Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review
Pandemic has had a little bit of trouble lately, however, before being set free into the dark and dangerous world of independence they managed to finish a game that goes by the name of Lord of the Rings: Battlefront. Fans of the developer’s previous work Star Wars: Battlefront will be right at home in this fantasy based rendition of the same class based game design.
Being a secret successor to the Battlefront name (now named Conquest, and in a totally different universe, but trust me they knew what they were doing) the game has a heavy emphasis on multiplayer as opposed to single player, which is clear with the ‘Multiplayer’ option being at top of the initial menu screen. Strangely enough I do not see why the developers were so confident, as the multiplayer experience I had enjoyed was one of frustration and annoyance.
The game revolves around the design of class based combat, requiring a careful balance on benefits and weaknesses to ensure that each class has enough room to shine, yet this can still be brought down hard, as no one likes an unstoppable killing machine. Warriors have increased defences and can rush into the middle of a fight, taking down foes with an expectation to soon fall. Archers do fantastic damage from ranged combat, but die very easily if struck. Scouts are the masters of moving in the shadows, fighting with melee weapons whilst having the ability of stealth. Lastly you have Mages, masters of area effect abilities and large scale damage, with the downfall of being weak against all sources of damage. All of this comes across as a nice selection of play styles, with acceptable advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately this falls apart when you realise that Scouts can creep up on you in stealth and remove all of your health in a single swipe, and Mages posses an area shield which reflects all damage (with no duration) and can casually heal themselves.
Whilst it can be argued that given the correct combination of classes and player ability it is possible to have tremendous battles of Helm Deep’s calibre. This is not a large budget movie, and the experiences found online have been that of sole Mages defeating waves of oncoming enemies, or the trusty Scout killing foe one after the other in complete silence. The joy soon ends when you encounter a brick wall, which can only be overcome by retaliating with a brick wall.
For what it’s worth the online portion of the game does hold a considerable amount of depth in terms of game modes and varied maps, with a quirky feature of being able to play as a ‘hero class’, when your own score is dominating enough. These hero classes can be anything from Gandolf to the Witch King, all possessing their own abilities of which can be extremely detrimental to the enemy. It did seem rather weird however that the winning team gained the ability to become all powerful weapons of mass destruction…
Jumping into single player (or co-op if you are lucky enough to have friends) tells a different story, two in fact! Playing through the game for the first time you will follow the story of the ring as it progresses to Mount Doom, upon completing this campaign you will unlock the second, which is a newly written story putting you in control of the enemy, in a strange twist that shows their victory. Nothing feels stranger and more fantastic than chasing down Frodo with a big axe and having permission to swing away.
The story follows a very simplistic design which quickly becomes extremely repetitive. To sum up the entire game you have a big yellow arrow which will be placed above your next objective to run to, which can be seen through walls and floors. Basically this arrow will keep moving until you have completed the level, so get running! Oh and sometimes you must defend the arrow before moving on so don’t always just run off, quick find that arrow! The problem with this is that you are playing multiplayer but in stages. You fight the same four classes, with one of the four classes you want to play as, over and over and over and…. You can literally stand still, kill a full crowd of them and watch more appear in a never ending magical birth. Whilst the balance issues from multiplayer are not present (because the AI cannot abuse balance like a human can), this does little to spice the repetition of using the same techniques to defeat the same enemies for hours on end.
Sticking with the downfalls of the game, it would be blind to miss the faltering graphical prowess of what I am closely considering calling last generation. Some aspects of environments and enemies (like the monstrous Oliphaunts) are well detailed with a high polygon count; however the bulk of the game is full of mediocre detail and bland wastelands. On the audio front the game dodges the same bullet by using many of the films dramatic pieces and pleasant voice acting throughout.
Through all the flaws, credit is deserved for creating a lengthy and detailed enactment of the book and movie. Whilst many aspects of the original story have either been removed or quickly skimmed over, the content covered will no doubt be enjoyed by fans looking to step in the shoes of heroes and enemies alike. Fans of the franchise may find enough nostalgia to hold them over, however, other gamers are unlikely to find the depth and polish that seems to have been misplaced. Star Wars: Battlefront stood ahead in a long list of rubbish Star Wars licences games, and it seems that this time around Pandemic have fallen on the wrong side of the fence, sitting amongst many poor Lord of the Rings licensed games.