The Lord of the Rings: Conquest PC DVD
Published by: Electronic Arts
Developed by: Pandemic Studios
Star Wars: Battlefront offered one of the more enjoyable multiplayer experiences on the original Xbox console. You could play as various characters from the Star Wars universe in environments that were similar to those in the movies. The game essentially used the Battlefield 1942 formula and it all worked well. Pandemic Studios, developers of the Star Wars: Battlefront games, have taken the straightforward approach of applying the Battlefront formula to The Lord of Rings universe. The end result, unsurprisingly, is a familiar one but it's also one that feels dated.
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest offers two single-player campaigns and an Instant Action skirmish mode. The first campaign you'll play through is entitled War of the Ring. Here you'll take part in some rough approximations of the movie trilogy's main battles. You'll begin in Helm's Deep and end up at The Black Gate battling in locations such as Isengard and Minas Tirith along the way. In total there are eight different maps to battle your way through. Once you've completed the campaign you'll get to fight on the side of evil in the Rise of Sauron campaign. In this campaign you'll revisit the same eight locations which in some respects is a little disappointing because whilst it's refreshing to fight for the forces of evil, it's a shame that you're not doing it in different locations. Multiplayer options are online play and split-screen mode. Online play isn't bad but it's nothing original and disappointingly it lacks the epic feel of the single-player game due to the absence of the masses of AI enemies.
If you've played the Star Wars: Battlefront games, you'll be right at home with how Conquest plays. In any given mission you'll choose your preferred class from a choice of Warrior, Archer, Scout and Mage (although there are times when you are limited to just a few of the classes). During a mission you'll have to complete a string of objectives. You may have to protect a certain zone (which is clearly marked) or take a specific area from the enemy. You may be charged with destroying certain buildings, killing certain enemies or preventing certain enemies from reaching a certain location. You'll be doing the similar objectives over and over again during the missions and this gives the game a rather generic feel. You do have the option to change to one of the other classes you did not initially choose however and you're given the option to play as one of the hero or villain characters which is a welcome feature (even if the hero and villain characters are simply enhanced versions of the generic classes in the game).
Combat in the game is mediocre. Regardless of the class (or heroes or villains you'll plays as) the combat basically boils down to uninspiring button bashing. There are combos and special moves but the combat never ever becomes complicated. That's not to say it isn't challenging however. You'll notice that enemies will block your attacks and as long as you're not playing on the easiest of the three available difficulty settings, they will certainly put up a decent challenge. Your AI comrades are rather dense however and most of the time they offer little to no support leaving you to take on the multitudes of enemies by yourself. This is a real shame and it does make the single-player campaigns less interesting and more frustrating as a result.
The Lord of the Rings is certainly a good looking game and it has to be said that the frame rate holds up pretty well even when there are plenty of on-screen enemies. The PC version definitely looks better, provided you have a good enough PC specification of course. The character models in particular look rather good. The camera can be a pain at times however. All too often you're attacked by enemies who are not visible until you've manipulated the camera and this can be a right pain with the keyboard and mouse controls (even though you can re-centre the camera by pressing the C button). This can prove costly, both in the single-player and multiplayer game, and the poor camera will soon become one of your biggest bugbears with the game.
Support for deaf gamers is decent but it could have been better. Movie subtitles are available so you'll be able to follow the storyline that loosely ties the different maps together. The movie subtitles are basic in that they are simply displayed in bold white text. There are no speakers' names or portraits shown but it doesn't cause any problems as the storyline is simply being narrated. The game's tutorial is only partially subtitled but thankfully all of the important information is shown in text. Objectives are shown in text and arrows point the way to where you should be heading. If an objective has a time limit, the time countdown is displayed. Warning messages are also shown (for when you're about to leave the battle area or for when you are about to be defeated). Zones you need to attack or defend are clearly marked. There are comments given out (presumably by a general) and these comments aren't subtitled but in truth these comments are repetitive and having no knowledge of them doesn't cause any problems.
The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is ultimately a disappointment. Essentially it's just Star Wars: Battlefront with a different veneer. The game disappoints and is ultimately frustrating (thanks to AI problems) as a single-player experience and as a multiplayer experience it feels dated. It's not a disaster by any means and the single-player game can be quite palatable when played in short bursts but aside from the locations you'll battle in and the hero and villain characters you'll occasionally play as, the game doesn't really do enough to tap into The Lord of the Rings universe and that's a real shame.