Developer: Pandemic Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Available on: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, DS
Reviewed on: Xbox 360
It’s been six years since the final film left theaters, but with seemingly nightly airings on cable, and Blu-ray versions due this year (not to mention a pair of “Hobbit” flicks in the works), it feels like “The Lord of the Rings” saga is far from over. Though it’s hardly fair that we had to wait so long for the best game inspired by the epic film trilogy.
In “The Lord of the Rings: Conquest,” Pandemic Studios take a cue from their “Star Wars: Battlefront” games and drop players directly into the epic battles from the “Rings” movies. Unlike the tie-in games released for “The Two Towers” and “The Return of the King,” “Conquest” doesn’t cast you as an all-star hero like Aragorn or Legolas, but instead as nameless warriors, archers, mages (magicians) or scouts in the various armies (though there are times when you get to be someone more famous). You’ll fight throngs of enemies as you carry out specific missions including defending or capturing locations and protecting or assassinating specific enemies.
“Conquest” offers better graphics and tighter controls than the “Battlefront” games, and also a deeper single-player story mode. Though it starts off retelling the epic “Rings” saga, finishing the game unlocks a second scenario that shows what would’ve happened had Sauron gotten his ring back and used it to battle his way across Middle-earth. This time you’ll join in as orc versions of the warrior, archer, mage or scout.
Not that multiplayer options are sacrificed for the sake of single player mode. The game allows online battles in modes like “Team Deathmatch,” “Capture the Ring” and “Conquest,” in which teammates must capture and hold points on the map. There’s even a co-op version of the story mode, though it’s oddly available only via split-screen, and not online like every other co-op game of the past three years.
“Rings” fanboys might find some quibbles with the game, and not just about the evil campaign. Some of the characters are tougher or better fighters than they were in the films, and only Hugo Weaving (Elrond) returns to voice his character, with the rest of the cast replaced by rather terrible imitators.
Still, those who find themselves watching the movies whenever they’re on cable are likely to consider “Conquest” a battle of epically good proportions.
Bottom line: Fans of the “Star Wars: Battlefront” games and “The Lord of the Rings” movies will find this quite precious.