"Itís 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 Hobbitís 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, youíll 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 youíre 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. Itís 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 canít 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 thereís the hardest part in the entire game. Right at the beginning!
After all the mundane, boring, ďlearn how the controls workĒ fetch-quests, itís 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 youíll 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 youíre 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 itís 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, Frodoís 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 youíll 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), youíd 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, Aragornís fourth and final strike will also send him to the ground. Just hope youíre not surrounded when you deliver that killing blow; the attack is so slow that often youíll be knocked back before you can fully execute it.
But if youíre not in the mood for close combat, use the Rangerís bow to weaken enemies from a distance. Iíll guarantee youíll never kill one, though Ė unless itís 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 ďarcheryĒ 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 youíre seriously wounded, chant an incantation of healing to recover lost health. Alternatively, if youíre not feeling very arcane, you can always return to the more conventional combat techniques. Gandalfís 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.
Itís 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.
Community review by wolfqueen001 (May 31, 2008)
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