Giant Bomb Review

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The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review

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  • X360

Frustrating combat and a half-hearted approach to the source material drag down EA's latest Rings game.

Orcs and humans apparently have the exact same character classes.
It must be a testament to the pull of the Big Movie License that even when The Lord of the Rings: Conquest was frustrating the hell out of me, I still wanted to like it. But that would have required looking past the awkward, occasionally buggy combat, repetitive mission goals, and bland presentation. And since the game reduces its rich source material to such a bluntly generic fantasy setting, even Lord of the Rings devotees would be challenged to ignore the lackluster mechanics and appreciate the scant fan service on offer. Sadly, the game just isn't that impressive on any level.

Conquest takes most of its cues from the Star Wars: Battlefront series, which developer Pandemic was also responsible for. It offers four basic classes--warrior, archer, mage, and scout--that fill in the melee, ranged, stealth, and magic needs of any medieval fantasy army. Every capable action hero from the movies (and some less-than-capable ones) also appears as a playable character at some point, each resembling one of the four basic classes with a few specialty moves tacked on. Gandalf and Saruman hurl lightning bolts like the mage. Aragorn and the Witch King have all the warrior's moves. Frodo and Wormtongue can go invisible and stab enemies in the back, scout-style. You might recall Legolas is handy with a bow. It's familiar stuff.

All of the battles have a linear A-to-B-to-C progression of objectives taken from a few stock categories, like capture and hold, perimeter defense, destruction of stationary objects, or kill this story dude. But the missions usually degenerate into simple attrition, with both factions throwing their reinforcements against the tide of battle until one side is beaten into submission. That works fine in the sort of team-based online games Conquest is derived from, but here you have a very limited number of lives and thus a limited ability to keep hurling yourself at the enemy in a brute-force attempt to break through. Run out of lives and you play the entire mission again.

At least the bigger battles are kind of exciting, sometimes.
Finessing your way to victory would seem like the obvious solution. But that's a tough prospect because the combat is too clumsy and unpredictable. It seemed like no matter what class I was using, I went from full health to dead in an instant several times a mission. In some levels a fell beast or catapult load will come out of nowhere and annihilate you. Another time, deep into a mission, one of Aragorn's lengthy combo animations took him straight into a bottomless pit. Enemies can run whole combos on you when you're on the ground, sacrificing most of your health in one instant. Once, I was even killed by arrows while stuck in a canned Quick Time Event, climbing up the side of an oliphaunt. When it's working as intended, the fighting is just average, but it can get downright infuriating when it all goes wrong.

The single-player campaign is split into two halves. The "good" side, the War of the Ring, loosely follows the major conflict arc of the films, taking you to Helm's Deep, Moria, the Pelennor Fields, and the Black Gate, among others. When you finish that campaign, Pandemic takes some creative license and has Frodo succumb to the power of the One Ring. Then the forces of evil regain it and begin backtracking across all those places you visited in the first campaign, with big 12-foot-tall Sauron the Bad-Ass stomping all over the free peoples of Middle-Earth and resurrecting his lieutenants one by one--so you can play as them, of course. Nevermind that he was just a disembodied presence, barely more than an idea in the original story; evil apparently needs not only a face but a big spiked mace to get the point across here.

(I know it's a little late to mourn the watering-down of The Lord of the Rings since the movies first started that process seven years ago, but with all the generic fantasy video game trappings going on--wizards running around hurling fireballs and heal spells, Aragorn's kinship with the dead reduced to a brief special attack, even Frodo Baggins backstabbing enemies like a diminutive ninja--it's hard not to notice what a typical Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy knock-off this game suddenly looks like.)

Sauron smash!
The one thing this game does get right is the epic scope of some of the battles. When you're out on the Pelennor Fields with siege towers and oliphaunts and hundreds of warriors shaking the ground around you, you can actually get caught up in the sort of frenzied battlefield intensity that marked the best combat sequences in the films. But then the oversize bounding box on one of those oliphaunts' tusks catches and kills you in one hit and you quickly remember: Damn, this game is annoying sometimes.

You'd expect Conquest to get better online, but adding human players doesn't alleviate the core problems with the combat; it just forces you to wield them against opponents smarter than the campaign's AI. And strangely, you lose most of that feeling of epic battle, since most of the maps remove the AI fighters and only feature the eight-versus-eight player roster--and the ones that do have any ambient action place the fighting outside of the area you can actually play in. The game offers the most basic multiplayer modes, anyway: control-point-based conquest, capture the ring, team deathmatch, and a TDM variant that only features hero characters.

Before Conquest, it had been long enough since Battle for Middle-Earth II that if you'd asked me, I might have thought EA's license for The Lord of the Rings had finally lapsed. It's still in effect, obviously, and of course I'm not privy to the exact terms of the contract--but if Conquest is indicative of the level of quality and care the company is willing to invest in LOTR-themed games, maybe it's time for them to let someone else give it a try.
63 Comments
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Posted by Babble

Nice review. Pandemic has been having some duds these days.

Posted by Psynapse

Booo.... i was hoping for a good review for this one... lucky i didn't pick it up!

Posted by norton123

Figures. Good review though.

Posted by natetodamax

Owned

Posted by cjmhockey

I was really hoping that this would turn out good, sadly that is not so.

Posted by pause422

Totally agree with your review, Brad. I found some of the gameplay a kind of dumb fun that was alright, just like a silly flash game you can somewhat have fun with that's kinda mindless, but not exactly good. Other than that, its a terrible game, with so many problems. The multiplayer is awful as well, so many balance issues, and lag coming into play.

Posted by Artimisticus

Heard it has some easy achievements for the achievement whores out there. Maybe i'll put it in my gamefly queue

Posted by Deusx

Brad, how can you be crying when you have the most BRUTAL BEARD EVER!

Posted by Bucketdeth

Yeah I was hoping for a good game, guess not.

Posted by jakob187

OMFG!!!  Brad's picture on there is so sad, like he just faced the great shame and disappointment of his life.  That picture alone makes me not wanna play the game.

BAD GAME!!!  DON'T HURT OUR BRAD!!!
Posted by PowerSerj

I was really looking forward to this game, having been such an avid fan of the Battlefront games. The demo immediately turned me off, though,  and subsequently crushed my spirit ;_;

Posted by ashton

i knew this game would suck
i wanted battlefront 3

Posted by oobs

they are EA now right? figures..they will churn out games like this more often now

Posted by Levi

It's kinda sad seeing this kind of quality out of Pandemic.

Posted by AspiringAndy

Agreed.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

I don't really blame the developers or anything, I think they just chose the wrong formula for Lord of the Rings. Had they stayed truer to the source, it would have required a VASTLY different game. This just isn't the sort of thing that lends itself to that type of game. Good news is BF3 is looking kickass. I didn't so much mind the demo, but I was worried about a few things, especially the boss battles (unless you stayed the fuck away from Sauron he just knocked you over every split second, you never really even got a chance to get up, alhough once I did get lucky and managed to get kocked back only a few times) and the repetition. While BF had been pretty repetative, it maintained a good honest fun to it, sort of like CoD4 that made it worth going back to play the same thing over and over. I enjoyed the combat in the demo though to an extent, although it certainly seemed like it would be short lived fun, and the only really enjoyable classes in my opinion were the archers or what ever and the mages, who gave something a bit newer then hack and slash crap, as well as just being pretty satisfying with the whole pulling off bow shot after bow shot and dropping orcs like crazy. I didn't like that the differect arrows seemed to be useless except the multishots as they didn't really alter anything as far as I could tell. Oh well, I can wait for BF 3 (assuming its still in production, which it fucking better be)
Good think I said no to this gamne when I saw all the outrageous and very non Lord of the Rings combat (Legolas gets to climb on live trolls, Gondor's soldiers, not so much, and what the hell, fire and poison arrows? And not everyone has freaky elvish abilities)
Too bad, I really enjoyed Two Towers and Return of the King (even with some brutishly hard shit in there) and was kinda hoping this would be decent when I first heard about it.
Good review.

Posted by RHCPfan24

Poor Brad. I would never play a game that disheartened Brad so much :(

Posted by Milkman

Uggh...what's going on, Pandemic?!

Posted by FiestaUnicorn

It made Brad cry!  THIS WILL NEVER EVER HAPPEN AGAIN!!!!!!!!

Posted by GTCknight

Pandemic really should have made Star Wars: Battlefront 3 and not this piece of crap of a game.

Now I'll just wait for Battlefront 3. Oh and luckly for me I didn't buy this game.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Sad. However, I can agree with all of Brad's points after playing the demo. There are so many cheap ways to die its not even fun.

Posted by Darro

The 4th paragraph in the review pretty much took the words right out of my mouth since the same stupid things have occurred with myself.  I was looking forward to this game since I enjoyed the Battlefront games and thought it would work in this universe but boy was I wrong.  Frustration and cheapness has spoilt that enjoyment for me and I feel the review is pretty much spot on.  Good job Brad.

Posted by Dimsey

Knew this wasn't going to turn out well from the demo. Doesn't sound like they fixed any of the problems I had with it.

Posted by gzl5000

Accurate review. This game is pure frustration.

Posted by TwoOneFive

good review, i thought you would cop out on this one lol. i thought the demo was actually funny, cause it was so bad. 

Posted by Double0hFor

im gonna hate to see brads 1 star picture if this one is so sad

Posted by PocketfullaButtholes

By the Nine Divine! The last screenshot looks like Oblivion.

Posted by DECA555

its good for some easy trophies 

i got the platinum in 2 days 

rent it 
Posted by Loupgarou216

The only Lord of the Rings game worth playing thus far is LOTRO. The fact that EA doesn't have their greedy, lore-destroying hands on it contributes greatly to this.  As soon as I heard about "mages" and the forces of evil winning in Middle-Earth the game was a complete write-off for me. Some things should just not be allowed to happen. I don't know wtf Tolkien Enterprises were thinking with this one.

Posted by Crono

damn... did this game rape brad?

Posted by MrMiyagi

That's really too bad. But the demo was frustrating.

Posted by Kazona

Man I was really hoping this game would turn out to be good because I would've loved to play it if it did. But after reading this review, I think I'll pass on it or at the most give it a rent.

Posted by HatKing

A shame because this game had potential to be so damn cool.  I bought it...I don't hate it...but it certainly isn't very good.  The battles...even the "big" ones don't feel as big as the battles in Star Wars Battlefront, the levels aren't nearly as big.

Posted by VirtuaXav

"Once, I was even killed by arrows while stuck in a canned Quick Time Event"

umm...LOL!

Posted by Maxszy

Good review! Too bad it didn't turn out better though. It had great potential, being in the LOTR universe and all. Pandemic is having some issues putting out quality lately it seems. Mercenaries 2 and now this? Ouch. Not sure precisely what else they are working on, but hopefully they can put out something a bit better.

Posted by theuncannygiraffe

I've never found a LOTR game I liked.... well, LOTR risk was kinda fun. :)

Good review, sadly sucky game. Ah well (I'm thinking I'll prob play the demo or rent this tho....sometimes its fun to see just how bad things can get!). lol
 

Is Battlefront 3 happening soon? I heard that they were cutting a lot of the awesome out because of the Free Radical problems....

Posted by Kohe321

"Sauron smash" haha awesome picture caption.

Very good review as always.

Posted by Death_Burnout

AGREED! This game i so, so terrible when it comes to the scource material, it's a disgrace to the licence. (the special moves make it a joke, particularly any warrior move)

And it made Brad cry, Pandemic what the hell is wrong these days huh?

Posted by Seram

I wonder if EA will ever stop being, like, suck. Yes, suck.

Posted by Duckbutter

this game so did not need a review. nobody after playing the demo was "on the fence" about it. i wish there was some way i could get this demo off the PS3 in physical form and then pee on it.

Posted by pepper

Pandemic really has to get their shit together. They are not putting out quality stuff at all these days.

Posted by oliver

Play the demo today and it sucks the bows feel like guns LOL and i can see it get very samey

Posted by Afroman269

Don't cry Brad, hmm I can't wait to see what Brad's one star looks like.

Edited by PJ

@GTCknight  - No Pandemic shouldn't have made SWBF3, Free Radical should have finished it. FR would have done a better job then Pandemic at it.

@

Posted by Meltbrain

Aw, that's a bit of a bummer, I was hoping for something middling to good for this game, but oh well.

Posted by Snail

IT'S ALL EA'S FAULT AND PANDEMIC'S FOR BEING THEIR SLAVES! STOP RUSHING YOUR DEVELOPERS EA! STOP IT! STOP IT PLEASE!

Posted by coffeesash

What you need is Sith Aragorn and Gimli :P

Posted by ImperiousRix

Being a big Lord of the Rings fan, I find this game can satisfy a certain dumb itch, and the online really isn't that bad.
I'd suggest if you're a fan, or like games like Dynasty Warriors but are tired of the same thing over and over again, give it a look.

Posted by Breadfan

I agree with ImperiousRix.  I bought this game and I like it for the most part.  There are a lot of random made up plot things in the campaigns, but aside from that it is a good game for anyone who is a fan of Lord of the Rings.

Posted by Jared

Ugh, I was hoping this would of been good, but after playing the demo I agree with Brads final verdict. If you guys want to play the best LOTR game out there then get Lord of the Rings Online. It's amazing game that is told using material from the books (Turbine) not the movies (EA and all the other LOTR games).

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