The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

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The Lord of the Rings: Conquest
LOTR Conquest.jpg
Developer(s)Pandemic Studios
Publisher(s)Electronic Arts
Director(s)Eric Gewirtz
Designer(s)Sean Soucy
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
PlayStation 3
Xbox 360,[1]
Nintendo DS
Release
Genre(s)Action
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is a 2009 action game developed by Pandemic Studios and published by Electronic Arts. It is derived from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and borrows many gameplay mechanics from Pandemic's Star Wars: Battlefront games. The game allows the player to play as both the forces of good and evil, but unlike The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, the latter option is based around Sauron stopping the One Ring from being destroyed and using it to regain his lost power.

Pandemic was aided by Weta Digital in developing the game. They provided many of their digital models, including the fell beasts. Pandemic also used elements that were cut from the films, and have taken inspiration from J. R. R. Tolkien's original fantasy series, such as a level based loosely around Balin's conquest of Moria, in which Gimli attempts to retake the dwarven city from the orcs. Some inspiration was less direct: the armies of Rohan and Gondor decide not to attack Minas Morgul in the novel, but a level in the game is based on what might possibly have happened if they had. The game uses Howard Shore's score to the films as its soundtrack. The game received mixed to negative reviews, with criticism focusing on its gameplay, graphics, balance issues, AI, and multiplayer.

Gameplay[edit]

Players have the ability to ride animal mounts and slay large enemies, such as the Oliphaunt.

The player takes the role of a soldier of Rohan, Gondor, Rivendell, Harad, Mordor or Isengard, depending on the campaign or side the player chooses. The game is generally objective based, requiring the player to defeat a certain number of enemies, or hold a position until a timer runs out. If a soldier dies the game continues from the point of death and the death has no impact on the storyline or flow of the game. However a player is given a certain number of lives and if those are used up he/she must repeat the entire level.

In the War of the Ring campaign, containing eight levels, the player loosely follows the major battles of the films with some additions such as the Mines of Moria and Minas Morgul. In the Rise of Sauron campaign, the player controls the forces of Sauron in a reworking of the storyline set over seven levels of a film called The final war for Middle Earth.[4] In this story, the Dark Lord reclaims the ring when Frodo Baggins was corrupted by and failed to destroy the One Ring. The hobbit is then killed by the Witchking of Angmar, leading to Sauron subsequently conquering Middle Earth.[1] Both campaigns are narrated by Hugo Weaving, who played Elrond in Peter Jackson's film trilogy.

The game uses a class-based character system, similar to the system found in Pandemic's previous game Star Wars: Battlefront. There are four playable classes. Warriors are a melee combat unit which focus on swordsmanship. Unlike the other classes, whose special attacks recharge over time, warriors can only gain energy by defeating enemies, which allows them to unleash more powerful attacks with a flaming sword, such as spinning to hit every adjacent enemy. They are the only class that can block or perform counterattacks with special moves. The warrior also has a throwing axe as a secondary, medium ranged weapon.[5] Archers are better suited for long range combat and are equipped with a bow and arrow. Different types of arrows can be equipped: fire arrows, which can knock down enemies and deal explosive damage; poison arrows, which slow enemies down and do damage over time, and the ability to fire a volley of three normal arrows at multiple enemies at once. They also have a kick for use in close-quarters, which knocks back the enemy. They can also hit concealed Scouts with the multiple arrow skill. A headshot will allow the archer to kill most enemies in a single hit.[4]

Scouts are masters in the art of moving unseen. The scout’s primary weapons are two daggers, and he has the ability to become temporarily invisible and assassinate units instantly from behind with a sneak attack. As a secondary attack, he carries satchel bombs filled with blasting powder as a ranged attack. The scout can also block melee attacks. Finally, Mages serve as the magic class. A mage's primary attack is a bolt of lightning, which can be charged up for a more powerful attack that can also damage other enemies in close proximity to the target. He also wields a “firewall” attack, which creates an expanding circle of flames that will heavily damage if not kill enemies who are within the circle. For close range attacks, they have a shockwave attack, which knocks enemies back and allows the mage to finish them off with his staff. Mages can also heal allies. For defensive purposes, a mage can create a magical shield around himself to protect anyone inside from ranged attacks of any sort, provided the attacker is outside of the shield, which allows people to walk through. While the shield ability is active, the mage is unable to do anything else and is therefore highly vulnerable to melee attacks.[5]

The player can occasionally gain the opportunity to play as a Troll or an Ent, which are also used by non-player characters and, while far stronger than any normal class, are vulnerable to instantaneous kills by Warriors and Scouts through the use of Quick Time Events. Any class can ride a mount: horses for the Men of the West and wargs and Oliphaunts for Sauron and Saruman’s forces. Mounts are useful for quickly traversing large areas, but are highly vulnerable and a single hit against one will result in the player being knocked off (with the exception of the oliphaunt, which has an enormous amount of health). The player wields a sword when mounted, regardless of their class, and is only allowed to use basic attacks. Mounts also have the power to trample enemies when riding at top speed.[6] Depending on the game's settings during multiplayer matches, or during certain periods of the campaign, players will have the opportunity to control heroes, many of whom include the heroes and villains of Lord of the Rings. The heroes are usually based on the four primary class archetypes, controlling very similarly to their standard non-hero counterparts, but are also far more powerful, though not invincible.[6]

In the Nintendo DS version, gameplay features are greatly reduced. The Scout class is unavailable and mounts are non-existent. In addition, the playing perspective is isometric and six maps were shipped with the game. All classes start out relatively weak, but fallen enemies will drop orbs that allow the player to power-up their current character’s attack power and speed, resetting after the player respawns. After a level is over, a post-game statistics screen will appear to show the player’s performance and to award them in-game achievements for their accomplishments (not allowing allies to die, for instance).[7]

Development and release[edit]

Hugo Weaving reprises his role as Elrond. He is the only original cast member to appear in the game outside of cutscenes.

The Lord of the Rings: Conquest was announced on May 8, 2008 for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360. It was promoted at E3 2008 in Los Angeles, California, where press were able to play a build of the game. It also made an appearance at German Games Convention in Leipzig, Germany that same year.[5] Pandemic Studios began by creating the iconic battlefields seen in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, then included additional locales. They cited the films as their primary source of inspiration, but noted that when necessary they took liberties to apply those stories to an action video game. Pandemic sought to create a "hyper real" experience according to Gewirtz.[8] In an example he stated that rather than take Aragorn actor Viggo Mortensen's performance, the character in the game performs moves which Mortensen himself may not have been able to capture. The books were a secondary source of inspiration for locales and battles.[8] In early hands-on demos to the press several features, such as animal mounts, were not yet available. During subsequent demonstrations the press noticed vast improvements, and eventually the inclusion of mounts.[5][9]

Developers updated their engine to allow for 150 units to be on the battlefield at one time. The game is powered by an upgraded version of Pandemic Studios' Zero engine, and was developed by the same team that worked on the first two Star Wars: Battlefront installments. Conquest director Eric Gewirtz said the team was "throwing around these ideas, and in perfect serendipity, happened to get access to the Lord of the Rings license, and that was just the center for us on making this game."[8] Howard Shore's music, composed for the film trilogy, was used in the game.[9] The film actors reprise their roles in cutscenes, which are archived footage from the film. In-game likenesses are based on their film counterparts. Hugo Weaving reprises his role as Elrond and serves as the game's narrator. All other cast members were replaced by voice doubles. Chris Edgerly voices Aragorn, Crispin Freeman voices Legolas, Martin Jarvis voices the white wizard Gandalf, and Yuri Lowenthal stands in for Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.[10]

The game was first released in Europe on January 9, 2009, with a North American release following ten days later on January 19, 2009. The first downloadable content (DLC) was released on January 29, 2009, for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. It featured two maps for the game mode Hero Arena, which was not in the shipped game due to time constraints. This mode allows for arena-style battles with up to three friends. The maps themselves are merely broken down versions of levels in the campaigns, specifically sections of Osgiliath and Moria. A second pack of downloadable content was released February 26, 2009, on the same platforms which contained three new heroes, Boromir, Arwen and Gothmog, two new maps, Amon Hen and Last Alliance, and two new Hero Arenas, Minas Tirith and Weathertop.[11] On March 16, 2010, just over a year after the game's release, the online multiplayer modes of Conquest were shut down by publisher Electronic Arts.[12]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Aggregate scores
AggregatorScore
GameRankings57.10%[13]
Metacritic55%[14]
Review scores
PublicationScore
CVG4/10[15]
Eurogamer5/10[4]
Game Informer4.75/10[16][17]
GameSpot7.5/10[6]
GameSpy2.5/5[18]
GamesRadar+2/10[19][20][21]
IGNXbox 360/PlayStation 3 (US): 7.0/10[22][23]
Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 (UK): 6.0/10[24][25]
PC: 7.0/10[26]
DS: 6.7/10[7]
OXM (US)4/10[27]
PC Gamer (UK)61%[28]
VideoGamer.com6/10[29]

Reception for The Lord of the Rings: Conquest was mixed to negative. The majority of reviews claimed that the game lacked any of the epic feel of the movies or novel.[26][23][24][19] CVG commented on Sauron's appearance in the War of the Last Alliance tutorial as akin to a "Scooby-Doo villain" chasing the player while "you backtrack and shoot arrows into his face".[15] Battles were criticized by many reviewers as being repetitive, becoming mere "hack 'n [sic] slash scuffles".[15] CVG also commented on the lack of difficulty in killing some of the larger enemies, such as trolls and Mumakil, slating the quick-time events that allowed them to be killed with a single blow, making them lose all of their intimidation potential when fighting against them and making them "frustrating" to control in multiplayer.[15] Another common complaint was the "parody-style liberties" the game took with the Lord of the Rings license that would have "Tolkien break dancing in his grave".[15]

Other reviews were even more critical of the game, Games Radar stating that The Lord of the Rings: Conquest lacked even "one redeeming quality".[20] A common complaint were graphics being well below modern standards, Games Radar likening the troll and Ent models to "claymation diarrhea"[21] and IGN stating that "friend and foe alike blend into one messy brown blur".[24] Most reviews cited poor characterization and plot, most often in regards to Wormtongue's participation in the battle of Isengard. Another common source of annoyance was the in-game announcer, who "bellows" objectives and hints to the player incessantly.[15][19]

IGN criticized the "redundancy" of combat, stating that all four classes were essentially identical to play as, even between the two separate campaigns, and that heroes were merely "class characters on steroids".[22] They also complained about the combat system as a whole, in that the player can "[slam] buttons and [see] no result". Other reviews also mentioned combat as being unrealistic, one example being if the player falls from a high position they "won't so much as buckle at the knee" which gives a "weightless, videogamey feel" that contradicts the "grand scale... of the universe".[4] IGN did, however, praise the game for its "easily recognizable" locations, though said that the plot for the Rise of Sauron campaign could have been "stronger",[23] while Game Informer believed that there was no story of any kind "outside of clips stolen from the motion picture".[16][17] IGN commended the game's musical score and claimed that "diehard fans of both online, class-based games and The Lord of the Rings" would enjoy the game,[26] a view not shared by some other reviewers who believed that fans of the books would be the most likely to hate it.[27] IGN also commented on the "universally bad" voice acting, specifically mentioning the impersonators for Aragorn and Gandalf.[22][24][26]

The game's AI was often cited as another weakness of the game, with IGN listing glitches such as an enemy boss walking off a cliff and "saving us the bother of having to defeat him in combat".[24] Eurogamer stated that the player's allies were "AI-impoverished", stepping into the player's line of fire "before sauntering off unscathed and oblivious",[4] while Game Informer said that the AI appears to be "tripping on acid as they stare blankly at walls and sunsets".[17] The lack of mid-level saves or a checkpoint system was also quoted as a weakness, forcing the player to restart a level if they fail to complete an objective.[25]

Balance issues with the game were commented on by reviewers as needing work, IGN saying that the mage class was "clearly overpowered"[24] and The A.V. Club believing that, due to the mage's ability to heal himself, the class is "the correct choice 90 percent of the time". The A.V. Club also stated that the scout class was "a griefer's dream" in multiplayer.[30] The Official Xbox Magazine cited objectives where the player must hold a position for a certain length of time while being besieged by enemy forces, a common problem being that, if the player is killed, by the time the player has respawned, the location has been overrun before they have a chance to fight back. Many reviewers also complained about the lack of enemies on screen, CVG saying that the "cardboard cut-outs in the background" were the most exciting part of a battle.[27][15]

Multiplayer was regarded as a disappointment, the game's servers "plagued by connection problems and lag", even without the full sixteen players possible. They also cited a lack of bots as a weakness, the "wide, open levels [feeling] sparse and under-populated" without them.[4] The A.V. Club slated multiplayer as "glitchy", sometimes placing the player "in a one-on-one match of capture the flag".

In the DS version of the game, AI problems were again mentioned, the player's allies "[running] around like a Hobbit with its head cut off". The lack of checkpoints and sub-standard graphics were also raised, along with lag during multiplayer and combat being unsatisfying, the reviewer not getting "a sense that you are clashing swords and armor with your opponents". The review also pointed out that the game seems much as though "the license is really just skinned onto capture the flag".[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest," Previews, Game Informer Issue #183, pages 54–55.
  2. ^ a b Press Release (October 30, 2008). "Prepare to Choose the Path of Good or Evil with Pandemic Studios' Lord of the Rings: Conquest". IGN. Retrieved October 30, 2007.
  3. ^ Goldstein, Maarten (2008-10-30). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Conquers January". Shacknews. Retrieved 2008-10-30.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Parkin, Simon (2009-01-16). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  5. ^ a b c d Roper, Chris (August 21, 2008). "GC 2008: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest hands-on". IGN. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c Watters, Chris (2008-12-09). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review". GameSpot. Retrieved 2009-01-14.
  7. ^ a b c Hatfield, Daemon (2009-01-13). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  8. ^ a b c Roper, Chris (May 8, 2008). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest unveiled". IGN. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Ahearn, Nate (December 11, 2008). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest progress report". IGN. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  10. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest cast and crew". IMDB. Retrieved March 21, 2017.
  11. ^ "Hero Arena Bonus". IGN. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  12. ^ "Online Play Shut Down". EA. 2010-02-16. Retrieved 2010-02-16.
  13. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Reviews". GameRankings. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  14. ^ "Lord of the Rings: Conquest, The". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-01-26.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Robinson, Andy (2009-01-15). "Gandalf, forgive me". Computer and Video Games. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  16. ^ a b Reiner, Andrew (2009-01-13). "Worse than a job as a hobbit pedicurist". Game Informer. Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  17. ^ a b c Reiner, Andrew (2009-01-13). "Worse than a job as a hobbit pedicurist". Game Informer. Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  18. ^ Villoria, Gerald (2009-01-20). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest (X360)". GameSpy. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  19. ^ a b c Gapper, Michael (2009-01-16). "One ring to screw it all up". Games Radar. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  20. ^ a b Gapper, Michael (2009-01-16). "One ring to screw it all up". Games Radar. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  21. ^ a b Gapper, Michael (2009-01-16). "One ring to screw it all up". Games Radar. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  22. ^ a b c Ahearn, Nate (2009-01-13). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  23. ^ a b c Ahearn, Nate (2009-01-13). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  24. ^ a b c d e f McCarthy, Dave (2009-01-16). "Lord of the Rings Conquest UK Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  25. ^ a b McCarthy, Dave (2009-01-16). "Lord of the Rings Conquest UK Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  26. ^ a b c d Ahearn, Nate (2009-01-16). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  27. ^ a b c Talbot, Ben (2009-01-16). "The Lord of the Rings: Conquest". OXM. Retrieved 2009-05-29.
  28. ^ Rossignol, Jim (2009-02-12), Lord of the Rings Conquest, PC Gamer UK
  29. ^ Kelly, Neon (2009-01-16). "LotR: Conquest Review". VideoGamer. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
  30. ^ Teti, John (2009-01-26). "Lord Of The Rings: Conquest". A.V. Club. Archived from the original on 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2009-05-29.

External links[edit]