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Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (PlayStation 2) artwork

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (PlayStation 2) review


"It’s a game with multiple imperfections, but its overall easiness, the satisfaction of battle (despite the flaws there), and, most notably, the sheer nostalgia and wonderment of playing something modeled after one of your favorite novels makes the experience much more enjoyable. It may not be the greatest adaptation ever made, but it still leaves me filled with a profound sense of contentment. "



When the Lord of the Rings books finally appeared on the big screen, a whole franchise followed. Everyone was LotR crazy, and the markets met the demand. Anything that could be mass produced to meet the phenomenon was, including video games. The Fellowship of the Ring was just the first of these, as fans got to accompany Frodo on his journey to the land of Mordor in his effort to destroy the One Ring.

The Hobbit’s quest is a long and arduous one, and this title exemplifies that aspect well. With a variety of issues that make an otherwise fun game annoying, you’ll want to give up your Burden, too. The Burden of playing through it.

A dysfunctional camera will have you staring down a sharp incline without the ability to effectively see where you’re going. Sure you can swing the camera to the side in order to view both character and slope, but then the controls get in the way. You have less control when pushing the analog sideways than forward, after all. It’s a fine way to commit suicide, though: just run off a cliff.

Combat, too, has its issues. The stupid auto-target only lets you battle one enemy at a time. You can’t start a combo on one enemy then turn toward your left and finish the combo on the enemy there. It makes fighting while surrounded a challenge, but at least the system focuses on the one nearest you.

Then there’s the hardest part in the entire game. Right at the beginning!

After all the mundane, boring, “learn how the controls work” fetch-quests, it’s time to leave home. Being the pint-sized Hobbit he is, Frodo succeeds best when stealthy, and it is this strength that you must employ with the utmost precision. Using your ninja stealth to sneak and your amazing stone-throwing ability to distract, you must pass by menacing Ringwraiths undetected. If these fearsome black-garbed horsemen spot you, you lose!

Manage the numerous mechanical issues and get through the bout with the Ringwraiths without giving up, however, and you’ll enjoy the rest of the game a whole lot more. All your adventures from this point forward are largely combat-oriented. Explore un-filmed places such as the Old Forest and Barrow-Downs, battling evil spiders and malicious barrow wights along the way. Stealth becomes a mere accessory: useful if you find yourself facing more enemies than you can handle, but nothing more. If you’re really in a bind, just don the Ring (unusable earlier because Ringwraiths can see through its magic). Its power of invisibility will guarantee an easy escape from any foe, but wear it too long, and it’s game over, lost to a corrupted heart.

As the quest to destroy the One Ring progresses, your character will alternate between Frodo and two others in the Company according to plot device: the mighty Ranger Aragorn and the powerful wizard Gandalf. Thank God. Imagine the tiny furry-footed creature trying to take down a massive cave troll with just his Elven short sword, Sting. Not a pretty picture.

Each controllable character has his own specializations and attack patterns. Besides stealth, Frodo’s really only good for exploring the map and squeezing into places no one else can, and his unique jumping ability accentuates this. Due to this specialization, his combat ability lacks considerably. Often you’ll cry in dismay as his pitifully slow three-hit combo is interrupted on the second swing by a crushing underhand strike that knocks the young Halfling off his feet. If you have to fight Orcs with Frodo (he seems to handle spiders and wolves well enough), you’d best learn how to block. Strike once, block, strike again, repeat.

Aragorn, on the other hand, is an excellent fighter. Being a Man, the jump is replaced with a kick. Use it to knock blocking enemies on their ass. Then deliver a fatal downward thrust upon the fallen foe. If you can execute his combo without the enemy blocking or retaliating in the middle, Aragorn’s fourth and final strike will also send him to the ground. Just hope you’re not surrounded when you deliver that killing blow; the attack is so slow that often you’ll be knocked back before you can fully execute it.

But if you’re not in the mood for close combat, use the Ranger’s bow to weaken enemies from a distance. I’ll guarantee you’ll never kill one, though – unless it’s an archer. Those with a preference for melee close in on your position too swiftly. And your arrows are generally weak and inaccurate as is.

Gandalf, quite simply, is awesome. He has no special ability like kicking or jumping, but that matters not. His “archery” more than makes up for it. As a wizard, he has vast array of magic at his disposal. Destroy single enemies with a deadly fireballs or a bolt of lightning. If surrounded, slam your staff on the ground to repulse, injure, and knock down any enemies around you. Cast a spell of attraction on that lumbering troll so all the surrounding Orcs attack it instead of you. And if you’re seriously wounded, chant an incantation of healing to recover lost health. Alternatively, if you’re not feeling very arcane, you can always return to the more conventional combat techniques. Gandalf’s sword is swift and fierce, and its final strike also knocks enemies off their feet. And his finisher is most sadistic. Watch with delight as he smashes the butt of his staff into the belly of his fallen foe. The sickening squelch of flesh and blood resounds as he digs and twists the staff in place to finish the kill.

It’s a game with multiple imperfections, but its overall easiness, the satisfaction of battle (despite the flaws there), and, most notably, the sheer nostalgia and wonderment of playing something modeled after one of your favorite novels makes the experience much more enjoyable. It may not be the greatest adaptation ever made, but it still leaves me filled with a profound sense of contentment.

Rating: 7/10

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (May 31, 2008)

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sashanan posted June 01, 2008:

I have the PC version of this and never even got through that part at the beginning where you have to evade the Nazgul. So I've ended up playing only the 20 minutes of fetch quests at the beginning, hooray.

Maybe the worst part is that one of them spots you, he draws his sword and demands you "hand over the Ring" (prompting game over) - very unnazgullike.
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honestgamer posted June 01, 2008:

Heh. That's where I got stuck on the Xbox version, Sash! I sold it, of course. That was the first game I think I got for my original Xbox. What a disappointment it was!
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EmP posted June 01, 2008:

EmP finds typo:

unusable earlier because Ringwraiths can see through it’s magic

Its, not it's.

Good review though: nice job. Maybe I should try and re-type the Third Age review that died with the server.
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wolfqueen001 posted June 01, 2008:

Haha. It is a hard game to get into at first. I think I almost gave up at the beginning because it was taking me hours to get past that part... It does get better, though, so I'm glad I stuck through it.

And the Nazgul also say that when you wear the Ring too long. But since you rarely have to use it, there's no real chance of that happening.

And thanks, EmP! If that's the only typo I missed out of the five or so proofreads I made, then I'm happy.

I'd be even happier if you did try to rewrite that Third Age review. Part of my reason for writing this was my hope that writing this would motivate you to try and pick that up again (and hopefully complete it). That'd be awesome. I remember really liking the draft you had in there...
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georox posted June 01, 2008:

This was a game I traded in quite fast compared to any other I owned. Good thing is the Two Towers and Return of the King games where good.
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darketernal posted June 01, 2008:

If I remember correctly, this game was made to follow the "books" more than the actual movie and for that I rejoiced. It started out fun, with exploring the Shire, the music was nice and ambiental and I actually had fun.

Then I died.


And died again.

Then I got Aragorn and kicked some arse until I was waylaid by a huge troll. I saved my game just as the troll was swinging his club half a mile away from me. Game saved, I was ready to unleash holy judgement upon the beast only to find out that the attack connected from that far away and killed me in one blow. So basically, I saved the game while in an non escapable trap and the only way out was to restart the game.

Needless to say, the game's disc is now a permanent stain on the pavement, five floors below my apartment.

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