The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (video game)

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For the 1985 game, see Lord of the Rings: Game One.
The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring coverart.jpg
Developer(s) WXP Games (Xbox)
Surreal Software (PS2 & PC)
Pocket Studios (GBA)
Publisher(s) Xbox & PlayStation 2
  • WW Black Label Games
PC Game Boy Advance
Producer(s) Nick Radovich
Designer(s) Todd Clineschmidt
Programmer(s) Tim Ebling
Artist(s) Mike Nichols
Composer(s) Brad Spear
Platform(s) Game Boy Advance, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is a 2002 action-adventure video game developed by WXP Games for the Xbox, by Surreal Software for the PlayStation 2 and PC, and by Pocket Studios for the Game Boy Advance. The PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions were published worldwide by Black Label Games, a collaboration between Universal Interactive and Konami. The PC version was published by Black Label Games in North America and by Universal Interactive in Europe. The Game Boy Advance version was published by Sierra Entertainment in North America and Universal Interactive in Europe.

The game is an officially licensed adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1954 novel, The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although the game was released roughly a year after Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and several weeks prior to his The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, it has no relationship with the film series. This is because Vivendi held the rights to the video game adaptations of the novels, whilst Electronic Arts held the rights to the video game adaptations of the films. EA chose not to publish a game based on Jackson's Fellowship film, although they did incorporate some of the plot and footage into their 2002 Two Towers game, which was released at roughly the same time as Vivendi's Fellowship game.

The Fellowship of the Ring received mixed to negative reviews, with critics praising the fidelity to the source text but many finding the combat basic and repetitive and the graphics poor. Many critics also compared the game's depiction of Middle-earth unfavorably with the depiction seen in the films. Although it was a financial success, selling over one million copies, The Fellowship game was heavily outsold by EA's The Two Towers. Vivendi initially planned to make two sequels to the game, covering all three books in the trilogy, but the first sequel, called The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Isengard (a discarded title for Tolkien's The Two Towers book), developed by Surreal Software and slated for release in late 2003, was cancelled late in development when Vivendi deemed the game not good enough.

Gameplay[edit]

The Fellowship of the Ring is an action-adventure game played from a third-person perspective. The player controls one of three characters at various points in the game: Frodo Baggins, Aragorn, and Gandalf, each of whom has their own weapons and abilities.[6] Frodo is the only character who can jump, shimmy along ledges and sneak.[7] Only Frodo and Gandalf can push and pull items.[8] Gandalf is the only character who has access to magic, whilst Aragorn has the most health, is physically the strongest character and has more melee combat moves.[9][10]

Gameplay in the PlayStation 2 version of the game. Frodo fights Old Man Willow. His health meter is on the top left, his purity meter on the top right.

For combat, Frodo has access to three melee weapons at different stages in the game. Initially, he is armed with a walking stick. Later, he acquires a dagger, and finally, he can use the short sword Sting.[11] Frodo can also throw stones, and can turn invisible for limited periods of time by using the One Ring. Aragorn is initially armed with a longsword, but later acquires Andúril.[11] He also possesses a bow, and he can kick out at enemies. Gandalf uses his sword Glamdring and has several magical abilities, such as a fire attack, chain lightning and healing.[12] The player can also switch to first-person view at any time during the game. This can help targeting when Frodo is throwing stones or Aragorn firing arrows. Movement during first-person view is limited to strafing left and right.[13][14]

When playing as Frodo, there are two meters on screen. One represents his health; the other represents his "purity." As soon as Frodo puts on the Ring, he begins to draw the gaze of Sauron, and his purity begins to diminish. If the purity meter empties before he takes the Ring off, he will become corrupted, and the game will end. Once he removes the Ring, the meter will begin to fill again.[15] Gandalf also has two meters; health and magic spirit. As he uses magic, his spirit meter will begin to deplete. When it is empty, he can no longer cast spells. He can refill the meter by drinking miruvor. Aragorn has only one meter; his health bar.[16]

The game features a number of collectible items. Often, they are quest items necessary for progressing the story, but occasionally, the player can find health items; mushrooms for Frodo's health, cram bread and lembas for Aragorn and Gandalf, and miruvor for Gandalf's magic spirit.[17] The Xbox version of the game features secret areas in many levels, where special items can be found. The Ring itself helps guide the player to these locations as its on screen image begins to rotate when a player is near such an area. The faster the rotation, the closer the player is to the secret location. The Xbox version also features numerous side-missions absent in other versions of the game.[10]

The Game Boy Advance version is very different from the other three versions insofar as it is more RPG based, and is played from an isometric three-quarter top-down view.[18] The game features turn-based combat and at various points, all nine members of the fellowship are controllable, each with their own strengths, weaknesses and growth charts.[19] During combat, the player has the choice to fully control each member of their party (up to four), or instead, control only the main player character, and have their allies controlled by the AI.[20]

Synopsis[edit]

Background[edit]

The game is presented against the background of the history of the One Ring. At the dawn of the Second Age, after the defeat of the Dark Lord, Morgoth, the elves of Eregion forged the nineteen Rings of Power to help themselves, the dwarves and men rule Middle-earth. However, the elves were unaware that Sauron, Morgoth's closest ally, had survived his master's defeat, and in the guise of Annatar had been the one who taught them how to forge the magic rings, whilst, in secret, he forged his own One Ring in the fires of Mount Doom, a ring far more powerful than any of the others. Eventually, the elves realized Sauron's ruse. Sauron attempted to take possession of all of the rings, but the elves hid three from him. Of the other sixteen, he gave seven to the dwarves and nine to men in an effort to corrupt them. The dwarves proved relatively immune to the powers of the rings, acquiring only a greed for gold, and becoming unconcerned with events in the wider world. Men proved less resilient, and the nine kings given the rings become the nine Ring-wraiths, or Nazgûl, led by the Witch-king of Angmar.

Sauron consolidated his strength, but eventually a Last Alliance of Men and Elves waged war on his fortress, Barad-dûr, in the land of Mordor. The alliance was victorious, with Isildur cutting the One Ring from Sauron's hand. However, although presented with a chance to destroy the Ring forever, Isildur, already beginning to succumb to its corruption, chose not to do so. As such, although Sauron's physical form was vanquished, his spirit, bound to the Ring, survived. Some time later, Isildur was attacked and killed by a band of orcs, and the Ring was lost in the river Anduin for over two thousand years. During the Third Age, however, the One Ring was found by a Hobbit named Sméagol, who became utterly corrupted by it, living in the caves of the Misty Mountains, and physically transforming into a creature known as Gollum. For five hundred years, Gollum was consumed and corrupted by the Ring, as Sauron's strength slowly began to return. Eventually, the Ring passed to another hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, who used it to assist in the victory of elves, men and dwarves at the Battle of the Five Armies. Over the next sixty years, Middle-earth enjoyed peace. However, Gollum was captured by orcs, and taken to Mordor, where he was tortured into revealing the owner and location of the Ring; Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. In the meantime, Bilbo had left the Shire to live in the elven realm of Rivendell, and upon the advice of the wizard Gandalf had (very reluctantly) given the Ring to his nephew, Frodo Baggins. With the information given him by Gollum, Sauron, still unable to take physical form, thus sends the Nazgûl to the Shire to retrieve the One Ring.

Plot[edit]

The game begins with Gandalf (voiced by Tom Kane) visiting Frodo (Steve Staley). Gandalf explains the significance of the Ring, and that it cannot fall into Sauron's hands. Frodo suggests it be destroyed, and Gandalf explains only the fires that created it are powerful enough to do so; the fires of Mount Doom, deep in Mordor. As Gandalf cannot take the Ring himself, for fear it will corrupt him, Frodo volunteers to do so. An eavesdropping Samwise Gamgee (Scott Menville) volunteers to join Frodo on his quest and Gandalf agrees, telling them they must take the Ring to Rivendell and speak to the elf Elrond. He also tells Frodo never to use the Ring, as to do so will begin to corrupt him, and will draw the attention of Sauron and the Nazgûl. On the night of Frodo's departure, a Nazgûl arrives in The Shire looking for the Baggins' home. Frodo is able to evade the Nazgûl and heads to meet Sam, whom he finds accompanied by Peregrin "Pippin" Took (James Arnold Taylor) and Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck (Quinton Flynn). Much to Frodo's surprise they know about the Ring and Sauron, as they have been spying on Bilbo, Frodo and Gandalf for years. They vow to join Frodo on his quest.

With the Nazgûl in pursuit, the hobbits take a shortcut through the Old Forest. As they reach a large willow tree, Sam, Pippin and Merry suddenly fall asleep, and are swept up into the tree's branches. Frodo is then approached by a man, Tom Bombadil (Daran Norris), who tells Frodo the tree is called Old Man Willow. Tom puts Willow to sleep, and releases the hobbits. They go to his house, meeting his wife, Goldberry (Kath Soucie), who reveals Tom is thousands of years old, and has been in Middle-earth since the First Age. The hobbits spend the night, before heading to the Barrow-downs, where Sam, Pippin and Merry are captured by a Barrow-wight. Tom arrives, again saving the hobbits, and leads them to Bree, advising them to stay in the Prancing Pony.

In the inn, Pippin has too much to drink and begins to tell stories about Bilbo. Afraid that he will reveal too much, Frodo climbs on a table and begins to sing and dance. However, he slips, and the Ring lands on his finger, turning him invisible. An angry ranger takes the hobbits into another room, warning them they are drawing too much attention to themselves. He introduces himself as Strider (Daran Norris) and asks if he may join them on their journey. At this point, the innkeeper Barliman Butterbur (Daran Norris) arrives with a letter from Gandalf which informs Frodo that Strider is really Aragorn, a trusted friend. Attracted by Frodo's accidental use of the Ring, the Nazgûl come to Bree, but Aragorn successfully hides the hobbits.

They head towards Rivendell, stopping at Weathertop for the night. However, they are attacked by the Nazgûl. In an effort to evade them, Frodo puts on the Ring, not realizing it does not hide him from them. The Witch-king stabs him with a morgul-blade. Aragorn manages to fight off the attackers, but Frodo's blood is corrupted by evil. As they race to Rivendell for Elrond to heal Frodo, they are met by Glorfindel (Steve Staley), who gives Frodo his horse to get to Rivendell as fast as possible. Frodo crosses the River Bruinen and the Nazgûl attempt to follow, but the waves of the river, under the control of Elrond, rise up, washing the Nazgûl away. At this point, Frodo faints.

He awakens to see Gandalf by his bedside. Gandalf tells him that Saruman, the leader of the wizards, has joined Sauron. He also tells Frodo that Aragorn is not just a ranger, but the last surviving descendent of Isildur, and rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. They head to the council chambers, where Elrond (Jim Piddock) is presiding over a debate about what to do with the Ring. Aragorn says the Ring must be destroyed, but Boromir (James Horan), a man from Minas Tirith, disagrees, arguing instead they should use it as a weapon against Sauron. Gandalf says this cannot be so, as anyone powerful enough to wield the Ring would become as terrifying as Sauron. As the debate becomes heated, Frodo volunteers to take the Ring, and Elrond agrees, forming a company of nine; Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, a silvan elf from Mirkwood named Legolas (Michael Reisz) and a dwarf from Erebor named Gimli (James Horan).

They set out, and attempt to cross the mountain pass of Caradhras, but a snowstorm causes an avalanche, closing the pass. They reluctantly decide the only way past the Misty Mountains is to go under them, via the dwarven mines of Moria. In Moria, they fights off orcs as they pass through the chambers. Near the exit, they are attacked by a Balrog. Gandalf stands against it, defeating it by destroying the bridge on which it is standing. However, as it falls, it catches Gandalf with its whip, pulling him down after it.

The party leave Moria and enter the elven realm of Lothlórien, meeting Galadriel (Jennifer Hale), who takes Frodo to see the Mirror of Galadriel, where he sees images of the coming War of the Ring. She reveals to him she is in possession of Nenya, one of the three Rings hidden from Sauron. Frodo offers her the One Ring and although she is tempted, she turns it down, explaining that his resistance to its evil is because he has never tried to use it to control others or see into their thoughts.

The party leave Lothlórien via the river Anduin. Boromir tries to convince Frodo to take the Ring to Gondor to use it as a weapon against Sauron, but Frodo refuses. As they travel on the river, a Nazgûl riding a Fellbeast seizes Sam and carries him away. The party give chase. On the hill of Amon Hen, Aragon and Legolas slay the creature and rescue Sam. The party then continue their journey. The game ends with Galadriel looking into her mirror, noting that although the Fellowship has succeeded in getting Frodo close to Mordor, she sees him and Sam alone in the future, with Gollum following closely behind them.

Development[edit]

"We want to create an incredibly immersive, interactive and accurate representation of Middle-earth. Tolkien is very descriptive in his books, right down to the color of a leaf or the hair on a Hobbit's foot. That's both a blessing and a curse - it's great to have so much descriptive detail, but it also means we have to nail it or people will look at the game and say, "That's wrong." There's a huge responsibility to get this aspect of the game right, because I know there are fans out there who will count the number of stairs in Moria to make sure we got it right."

WXP Games co-founder, Patrick Moynihan[21]

The game was first announced on May 15, 2001, when Sierra Entertainment revealed it was to be released exclusively for the Xbox, developed by WXP Games, with some non-gameplay pre-rendered cutscenes to be made available at the upcoming E3.[22] Sierra were keen to emphasize that the game would be based wholly on J. R. R. Tolkien's 1954 novel The Fellowship of the Ring, and would have no connection to the upcoming Peter Jackson directed film adaptation of the novel. This was because Vivendi Universal owned the rights to Tolkien's literary trilogy, but Electronic Arts owned the rights to the film adaptations of that trilogy.[23] Vivendi's Fellowship game was slated for release early in 2002, and was set to be followed by an adaptation of The Hobbit, and shortly thereafter, adaptations of The Two Towers and The Return of the King.[24][25]

Originally, The Fellowship was set to be an RPG, but WXP felt this might alienate potential players, and as they wanted to attract as many people as possible to the title, including people who had never read the books, they decided to develop the game as a third-person action adventure instead. At the time, Frodo was the only controllable character, with the other members of the fellowship featuring as NPCs, although the player was to have the choice as to which character(s) to fight alongside at each point in the game.[21] The developers were working closely with Tolkien Enterprises to ensure any action sequences or enemies that moved beyond the plot of the novel kept with the general tone of the original narrative and were true to the spirit of Tolkien's legendarium.[21]

Discussing the technical aspects of developing the game for the Xbox, WXP co-founder, Patrick Moynihan stated "Our realtime lighting and character skinning systems are running on the GPU using vertex shaders. This allows for some really fast, beautiful lighting effects and smoothly blended character animations. Pixel shaders are being implemented to create special surface effects including some fantastic-looking water with real reflections and waves. The realtime shadows are coming along nicely, and we have some spectacular volumetric fog and particle system tools in place. All these technical features are working in harmony to create a stunningly beautiful representation of Middle-earth."[21]

On December 21, Vivendi announced that a Game Boy Advance version of The Fellowship would also be released. Developed by Pocket Studios, the game was to be called Lord of the Rings, Part I, and was to feature the full plot of The Fellowship and roughly half of The Two Towers. This would be followed soon after by Lord of the Rings, Part II, featuring the second half of Two Towers and all of Return of the King. Vivendi revealed little about the games other than the fact that they were to be more RPG based than the Xbox Fellowship game and would be played from an isometric three-quarter top-down view.[26]

In February 2002, Vivendi announced the Xbox version of the game would now feature three playable characters; Frodo, Aragorn and Gandalf, as well as multiple NPC allies and twenty-eight types of enemies. They also announced that the release date had been pushed back to late 2002.[27] Also in February, Vivendi revealed more about the GBA Lord of the Rings, Part I, explaining that it would feature turn-based combat, and all nine members of the fellowship would be controllable at some point.[19] During combat, the player would have the choice to fully control each member of their party, or instead, control only the main player character, and have their allies controlled by the AI.[20]

"There's obviously a strong inherent fan base in place due to the massive popularity of the books. With the release of the Fellowship of the Ring movie, it's apparent that there is also a new generation of Tolkien fans who have emerged from that. Our aim is to immerse both the longtime fan of the novels and new Tolkien fans into Middle-earth. While the movie and its spin-off games are unable to cover all of the main key points found in the narrative, our game will contain them. Creating a game based on the actual narrative vs. a movie script means that the end result will be a much closer fit to the original. In other words, our game will give the complete story, true to the narrative, whereas the others may not."

Surreal Software lead designer, Todd Clineschmidt[28]

At E3 in May 2002, Vivendi announced that the previously Xbox-exclusive Fellowship of the Ring game was also going to be made available for PlayStation 2[29] and PC.[30] Vivendi also announced that Universal Interactive would be taking over publishing from Sierra, who were instead going to be working on The Hobbit game slated for release in 2003.[31] The PlayStation and PC versions were not being developed by WXP, but by Surreal Software. However, as with WXP's Xbox version, Surreal were working closely with Tolkien Enterprisers to ensure the game stayed within the parameters of Tolkien's fictional milieu. A non-playable demo of the PS2 version featured combat from the Weathertop and Moria levels.[32] The PlayStation and PC versions were using a modified form of the game engine Surreal used for Drakan: The Ancients' Gates.[25] Also at E3, it was revealed that the GBA Lord of the Rings, Part I had been renamed The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, and would now only cover the first book. However, Universal Interactive emphasized how faithful an adaptation of the novel it was by showing footage of Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow, characters usually cut from adaptations.[33]

In June, Universal Interactive continued to push the fidelity of the game on all platforms by revealing the voice actors would be reciting over 5000 lines of dialogue taken verbatim from the novel. They also explained that as in the novel it is mentioned there are 200 steps at the entrance to Moria, so in the game, there are exactly 200 steps.[10] When GameSpot's Gerald Villoria previewed the Xbox version, he wrote "Each of the characters has been painstakingly modeled to accurately represent what was envisioned during the trilogy's writing. The hobbits appear well proportioned and not so much like short humans, while the orcs look quite noticeably like Tolkien's orcs and not like those that have been popularized over the years by Dungeons & Dragons. The magical aspect of Middle-earth also appears to have been re-created faithfully - besides Gandalf's personal abilities, the magic of the elves is also represented, such as the summoned frothing water horses at the ford at the River Bruinen."[10] Previewing the PlayStation 2 version, he wrote "Although the game is by no means a replacement for reading the books, those who have only watched the movie should look forward to seeing a vision of Tolkien that lies much closer to home."[25]

In August, Vivendi announced the game would no longer be published by Universal Interactive, but was now to be published by the newly created Black Label Games; a label which, according to CEO of Vivendi Universal, Ken Cron, "will focus on delivering innovative, high-quality titles to satisfy the growing consumer appetite for increasingly sophisticated content."[34] The first playable versions of the game were shown at the ECTS in August, with the Weathertop level from both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions made available. IGN's Douglass C. Perry again discussed the game's fidelity to the source novel, and, speaking of the competition between Vivendi's Fellowship and EA's Two Towers, wrote "the game looks to fulfill the dreams of diehard Tolkien fans who demand that their Tolkien be accurate to the books. The larger levels, various character changes, and attention to story detail will prompt buyers to weigh their decisions heavily before laying down their money on one or the other Tolkien games."[35] In September, just prior to the release of The Fellowship, Vivendi reiterated that more Middle-earth games would be coming soon; the already in development The Hobbit, the two sequels to Fellowship (both of which would feature online multiplayer) and two newly announced games; The Lord of the Rings: Middle-earth Online and The Lord of the Rings: War of the Ring.[36]

Cancelled sequels[edit]

Although the planned Hobbit game, Middle-earth Online and War of the Ring were all ultimately released, the two sequels in the Lords of the Rings trilogy were not. The first game, an adaptation of The Two Towers, was renamed The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Isengard (a discarded title for the original Two Towers novel), so as not to cause confusion with EA's 2002 Two Towers game. Treason was first announced on April 24, 2003, with plans for a non-playable demo at E3 in May. The game was being developed by Surreal Software, who had handled the PlayStation 2 and PC versions of The Fellowship. Vivendi planned to release the game under the Black Label Games banner on Xbox and PS2, which had seen the highest sales of the Fellowship game.[37][38] Vivendi also hired Daniel Greenberg, a self-professed Tolkien fanatic, to work on the game.[39]

At E3, a non-playable demo was shown. Following the mediocre critical reaction to Fellowship, Surreal had built a new game engine from scratch. Additionally, the rigidly linear gameplay from Fellowship was replaced with a mixture of both linear and non-linear levels. Vivendi also announced that a secret playable character could be unlocked in the game, but only if the player performed very specific actions. They refused to say who the character was, however, saying only "The secret character is not Gandalf, it's actually cooler than him." The demo featured a level set in Fangorn Forest, with Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli fighting a group of Uruk-hai and orcs. In total, apart from the secret character, the game was to feature six playable characters; Aragorn, Gimli, Legolas, Boromir (in a flashback level), Sam and Gollum. Another new feature in the game was that the player-character often switched mid-level, adhering to the main point-of-view of the given moment in the novel. Multiplayer co-op was also available, and online multiplayer was said to be in the works. The character models were not the same as those used in The Fellowship, with considerably more detail for each character.[40] In July, Vivendi revealed that Treebeard had been added as a playable character.[41]

However, on September 12, Vivendi announced that both The Treason of Isengard and the Return of the King games had been cancelled. The official reason given by Vivendi was that Treason "was not shaping up as strongly as anticipated and would likely not satisfy the expectations of Tolkien fans."[42] Vivendi reiterated that The Hobbit, Middle-earth Online and War of the Ring were all still on schedule. Andrew Shiozaki, senior brand manager of Vivendi Universal, commented that "it was determined that The Lord of the Rings: The Treason of Isengard was not going to achieve the strict, but crucial, standards for our Tolkien games. With that, the decision has been made to cancel this title and focus on the remainder of the Tolkien lineup." The game had been slated for a November 2003 release, and upon its cancellation, Surreal declined to comment.[43][44]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
GBA PC PS2 Xbox
Eurogamer 4/10[53]
Game Informer 5/10[54] 3/10[55]
GameSpot 2.1/10[56] 5.7/10[57] 5.5/10[58] 5.7/10[59]
GameSpy 1.5/5 stars[60] 2/5 stars[61] 1.5/5 stars[62] 3/5 stars[63]
GameZone 7.4/10[64] 8/10[65]
IGN 6/10[66] 6.5/10[67] 7.5/10[68] 6.7/10[69]
Nintendo Power 2.8/5[70]
Official PlayStation Magazine (US) 3.5/5 stars[71]
Official Xbox Magazine 7/10[72]
PC Gamer (US) 68%[73]
Aggregate scores
GameRankings 48.06%[45] 56.62%[46] 62.31%[47] 59.84%[48]
Metacritic 51/100[49] 59/100[50] 59/100[51] 59/100[52]

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was met with mixed to negative reviews. The Game Boy Advance version holds aggregate scores of 48.06% on GameRankings, based on twenty-two reviews,[45] and 51 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on eighteen reviews.[49] The PC version holds scores of 56.62%, based on twenty-one reviews,[46] and 59 out of 100, based on sixteen reviews.[50] The PlayStation 2 version holds scores of 62.31%, based on thirty-two reviews,[47] and 59 out of 100, based on nineteen reviews.[51] The Xbox version holds scores of 59.84%, based on forty-six reviews,[48] and 59 out of 100, based on twenty-three reviews.[52] In 2014, IGN included the game in their list of the "5 Worst Lord of the Rings Video Games."[74]

The Game Boy Advance version was generally considered the weakest version of the game. IGN's Marc Nix scored it 6 out of 10. He was especially critical of the combat; "enemies get the jump on you with the first attack, and since there can be several enemies on screen, it can take a long time for your turn to come up. Then you have to watch every swipe of battle, which all begin and end with the characters taking a LONG walk across the screen to attack and then retreat - just the time that it takes for sprites to rotate back into the ready position is enough time for you to lose interest." He concluded "this first chapter of The Lord of the Rings is a rough start for the journey."[66] Matthew Kato of Game Informer scored it 5 out of 10, saying it realized "the fear of every Lord of the Rings fan – the reduction of Tolkien's literary genius into something not worthy."[54] GameSpy's Avi Fryman was even less impressed, scoring the game 1.5 out of 5. He was heavily critical of the graphics, writing "all of the character art in this game is atrocious." He also found the game buggy, writing "I wonder if it was even tested prior to its clearly rushed release."[60] Even more critical was GameSpot's Frank Provo, who scored the game 2.1 out of 10, writing, "the range of interactivity is so low and the action is so infrequent that Frodo's quest to Mount Doom is reduced to nothing more than a trivial errand. What's more, the entire game is so unpolished and full of bugs that it's unfathomable how it ever passed quality assurance in the first place."[56]

IGN's Steve Butts scored the PC version 6.5 out of 10. He praised the game's fidelity to the novel and commended its inclusion of characters such as Tom Bambadil, but was critical of the truncation of the narrative, suggesting players unfamiliar with the book or film would not be able to follow what is happening. However, he did argue "the artists here have done a really excellent job of creating a world that's similar enough to be familiar but distinct enough to stand on its own."[67] GameSpot's Andrew Park scored the game 5.7 out of 10, writing "thanks to Fellowship of the Ring‍ '​s limited gameplay, only true Tolkien enthusiasts will enjoy the game for very long." He concluded "the game generally looks and sounds quite good, but unfortunately, it just isn't that much fun to play, thanks to its control and camera problems, along with its occasional crashes and lack of an autosave feature."[57] GameSpy's Avi Fryman scored the game 2 out of 5, and was critical of the overall gameplay, the controls, the camera and the lack of an autosave, although he did praise the graphics and voice acting.[61]

IGN's Douglass C. Perry scored the PlayStation 2 version 7.5 out of 10, writing "the inclusion of chapters from the book skipped over in the movie, and the general variety of missions, spread out over the large landscapes work to its favor. That, and the moderate amount of adventure elements help to create a sense of exploration and wonder, which goes a long way in a Tolkien-based game." However, he was critical of the lack of an autosave feature, the implementation of the Ring, which he felt was completely optional, and the combat system, which he called "basic and repetitive." He concluded "what this game has that the EA game doesn't have - chapters, characters and events from the book - is important to a Tolkien fan, and it warrants playtime [...] but without this license, this game is very, very average."[68] GameZone's Michael Knudson scored it 7.4 out of 10 arguing "the game has a lot of potential, but a few gameplay quirks ruin it." He concluded "this game will only suit hardcore fans of the J.R.R. Tolkien series."[64] GameSpot's Brad Shoemaker scored it 5.5 out of 10 calling it "an average adventure game with a high-profile license attached" and saying playing the game can "sometimes be difficult, tedious, frustrating, or any combination thereof, and it isn't fun nearly as much as it should be."[58] GameSpy's Bryan Stratton was extremely critical, scoring the game 1.5 out of 5, and comparing it unfavorably with the film; "the reason that the movie worked was that Peter Jackson knew what to keep from the book, what to fast-forward through, and what to cut altogether. Fellowship doesn't have the benefit of so capable an editor."[62] Andy McNamara of Game Informer agreed, scoring it 3 out of 10 and saying, "There are so many things wrong with this one, it's hard to decide. For one, the story is delivered with all the emotion of a grade school play. This wouldn't be such a bad thing, if the gameplay weren't absolutely abysmal."[55]

GameZone's Michael Lafferty scored the Xbox version 8 out of 10, writing "the essence of the fantastic adventure is there, and while the game does chart an extremely linear path through the lands of Middle-earth, there are enough challenges along the route to enable players to joyfully experience the urgency and terror of the journey."[65] IGN's Kaiser Hwang scored it 6.7 out of 10. He was critical of the combat, the enemy AI, and how the plot was handled, saying the game moved too fast through scenes such as Gandalf's imprisonment as Isengard. He concluded "the book itself is very non-linear in format and can be very hard to translate into an effective game without leaving some of the detail out. But to reduce to the story to almost childish levels is not what I had in mind. Didn't we learn that from 1978's Lord of the Rings animated movie?"[69] GameSpy's Steve Steinberg scored it 3 out of 5, arguing "the actual gameplay takes a backseat. The die-hard Tolkien will get a kick out of slugging and spell-casting their way through the first book of the Rings trilogy, but the casual gamer will only be disappointed by an otherwise generic action/adventure title.[63] GameSpot's Brad Shoemaker scored it 5.7 out of 10, writing "even the blessing of Tolkien Enterprises isn't enough to save the game from its bland design and tedious gameplay." He called it "an average game at its best and a frustrating and boring one at its worst."[59] Eurogamer's Kristan Reed scored it 4 out of 10, comparing it unfavorably with EA's Two Towers game; "EA shames Vivendi's effort for presentation and general slickness. In general, the whole package looks and feel years out of date." He was heavily critical of the inability to invert the camera controls, which he referred to as an "industry standard option" in third-person games. He concluded "this has "licensed toss" written all over it. The goal was "to create the most authentic Lord of the Rings game experience possible." Quite honestly, Melbourne House's 1985 text adventure had more going for it."[53]

Sales[edit]

The game sold over one million copies across all platforms and was a commercial success. However, it was heavily outsold by EA's The Two Towers game, which sold over four million copies and got considerably better reviews.[39]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]