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The Lord of the Rings: Conquest

Peter Jackson’s interpretation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy has become something of an institution for the film world. Condensing the meaty books into movies that could keep an audience entertained for three and a half odd hours – three times, I might add – was no mean feat. Part of what made the films so groundbreaking was the scope of the battle scenes – each film featured at least one epic clash between rival armies, filmed with hundreds of extras and thousands of digital soldiers running about and smashing the stuffing out of each other. These battles were immense, and captured the attention of young fans and older geeks alike. Several decent games were made under the Lord of the Rings license; in particular, the two games based on The Two Towers and The Return of the King respectively were well received by the press and players. However, these games were nothing compared to the sheer scale of the films. Pandemic, the developers behind the popular Star Wars: Battlefront series, has tried to change all that with Conquest, a game that tries to emulate the experience of being a grunt soldier during one of the story’s many battles.

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“If you’ve ever wanted to see who’d win in a fight between The Witch King of Angmar and Legolas, this is the game for you. “Literature buffs looking for a game that does the text justice should look elsewhere. That’s not a bad thing, by any means; but it’s important to note that this game spends no time making sure that everything is canon: anything goes as long as it was mentioned in Lord of the Rings at some point. Instead, it caters towards a more “Did you see that!?” level of fan service. If you’ve ever wanted to see who’d win in a fight between The Witch King of Angmar and Legolas, this is the game for you. Conquest plays like Battlefield 1942 with fantasy weapons: players choose from one of four classes, then duke it out on a large map against the other team for control of command posts, which act as spawn points. Whichever team controls all of these posts – or simply beats the enemy to a pulp, therefore depleting their respawn tickets – wins the round. The controls are surprisingly convoluted for such a simple action game, thanks to the way swordfights work. Conquest‘s combat sometimes feels more akin to Devil May Cry than anything else. Warriors, the basic sword class, have multiple combos available, as well as dodges, jumps, and blocks. Scouts have just as many, albeit faster and lighter than the Warrior’s blows. Things can get even more confusing for the long range classes: Archers play more like a tradition shooter, but have a vast array of button modifiers that change what kind of arrow they’re firing, and Mages (which don’t exist in Lord of the Rings, I know) have an arsenal of spells that take some time getting used to.

“how about a sword fight between two Warriors who are each being healed by a Mage? Or a Scout who happens to be struck by an arrow fired by an Archer who can fire three at once like a shotgun? It’s hardly refined, but Conquest at least knows how to have fun.”It doesn’t help that every class is horrifically overpowered. Instead of subtle tweaks to make things balanced, Pandemic seems to have gone for a more over-the-top route. Each class has one or two moves that are extremely cheap, making for endless frustration at some points. Still, the fact that every class is so ridiculous can be mildly amusing. For example, the fact that Archers have infinite ammo is annoying. The fact that you can become invisible and kill them with an unblockable move as a Scout is hilarious, and probably just as annoying to the victim. Sessions of Conquest can degenerate into laugh-a-minute revenge festivals where each kill is stupider than the last – how about a sword fight between two Warriors who are each being healed by a Mage? Or a Scout who happens to be struck by an arrow fired by an Archer who can fire three at once like a shotgun? It’s hardly refined, but Conquest at least knows how to have fun.

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“Hugo Weaving himself delivers such Pulitzer material as “If the enemy gains but fifty more points, the day is theirs.” I don’t remember Elrond ever discussion Sauron’s high score in the movies, but if he did, that’s awesome.”Unfortunately, the rest of the game is just as slapdash. The maps are gorgeous, filled with rich texture work and pretty lighting effects. The character models, on the other hand, range from decent to pathetic. The animations don’t seem to have been updated much since the Battlefront days, meaning that some characters look clunky and robotic whilst running around a medieval warzone. Some are better than others; the Warrior’s fighting animations and the Scout’s arsenal of knife moves look appropriately badass, but for some reason, Archers look as if they’re powerwalking on a treadmill and firing a bow at the same time. The sound, too, is all over the place. Howard Shore’s epic score is intact, but it’s played at bizarre intervals – why is the Riders of Rohan theme looping in the background of a map set in Gondor? The voice acting is laughable too; not only are there cheesy nobodies yelling things like “BEHOLD HIS AWESOME MIGHT! HIS FIREWALL DECIMATES THE ENEMY!”, but Hugo Weaving himself delivers such Pulitzer material as “If the enemy gains but fifty more points, the day is theirs.” I don’t remember Elrond ever discussion Sauron’s high score in the movies, but if he did, that’s awesome.

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And that’s how it goes, unfortunately. Lord of the Rings: Conquest is indeed awesome, but it’s the kind of awesome derived from watching people falling out of trees on YouTube or seeing your friend get punched in the nuts at a party. It’s the sort of game nobody in their right mind can take seriously, but because it’s so ludicrous, it winds up being fun. Unfortunately, that isn’t the kind of thing a Lord of the Rings game should be. When it was announced, a worldwide fangasm was heard; the battles were perfect material for a multiplayer video game. Instead of a game just as lovingly crafted as the films themselves, we get Conquest, which basically pits sixteen drunk fans against each other in a coked-up melee performances of fan fiction written by twelve year olds. During a particularly insane match of Hero Deathmatch – a mode that pits the strongest characters in the game against each other – I played as Gimli. My team consisted of two Aragorns, Legolas, three Faramirs, and a hobbit. For an hour, we fought mercilessly against an army of four Witch Kings and four Wormtongues, duking it out until cruel, merciless God decided he had been entertained enough. If that’s the kind of thing that sounds like a good time, by all means, pick up Conquest, because there is nothing else like it. If you’re still mad because Peter Jackson thought Tom Bombadill was boring and moved Shelob into The Return of the King instead of The Two Towers, don your hobbit costumes and get ready to take this game to Mount Doom.

Oh, I’m sorry. I forgot we don’t dare poke fun at Tolkien’s masterpiece, let alone soil Frodo’s image with a costume.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in October 2006.

Gentle persuasion

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