The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (video game)
|The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers
|Developer(s)||Stormfront Studios (PS2 & Xbox)
Hypnos Entertainment (GC)
Griptonite Games (GBA)
|Distributor(s)||New Line Cinema|
|Genre(s)||Action, Hack and slash|
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is a 2002 action/hack and slash video game developed by Stormfront Studios for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox, by Hypnos Entertainment for the GameCube, by Griptonite Games for the Game Boy Advance and by JAMDAT for mobile. A version for Microsoft Windows developed by Ritual Entertainment was cancelled during development. The game was published by Electronic Arts. In 2003, EA released a sequel, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
The game is an adaptation of Peter Jackson's films The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, released in 2001, and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, released shortly after the game in 2002. As it is not an adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien's 1954 novel, The Two Towers, the second volume in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, anything from the novel not mentioned or depicted in the films could not be represented in the game. 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 exclusively on Jackson's Fellowship film, instead incorporating some of the plot and footage into their Two Towers game, which was released at roughly the same time as Vivendi's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring game, an officially licensed adaptation of Tolkien's novel The Fellowship of the Ring.
The Two Towers received a generally positive response, with critics praising the re-creation of sets and scenes from the films, and the epic scope of some of the battles. Some, however, criticized the game for being too short and the combat overly repetitive. The game was a huge financial success, selling almost four million copies, and heavily outselling Vivendi's Fellowship game, which sold just over one million.
The Two Towers is a hack and slash game played from a third-person perspective. For most of the game, the player is free to choose whether to control Aragorn, Gimli or Legolas. One level, however, Weathertop, can only be played with Aragorn. Isildur is also a playable character in the tutorial level which begins the game. All subsequent levels can be played with any of the three characters. Often, the two characters not chosen as the player character will appear as supporting NPCs. Upon completing the game with all three characters, the player can play through any level with an unlockable secret character, Isildur. In the Game Boy Advance version, which is played from an isometric three-quarter top-down view, the playable characters are Aragorn, Legolas, Gandalf, Frodo and Éowyn, with Gimli available as an unlockable character once the player has completed the game with two other characters.
The game features levels either taken directly from scenes in the The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers films, or based on elements in the films. For example, the levels during the defense of Helm's Deep are very similar to the corresponding scenes in the film, but a level in Fangorn Forest in which the player fights orcs, Uruk-hai and trolls is original to the game.
Although all three characters have different weapons and combos, their basic fighting style is the same. Each character has a quick attack which does minimal damage and can be easily blocked, and a fierce attack, which does more damage, but is slower and leaves the player vulnerable to attack. Only fierce attacks can break enemy shields. Each character also has a ranged attack, a "killing move" (which can be used to instantly kill downed enemies), a parry (which can deflect enemy attacks), a knock back (which pushes nearby enemies away), a jump back (in which the player character jumps back away from the enemy) and a devastating attack (a charged fierce attack). Combos are an important part of combat, with each character having access to a unique list of combos, which are achieved by stringing specific button presses together. Additionally, each character is more skilled at a particular type of combat; Gimli is the strongest melee fighter, Legolas is more deadly at ranged combat, and Aragorn is a more balanced character, offering strong melee and ranged attacks.
Combos, as well as health increases, and stronger ranged and devastating attacks must be purchased between levels in the skill upgrades screen. During each level, the player will be continually graded on the skill with which they dispatch enemies; "Fair", "Good", "Excellent" and "Perfect." The more skill with which the player kills, the more experience they acquire. The player's skill is measured by an on-screen meter which increases as the player dispatches enemies. To avoid the meter dropping back down, the player must avoid being hit and kill enemies using a variety of different methods. When a player reaches a Perfect level, all of their attacks increase in strength, and the experience from each kill is doubled. However, Perfect status only lasts for a brief period of time. At the end of each level, the player is then given an overall rating based on their performance, and awarded the corresponding number of upgrade points to spend on new combos and stronger attacks. The better the player has performed during the level, the more upgrade points that will be made available. Certain upgrades only become available for purchase once a player has reached a specific experience level.
In the GBA version, each character has fifteen active and passive skills that can be unlocked and upgraded as the player gains experience. One of the active skills, for example, is "Summon"; Gandalf summons an eagle, Aragorn summons either Legolas or Gimli; Legolas summons Gimli; Frodo summons Sam, and Éowyn summons Éomer. Passive skills include the ability for Aragorn to wield two swords at once, to hit enemies with his shield, and to throw his sword at nearby foes. Legolas can gain a quickdraw skill, as well as the ability to shoot multiple arrows at once. Every time the player grows in level, they can attribute points to strength, accuracy, health, defense, and courage. Additionally, Frodo has the ability to use the One Ring to turn invisible, but he can only do so for a certain amount of time before attracting the attention of Sauron. The game also features co-op multiplayer through the Game Boy link function.
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 power 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 left the Shire to live in the elven realm of Rivendell, and upon the advice of the wizard Gandalf, Bilbo 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, sent the Nazgûl to the Shire to retrieve the One Ring. Frodo, and his friends, Samwise Gamgee, Peregrin "Pippin" Took and Meriadoc "Merry" Brandybuck managed to escape the Shire and make it to Bree, where they encountered the ranger Strider, an alias of Aragorn, the last surviving descendent of Isildur, and rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. Aragorn vowed to protect the hobbits on their journey to Rivendell.
After a tutorial level in which the player plays as Isildur during the Battle of the Last Alliance, the game begins with Aragorn (voiced by Viggo Mortensen) stating "I am Isildur's heir. Not Isildur himself. My fate is my own." He then rides to Helm's Deep where he awaits the attack of Saruman's army of orcs and Uruk-hai. Atop the battlements he tells Éowyn (Carole Ruggier) of his encounters with the enemy prior to his arrival. Shortly after he first met the hobbits, the group stay at Weathertop for the night, but are attacked by the Nazgûl. Aragorn successfully drives them off but not before Frodo (Elijah Wood) is stabbed by the Witch-king with a Morgul-blade. The party reach Rivendell, where Frodo is healed. The Council of Elrond then form a fellowship of nine to bring the Ring to Mordor to destroy it; Frodo (who will carry the Ring), Sam, Merry, Pippin, Gandalf, Aragorn, Boromir, Legolas and Gimli.
They set out, and attempt to cross the mountain 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. They arrive at the Doors of Durin, but are attacked by the Watcher. After slaying the creature they continue into Moria. Inside, Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) is horrified to learn that his cousin, Balin is dead, and Moria has been taken over by orcs. In the Chamber of Mazarbul, the Fellowship finds Balin's tomb and a record of how the dwarves were defeated by the orcs. The fellowship is then attacked by a hoard of orcs and a cave troll. The party manage to fight off their attackers and get to the exit, but on their way across the Bridge of Khazad-dûm they are confronted by a Balrog, and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) sacrifices himself to allow the others to escape.
Soon thereafter, they reach Amon Hen, and the fellowship fragments. Aragorn allows Frodo to leave with the Ring and make his own way to Mordor. As they are ambushed by a group of Uruk-hai, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) protect Frodo, giving him time to escape with Sam. Meanwhile, Boromir is left alone to protect Merry and Pippin. He is overwhelmed by the numbers, and is fatally wounded by the Uruk-hai leader, Lurtz. Merry and Pippin are then taken captive by the Uruk-hai. Before Boromir, dies, Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli reach him and vow to avenge his death. They kill Lurtz and set out in pursuit of Merry and Pippin. This brings them to Fangorn Forest, where they encounter a white wizard. Initially believing it to be Saruman, they soon realize it is Gandalf, who has been resurrected by the Valar. Merry and Pippin are also safe, having escaped their captors and come under the protection of the ent Treebeard.
Meanwhile, Gandalf explains there is an alliance between the two towers of Barad-dûr in Mordor and Orthanc in Isengard, home of Saruman, once Gandalf's trusted friend. Saruman has sent out legions of Uruk-hai and orcs to ravage the countryside of Rohan, whose king, Théoden, has been rendered virtually comatose by Saruman's magic. Gandalf, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli race to Edoras, where they fight off some of the attackers. Gandalf frees Théoden from Saruman's spell, and it is decided that the inhabitants of Rohan shall make for Helm's Deep, a fortress which has never been breached. Gandalf leaves to get additional help, promising to return "at the turn of the tide." Meanwhile, on the path to Helm's Deep, the travelers are attacked by orcs riding wargs, but again, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are able to fight them off.
The game then returns to the opening, with Aragorn and Éowyn on the battlements. The women and children are taken into the caves, as Saruman's army arrives, and the Battle of the Hornburg begins. Initially, the defenders are able to hold off the attackers, but the Uruk-hai blast a hole in the outer wall using explosives, through which hundreds of Uruk-hai and orcs flood. After the women and children retreat deeper inside, the defenders move to the courtyard to attempt to defend the door to the Great Hall. After a lengthy battle, the sheer numbers of attackers prove too much, and everyone retreats inside. Arargorn, Legolas, Gimli, Théoden and the remainder of the Rohan warriors prepare to make a suicide charge out of the Hall, but as they do, Gandalf arrives with a vast army of Rohan warriors, attacking the Uruk-hai and orcs from behind whilst the others attack from the front. Saruman's army is decimated.
After the battle, Gandalf warns Aragorn that this is only the beginning of hostilities. However, he points out that Sauron fears Aragorn, as he knows of Aragorn's bloodline, and that he can inspire the men of Gondor. He also says the forces of good have one major advantage over Sauron; the Ring is hidden, and that they should attempt to destroy it has not entered Sauron's mind. He expects them to use it as a weapon, never imagining that it is being brought closer to him every day.
Development of the game that ultimately became The Two Towers began as early as February 2000, at which time EA Games were tentatively planning to publish a game based on, and coinciding with the release of, the 2001 film The Fellowship of the Ring. New Line Cinema sent EA a copy of the script for The Fellowship, as well as storyboards, concept art, and some very early trailers. In June 2001, by which time it had become apparent that a game based on The Fellowship was not going to happen, members of Stormfront Studios and EA Redwood Shores traveled to New Zealand to spend a week on the set, concentrating on the work being doing for the 2002 film The Two Towers. Whilst in New Zealand, they also visited Weta Workshop, which were handling all of the special effects and props for the films. Several more visits to both the sets and Weta followed, and even as late as July 2002, Stormfront remained in regular contact with the production team to ensure the game matched the finished film as closely as possible.
In an October 2002 interview with IGN, EA producer Scott Evans addressed why the development team had decided to make an action game, as opposed to an RPG; "our core design goal was to immerse players in the world of Middle-earth and allow them to relive the most memorable moments of The Lord of the Rings films. We knew early on that the best way to deliver that to players was to center the game on an action experience." Evans also explained that from the earliest stages of development, the team had access to rough cuts of the film, digital models and textures from the visual effects department, motion capture data, sound effects, soundtrack material, still photography from the set, Alan Lee and John Howe's pre-production concept art, and material from the props department. In the case of animating the character of Aragorn, the developers even had Viggo Mortensen and the film's swordmaster, Bob Anderson came into the studio and perform sword fighting techniques from the film, enabling the development team to recreate the physicality of the character exactly, frame by frame.
The game was first announced on February 19, 2002, when EA Games revealed that although it would be multi-platform, it was initially being developed by Stormfront Studios for the PlayStation 2. They revealed that players would be able to control Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli in 3D environments taken directly from the films. On May 16, EA revealed the game was also going to be released for the Game Boy Advance, developed by Griptonite Games. In this version, player characters would be Frodo, Aragorn, Legolas, Gandalf and Éowyn. This version would also feature co-op multiplayer through the Game Boy link cable. Also on May 16, Ritual Entertainment advertised for staff to work on an unspecified Lord of the Rings game for the PC, to be published by EA; presumed to be a port of the PlayStation 2 version.
At E3 2002, EA made a brief playable demo of the PS2 version available, featuring gameplay from the final Helm's Deep level, with Aragorn as the playable character. IGN's David Smith wrote of the demo "it looks like a crack 3D action game with plenty of movie-inspired style. There is a hell of a lot going on in this game when the action gets fierce, and the engine delivers it all in realtime at a killer framerate." A non-playable demo of the GBA version was also made available.
In June, an FAQ from EA revealed that Stormfront had ninety people working on the game. It confirmed the game would feature levels from both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers, as well as both the voice acting and physical likenesses of the actors from the films. Additionally, everything from entire sets and locations to individual weapons and props were being recreated in the game, which was running on a modified Legend of Alon D'ar game engine, with additional technology provided by EA Redwood Shores. EA also explained they had full copyright clearance to use the films' scores and sound effects.
In July, Josh Hendren, producer of the GBA version, revealed the game would be split into five unique acts, each of which would allow the player to assume the role of one of the five playable characters, and although the game would include a recommended order in which to play the levels, the player would be free to play in any order they wished. On July 24, EA announced the game would also be released for GameCube. Although it was being developed by Hypnos Entertainment, it would be a direct port of the PlayStation 2 version. On August 5, EA cancelled the PC version of the game when it became apparent that Ritual Entertainment would not be able to have it ready on time.
In September, EA revealed more information about the PlayStation 2 game, including a full list of levels. They also explained the game would feature a series of unlockable "DVD style extras," including exclusive interviews with Peter Jackson, Barrie Osborne, Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom and John Rhys-Davies, which wouldn't be available anywhere else, and which would focus on the making of the game. EA stated that in total, including footage from the film edited into the game, there would be about forty minutes of FMV content.
On October 4, shortly before the PlayStation launch of the game, EA announced they would be making a sequel, to be released in roughly twelve months time, which would be closely based on Peter Jackson's as yet incomplete 2003 film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. They also stated they had begun preliminary work on an as yet untitled RPG game based on all three films in the series, slated for release in 2004 (this game would ultimately become The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age). On October 21, the same day the PlayStation 2 version was released in North America, EA announced the game would also be coming to Xbox, set for release around the same time as the GameCube port. As with the GameCube version, the Xbox version would be a direct port of the PlayStation 2 version.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers received generally positive reviews. The Game Boy Advance version holds aggregate scores of 75.92% on GameRankings, based on nineteen reviews, and 78 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on fifteen reviews. The GameCube version holds scores of 75.93%, based on thirty reviews, and 82 out of 100, based on thirteen reviews. The PlayStation 2 version holds scores of 83.64%, based on fifty-eight reviews, and 82 out of 100, based on thirty-two reviews. The Xbox version holds scores of 78.79%, based on thirty-six reviews, and 79 out of 100, based on seventeen reviews. The PlayStation 2 version went on to win "Outstanding Achievement in Visual Engineering" at the 2003 Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences.
Eurogamer's Kristan Reed scored the PlayStation 2 version 7 out of 10. He had mixed feelings about the cutscene integration of film footage; "the quality of these recreated scenes isn't always as good as it could be, thanks to some less than cutting edge rendering. That said, it's still a nice way of introducing a new scene." A major criticism was that the game was too short, with Reed estimating a completion time of ten hours, although he praised the fact that the "DVD extras" were linked to level progression. He concluded "it's fun while it lasts, but requires relatively little skill." GameSpy's Benjamin Turner scored it 3.5 out of 5. He too was somewhat critical of the FMV footage, and concluded "The Two Towers isn't the best action game you'll ever play, but it is the best action game based on The Lord of the Rings. For fans looking for a way to play their favorite books or movies, this is the best bet at the moment." GameSpot's Ryan Mac Donald scored the game 8.1 out of 10. He was critical of the length, but called it "a traditional action game with a terrific gameplay system that encourages you to battle it out like there's no tomorrow." IGN's Douglass C. Perry scored the game 8.3 out of 10. He too was critical of the length, but wrote "as a game on its own merits, The Two Towers is a solid beat-em-up that's definitely worth owning." Matthew Kato of Game Informer scored it 9.25 out of 10, calling the gameplay "every bit as fast and furious as Mark of Kri 's, without some of the thinking involved."
The PS2 version also received some non-video game publication attention. For example, Marc Saltzman of The Cincinnati Enquirer scored it 4.5 out of 5, calling it "a solid pick - especially for players who enjoy nonstop action - that lives up to the expectations set by the movie on which it's based." Playboy scored it 88%, saying it "should appeal to nerdy D&D chicks and foxy fantasy fans alike." Geoff Keighly of Entertainment Weekly scored it a B+, calling it "a gaming experience that works with - rather than exploits - the source material." Alex Porter of Maxim, however, was less impressed, and scored it 6 out of 10, arguing "the graphics and sound (enhanced by the actual voices of the movie's stars) [are] well-rendered and intricate [...] but players [will get] bored with repetitive thrusting and parrying."
Game Informer scored the GBA version 6.75 out of 10, saying "the magic and item systems are very cool, but the combat is not." GameSpot's Frank Provo scored it 7.5 out of 10, writing "it's mainly a Diablo or Gaunlet clone with story elements from the movie sprinkled throughout. With that in mind, it's surprisingly fun to roam throughout the lands of Middle-earth, slaying orcs and goblins." He was particularly impressed with the co-op mode. IGN's Craig Harris scored the game 8 out of 10. He too compared the game to Diablo and Gaunlet, and he too praised the co-op mode. He concluded "even though The Two Towers is far from "boring," it does get a little repetitive in its hack-and-slash design." GameSpy's William Cassidy scored the game 4.5 out of 5. He praised the graphics, sound, combat system and the differentiation between the controllable characters. His only complaint was that "the amount of sometimes pointless wandering is symptomatic of the game's only significant shortcoming: repetitiveness." He concluded "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers is an engaging, action-packed adventure that admirably re-creates the captivating atmosphere of the films. The characters, the locales, and even the music draw you in and create an exciting experience that will have you playing through the entire quest several times."
GameSpy's David Hodgson scored the Xbox version 3 out of 5, writing "with the PlayStation 2 being all "inferior" to the Xbox's presumed power, and the two months of extra development time, surely E.A. must have added an extra aiming reticule for the archery, increased the framerate from 30, sculpted a few more polygons on the main heroes and adversaries, and added reflections to the underwater orcs and other badly realized reflections. Well, don't bet on it, Bilbo. There are absolutely no differences between this, the GameCube, and the PlayStation 2 versions." IGN's Hilary Goldstein scored the game 7.6 out of 10. He wrote "while The Two Towers is fun, it's not really one of the better action games around. It does nothing new and there are a lot of problems that detract from the experience." He was critical of the targeting system, the camera, the rigid linearity of each level and the inability to issue commands to AI controlled allies. He also wrote "the Xbox version is inferior to the sharp and stunning quality of what was found on PS2. There's a ton of texture problems, poor contrast, and less detail than what's found on the PS2. That's not acceptable for a game coming out two months later and on a system that is easier to program for and can churn out incredible graphics with little effort." GameSpot's Ryan Mac Donald scored both the Xbox and the GameCube versions 8 out of 10, calling the game "a traditional hack-and-slash action game that features great gameplay mechanics, stunning visuals, and lots of extras." Game Informer 's Justin Leeper scored it 9.25 out of 10, calling it "a tremendous game [...] the graphics are outstanding, and the seamless integration between real-time and FMV cutscenes will take your breath away."
GameSpy's David Hodgson scored the GameCube version 3 out of 5. He was critical of the length, arguing the game could be easily completed in under eight hours. As with the Xbox version, he was critical that the game did not improve on the PlayStation 2 version; "think that the extra two months you waited for the GameCube version of the game allowed E.A. to fix the sometimes-problematic archery aiming, increase the framerate from 30, add extra polygons to the characters and foes, and tweak the water reflections so they actually look realistic? Then you're smoking more pipe-weed than the whole of Hobbiton. There are literally no differences between this, the Xbox, and the PlayStation 2 offerings." IGN's Douglass C. Perry scored the game 8 out of 10. Comparing the game to the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions, he wrote "the textures are much more clean, the rough edges are all smoothed out, and the particle lighting effects are even slightly more radiant than before." Game Informer 's Matthew Kato scored it 9.25 out of 10, calling it "a blueprint on how to make a very good movie-based game."
The game sold very well; almost four million copies across all platforms, heavily outselling Vivendi's The Fellowship of the Ring game, which sold just over one million copies. The Two Towers also attracted considerably better reviews.
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- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers at MobyGames
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Game Boy Advance) at MobyGames
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers PlayStation 2 Review at AllGame
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers GameCube Review at AllGame
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Game Boy Advance Review at AllGame