The gaming community has been up in arms regarding LOTR Conquest. With many professional reviews claiming that it’s mediocre, and many consumer reviews claiming it’s very good, it’s hard to tell of what quality this game actually is. Hit the jump and read an entirely objective review on Lord of the Rings Conquest’s single player and multi-player modes.
When booting up the game for the first time, you will immediately recognize Howard Shore’s score from the movies. As soon as you select a mode within the main menu, you’ll be greeted by Hugo Weaving’s (Elrond of the movies) narration of the story, and immediately become immersed into Middle Earth all over again. If you wish, you can play this mode split-screen with a friend or online by private invite only. There is both a “Good” and “Evil” story in the single player mode. The good story must be completed first in order to get the evil story. The important thing to note about the evil side is that it is played as if Frodo never destroyed the One Ring. I won’t give away details of what exact plot elements you change from the movie, but expect The Fellowship to take a huge hit.
To add to the authenticity of the game, you will be greeted with a narrated intro and conclusion movie for every level, and they’re actual movie footage. Treebeard will be talking you through the battle in the Isengard level, and Gimli will join you when you raid the Mines of Moria. Vehicles translate into the game as Ents and Trolls, as well as ride-able Warg (Wolf) and Horse mounts. When you use Ents and Trolls, you actually become them, instead of riding on them. All in all, as short as it is, the single player experience is very fun. The only thing detracting from the single player experience besides the short length is the announcer. He shouts every battle command and is very annoying. For instance, when you start the Helms Deep mission he’ll shout “TAKE THE DEEPING WALL!” Don’t worry; you can turn him off in the options. In short, both stories aren’t long at all, so if you are thinking of getting this just for the single player mode, re-think your decision; you won’t be playing long (10 hours for both at max).
When you actually look at the game, you’ll notice the graphics are not exactly eye candy. Some are turned off by them, but they aren’t as terrible as you may have heard. While they’re not near the quality of Halo 3 or Gears of War 2, I don’t find the style hindering the gameplay at all. The environments are actually recreated quite nicely and the character models, especially the heroes, look well done.
This game is marketed as a single and multiplayer affair, so it’s important to look at both facets of the game to determine its worth. The bread and butter multiplayer mode of this game is called “Conquest”. Essentially the same as the main modes found in various games such as Battle Front, World of Warcraft’s Arathi Basin, or Savage 2, you have to capture certain vantage points (usually 4-5 total), to prevent the other team from spawning. If an enemy has a point captured, you must go inside a ring around the vantage point, and each team member inside hurries the capture timer. Each vantage point your team has in possession, you get points per second added to your total. The first team to 1000 points wins.
If your team reaches 500 points, the top player can choose to immediately become a Hero. If you are the second team to reach 500 points, your team still gets a Hero. The Hero depends on the map. For example, Gandalf is essentially a souped-up Mage with better melee capabilities, the Witch King is essentially a souped-up Warrior with a scream ability that stuns enemy units, and the Balrog is a souped-up vehicle unit. The Balrog works like a mix between a warrior and a vehicle Ent or Troll.The other 3 game modes are Team Deathmatch/Hero Deathmatch, and Capture The One Ring. Team Deathmatch and Hero Deathmatch are just battle royales, and the One Ring mode is essentially Capture the Flag.
You can choose from 4 classes when the match starts:
- Warrior – A very strong melee unit, with lots of health, and very little defense against ranged attacks. He has a ranged throwing axe that can stop a close Ranger or Mage in their tracks, due to the knockdown effect, allowing them to use their sword rush attack for an easy kill. They gain easy energy (essentially mana) by attacking others in combat. They can mount attack an Ent and Troll vehicle unit and do half damage with a back attack and a simple QTE (Read: Quick Time Event; where you have a few seconds to push a certain highlighted button, found in the God of War series).
- Scout – One word: Stealth. Played in a similar fashion to a Rogue in World of Warcraft, this unit gains energy gradually while not cloaked. Maximum cloaking time is around 30 seconds, and you can run at full speed with this on. You are not 100% invisible; the keen eye can spot you, but not likely in a heated battle. If you get behind a target, you can use a special back-stab attack, one hit killing your foe; even heroes. This back-stab is very effective on stationary Mages and Archers. Like the warrior, the Scout can mount Ents and Trolls, and do half damage with a back attack. They have limited close combat ability, and a mediocre limited ranged satchel explosive charge ability.
- Archer – They are hard to use, but very rewarding. Archers are capable of head-shots, which can one hit kill a Mage or Scout. They also have multi shot, which is very good at killing imposing Mages or Warriors, and uncovering stealthy Scouts. They possess a Fire Arrow, capable of knockdown and massive damage, especially on vehicle units. Additionally they have a Poison Arrow, which slows units down, and works very well on advancing units, setting them up for another Fire Arrow. All these abilities are on a short cool down timer. This is the highest risk-reward class.
- Mage – They are the overall workhorse of the game. Healer, ranged damage dealer, and defensive mechanism extraordinaire. The Mage has an AOE (area of effect) heal spell, which is essential to master if you want to be respected in a multiplayer game. They also have an AOE attack that pounds the ground, which is used primarily for stunning warriors that miss their combos, or uncovering a stealthy scout. They have ranged fireball, that leaves a trail of fire on the ground, which is useful for trapping some enemies in hallways, or defending against a rushing enemy. They have a ranged lightning bolt attack, which can be charged up (but not that often due to the time it takes) to attack multiple targets. All these abilities (except lightning) are on a short cool down timer. Lastly, Mages have a dome shield that can be used to stop ranged attacks from coming in.
In what is the first of the multiple criticisms I have with the game, Pandemic claimed that there would be up to 150 AI bots in multiplayer. That feature is not in the final build. That number is the amount of bots that are in offline mode. This is very disappointing. Here is the real question: “is the game still fun 8 versus 8 online?” I would contend yes. Even though it’s not as epic as the developer claimed, it’s still a very fun online experience. You will find a myriad of people, especially on the Xbox 360 version because of the popularity of Xbox Live. The game is very personal when it’s 8 versus 8, because you develop mini rivalries with other team score leaders throughout the match.
Keep in mind this is my opinion, and I know that 16 versus 16 would have been more desirable, but the maps accommodate the player limit very well. You really won’t notice that it’s only 8 on 8 because you will constantly be fighting over territory in Conquest, and the other game modes are based around “all combat, all the time.” The real breakdown on the bot situation, for anyone who is still wondering, is as follows: Campaign (offline and split screen offline) will have 150, instant action (offline and split screen offline) will have 32, and multiplayer will have 0, unless a spot on either team needs to be filled.
A lot of reviews have claimed that the classes are unbalanced, and that the Mage is much better than the other three. This is true to some extent. The Mage has a wide range of attacks, and is a “jack of all trades” if you will. However, he isn’t particularly good at one thing, and that’s his point. I would content that the Mage can be countered by a good Scout, or a smart Archer who keeps his range. A Mage is a sitting duck when putting up his shield, and a perfect target for a Scout’s backstab. Also people are forgetting this is a squad based game. Teams cannot succeed by compounding Mages. A good team will just switch to all Scouts, and run behind the slow Mages, killing them and taking all their vantage points.
Another criticism is coming from Lord of the Rings purists. Mages are extremely scarce in Tolkien Lore; Gandalf and Sauramon are it, in the time-frame of the game. Conquest, however, would have you believe that they are everywhere. Another factual inaccuracy is that some battles take place during a different time of day. I ask this question: “does this really take away from the gameplay?” Howard Shores’ magnificent score is still in-tact from the movies, and the battlegrounds are faithfully recreated. If you are a huge fan on Tolkien lore, and are buying those solely because you want to become immersed in a faithful recreation of the novels, be weary of your decision to purchase this game outright. Other than that, I don’t think many people will care.
If I were rating this game solely on the single player experience, I would score it significantly less. However, I haven’t heard of anyone playing these genres of games unless they were taking them online, so it’s not fair to ignore the main portion of the game when scoring it. If you love Lord of the Rings, by all means try out this game, you will probably like it. It will most likely go down in history as a mediocre game, but all the people who are enjoying it online at this moment would have never known.
Reviewer’s note: The Xbox 360 version was tested for this review
The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions are identical
The graphics are choppy, and sometimes you may experience a drop in framerate. The environments, however, are quite fun to play in, and well done
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The classes balance out rather well if you know how to use them. While the Hero classes and vehicle units are very fun to play with, there could have been more. The offline campaign also could have been bigger.
The sound is very well done. Hugo Weaving’s narrations add authenticity to the game, the clangs and swooshes of combat translate brilliantly, and Howard Shores incredible soundtrack bellows quality into your ears. The only problem with this game is the annoying announcer and a select few of the Hero voice actors, but it’s a very minor issue.
It’s an online game, plain and simple. The offline Good and Evil stories are essentially a tutorial. Both campaigns can be beaten in 1 very long day or 2 days of decent gaming. Online play, however, will keep you up all night if you let it. The Market Place is already shown on the main menu, assuring you that download content will be available at a later date.
A 7 is above average. Due to the single player being somewhat of a letdown, and the problems mentioned above, it is not a stellar game, and could have used more work. However, it is a ton of fun online, and 8v8 combat is more immersive than you think