010, EA announced that from March 16th 2010 the online multiplayer modes of The Lord of the Rings: Conquest will be shut down for PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[4]

Gameplay Edit

In the "War of the Ring" campaign, containing eight levels, the player loosely follows the major battles of the films with some additions such as Moria and Minas Morgul. In the "Rise of Sauron" campaign, the player controls the forces of Sauron in a reworking of the storyline set over seven levels.[5] In this alternative sequence of events, Frodo Baggins was corrupted by and failed to destroy the One Ring before being killed by the resurrected Witch-king, leading to Sauron subsequently conquering Middle-earth.[6] Both campaigns are narrated by Hugo Weaving, who played Elrond in Peter Jackson's film trilogy.

Competitive multiplayer modes include “conquest” (in which players must hold certain key locations of a map), “capture the ring” (in which players must take the One Ring, representing the more usual flag, to a certain location), team deathmatch and “hero deathmatch” (in which all players control main characters from the Lord of the Rings, each hero being far stronger than the normal classes). All four modes are based on Star Wars: Battlefront II gametypes. Up to sixteen players can play online, with eight on each team. Offline, up to four players at a time can play split-screen.[7] Cooperative mode is available for two players with either split-screen play or online play over Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. In the Nintendo DS version of the game, versus and cooperative modes can be played with the DS’s wireless ability. [8]

The game uses a class-based character system, similar to the system found in the game Team Fortress. There are four playable classes, barring heroes:

  • Warrior: A melee combat unit which uses swordsmanship. Unlike the other classes, whose special attacks recharge over time, warriors can only gain strength by defeating enemies, which allows them to unleash more powerful attacks with a flaming sword, such as spinning to hit every adjacent enemy. They are the only class that can block or perform counterattacks with special moves. The warrior also has a throwing axe as a secondary, medium ranged weapon.
  • Archer: A long ranged unit with a bow and arrow that plays like a third-person shooter. Different types of arrows can be equipped: fire arrows, which can knock down enemies and deal explosive damage; poison arrows, which slow enemies down and do damage over time, and the ability to fire a volley of three normal arrows at multiple enemies at once. They also have a kick for use in close-quarters, which knocks back the enemy. They can also hit stealthed Scouts with the multiple arrow skill. A headshot will allow the archer to kill most enemies in a single hit.[5]
  • Scout: A master in the art of moving unseen. The scout’s primary weapons are two daggers, and he has the ability to become temporarily invisible and assassinate units instantly from behind with a sneak attack. As a secondary attack, he carries satchel bombs filled with blasting powder as a ranged attack.
  • Mage: A mage's primary attack is a bolt of lightning, which can be charged up for a more powerful attack that can also damage other enemies in close proximity to the target. He also wields a “firewall” attack, which creates an expanding circle of flames that will heavily damage if not kill enemies who are within the circle. For close range attacks, they have a shockwave attack, which knocks enemies back and allows the mage to finish them off with his staff. Mages can also heal allies. For defensive purposes, a mage can create a magical shield around himself to protect anyone inside from ranged attacks of any sort, provided the attacker is outside of the shield, which allows people to walk through. While the shield ability is active, the mage is unable to do anything else and is therefore highly vulnerable to melee attacks.

The player can occasionally gain the opportunity to play as a Troll or an Ent, which are also used by non-player characters and, while far stronger than any normal class, are vulnerable to instantaneous kills by Warriors and Scouts through the use of Quick Time Events. Any class can ride a mount, horses for the Men of the West and wargs and Oliphaunts for Sauron and Saruman’s forces). Mounts are useful for quickly traversing large areas, but are highly vulnerable and a single hit against one will result in the player being knocked off. The player wields a sword when mounted, regardless of their class, and is only allowed to use basic attacks. Mounts also have the power to trample enemies when riding at top speed.

In the Nintendo DS version, gameplay features are greatly reduced. The Scout class is unavailable and mounts are non-existent. In addition, the playing perspective is isometric and only 6 maps were shipped with the game. All classes start out relatively weak, but fallen enemies will drop orbs that allow the player to power-up their current character’s attack power and speed, resetting after the player respawns. After a level is over, a post-game statistics screen will appear to show the player’s performance and to award them in-game achievements for their accomplishments (not allowing allies to die, for instance).[8]

Reception Edit

Template:VG Reviews

Reception for The Lord of the Rings: Conquest has been mixed, but the general response has been poor. The majority of reviews claim that the game lacks any of the epic feel of the movies or novel,[7][9][10][11] CVG commenting on Sauron’s appearance in the War of the Last Alliance tutorial as akin to a “Scooby-Doo villain” chasing the player while “you backtrack and shoot arrows into his face.”[12] Battles are criticised by many reviewers as being repetitive, becoming mere “hack ‘n ([sic]) slash scuffles.”[12] CVG also commented on the lack of difficulty in killing some of the larger enemies, such as trolls and Oliphaunts, slating the quick-time events that allow them to be killed with a single blow, making them lose all of their intimidation potential when fighting against them and making them “frustrating” to control in multiplayer.[12] Another common complaint is the “parody-style liberties” it takes with the Lord of the Rings license that would have “Tolkien break dancing in his grave.”[12]

Other reviews were even more critical of the game, Games Radar stating that The Lord of the Rings: Conquest lacked even “one redeeming quality.”[13] A common complaint was graphics well below modern standards, Games Radar likening the troll and Ent models to “claymation diarrhoea[14] and IGN stating that “friend and foe alike blend into one messy brown blur.”[7] Most reviews cited poor characterisation and plot, most often in regards to Wormtongue’s participation in the battle of Isengard. Another common source of annoyance was the in-game announcer, who “bellows” objectives and hints to the player incessantly.[12][9]

IGN criticised the “redundancy” of combat, stating that all four classes were essentially identical to play as, even between the two separate campaigns, and that heroes were merely “class characters on steroids.”[15] They also complained about the combat system as a whole, in that the player can “[slam] buttons and [see] no result.” Other reviews also mentioned combat as being unrealistic, one example being if the player falls from a high position they “won’t so much as buckle at the knee” which gives a “weightless, videogamey feel” that contradicts the “grand scale… of the universe.”[5] IGN did, however, praise the game for its “easily recognisable” locations, though said that the plot for the Rise of Sauron campaign could have been “stronger,”[10] while Game Informer believing that there is no story of any kind “outside of clips stolen from the motion picture.”[16][17] IGN commended the game’s musical score and claimed that “diehard fans of both online, class-based games and The Lord of the Rings” would enjoy the game,[11] a view not shared by some other reviewers who believe that fans of the books would be the most likely to hate it.[18] IGN also comments on the “universally bad” voice acting, specifically mentioning the impersonators for Aragorn and Gandalf.[7][15][11]

The game’s AI is often cited as another weakness of the game, IGN listing two glitches, such as an enemy boss walking off a cliff and “saving us the bother of having to defeat him in combat.”[7] Eurogamer stated that the player’s allies are “AI-impoverished,” stepping into the player’s line of fire “before sauntering off unscathed and oblivious,”[5] while Game Informer says that the AI appears to be “tripping on acid as they stare blankly at walls and sunsets.”[17] The lack of mid-level saves or a checkpoint system was also quoted as a weakness, forcing the player to restart a level if they fail to complete an objective.[19]

Balance issues with the game are commented on by reviewers as needing work, IGN saying that the mage class is “clearly overpowered”[7] and The A.V. Club believing that, due to the mage’s ability to heal himself, the class is “the correct choice 90 percent of the time.” The A.V. Club also stated that the scout class is “a griefer’s dream” in multiplayer.[20] The Official Xbox Magazine cites objectives where the player must hold a position for a certain length of time while being besieged by enemy forces, a common problem being that, if the player is killed, by the time the player has respawned, the location has been overrun before they have a chance to fight back. Many reviewers also complained about the lack of enemies on screen, CVG saying that the “cardboard cut-outs in the background” are the most exciting part of a battle.[12][18]

Multiplayer was regarded as a disappointment, the game’s servers “plagued by connection problems and lag,” even without the full sixteen players possible. They also cited a lack of bots as a weakness, the “wide, open levels [feeling] sparse and under-populated” without them.[5] The A.V. Club slated multiplayer as “glitchy,” sometimes placing the player “in a one-on-one match of capture the flag.”

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