Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Game: Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Systems: PS3, Xbox 360, PC

Release: January 2009

Lord of the Rings: Conquest is the second game to bare my name in the credits. Mercenaries 2 was the first, and received a 3.8 out of 5. Will LOTR: Conquest score higher? Can I deliver another unbiased review? Will anyone actually read this blog? Find out more…right now!

LOTR: Conquest is the spiritual successor to the Star Wars: Battlefront series. When this was first revealed I was skeptical. How would a sci-fi third person shooter translate to the land of swords, arrows, and magic? Battlefront is a shooter with a multiplayer focus. There are classes, heroes, and tons of vehicles to wage war with across the galaxy. Conquest offers the same package with the Lord of the Rings universe. Just replace a galaxy far far away with Middle Earth, AT-AT with Ent, and you’ll start to get the idea.

The main differences between Battlefront and Conquest are the classes themselves. Battlefront is full of gun based classes where Conquest offers the Warrior, Mage, Scout, and Archer. All classes can take advantage of Trolls, Ents, and mounts scattered across specific levels.

Warriors are the powerhouses of melee combat. They are deadly up close, but lack any significant range attacks. Mastering this class involves knowing how to close the gap quickly. Mages are the most diverse class in the game. Their defensive abilities include healing and a bubble that protects allies from all projectiles. Offensively they can cast a 360 knockback (called You Shall Not Pass), chain lightening, and a fireball that becomes a circle on impact.
All this power means the Mage is weak against attacking melee classes, and can be taken out fast by archers when the bubble shield is not up. Archers will be the easiest class to pick up for Battlefront veterans. Multi shot, poison, and fire arrows are the tools of the trade. Aim for the head to get a one shoot fire arrow kill. Scouts are the other melee class, and have stealth abilities. This is a powerful ability that is enhanced with a back-stab move that kills foes instantly. Pandemic did a good job ensuring that the classes were well balanced, and once the learning curve is conquered the game illustrates surprising depth.

Well the classes sound very nice and fancy, but how do they play? Gameplay for Conquest is clunky in general—unlike the ultra smooth combat of say Ninja Gaiden II. Users are unable to interrupt an animation once it has begun. This means you will not be able stop that sword swing to block. The combat system also has some interesting features in regards to dominate animations. If two Mages cast the You Shall Not Pass spell, then whoever cast the spell first will be knockback. Both players will be damaged, but only one will be affected by the knockback. Jump attacks are utterly useless, and Ents/Trolls can out heal the damage per second of mages and archers. Melee classes, conversely, enter a tacked on quick time event that can take down a giant in two hits. No doubt some of these limitations are a result of the multiplayer features. None the less, the clunky gameplay will defiantly deter some gamers.

Conquest offers players two campaigns, and three game modes for sixteen player multiplayer action. The campaign is divided between Good and Evil. The former must be completed first to unlock the later, and both support coop. Players start off in Helm’s Deep and end up in front of the Black Gate in eight semi-epic confrontations. The Good campaign holds few surprises, but fans of the movies will defiantly enjoy the ride. The Evil campaign, however, presents an alternate story in another eight missions. The first involves Frodo submitting to the power of the ring, and the Nazgul actually kill him! After that Saruon is reborn and goes General Sherman on Middle Earth. For the last level players get to attack the Shire killing tons of hobbits along with Treebeard, and Gandalf—all as the Balrog if you have the skills. The levels consist of objective based battles where players must capture key points, bash in doors with battering rams, and/or kill off main characters like the Witch King. There is nothing spectacular about these levels. Fans of the Lord of the Rings may get a kick out of the movie like battles and alternate stories. Gamers looking for amazing combat and unforgettable experiences may be disappointed.

Luckily this game has a very unique multiplayer. I can’t think of any games on the current generation of consoles that utilize fantasy based classes. It’s a nice change of pace. All campaign maps are used for multiplayer. The three basic game types are Conquest, Capture the Ring, and Team Death Match. Conquest is your basic territories game. Controlling certain points will grant teams mounts and giants—Trolls and Ents. Capture the Ring is elfish for Capture the Flag, and Team Death Match is pretty self-explanatory. When a team reaches 50% on the score board they will unlock a Hero. There is also Hero TDM which allows players to have insane matches between Good and Evil. Seeing an army of Frodo’s decimating the Mouth of Sauron is ridiculously entertaining.

Lord of the Rings: Conquest is not an amazing game. It’s not trying to be the next blockbuster, but offers some really unique experiences and fantasy fun. It’s mediocre done well. Fans of multiplayer games and Battlefront who conquer the learning curve will have a blast. Others will enjoy the movie like battles and alternate evil story. Snerts Snazzy Score grants LOTR: Conquest 3.5 out of 5.

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