by Chris "Lefty" Brown
This week, the Married Gamers will be bringing exclusive coverage of the forthcoming EA/Pandemic video game, Lord of the Rings: Conquest. Today we dive into the campaign experience. Be sure to join the Married Gamers the rest of the week for exclusive looks into the multi-player, audio from a developer panel, and several new screen shots and wallpapers. Also, join us for our live show on Saturday for your chance to win exclusive t-shirts from the community event.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest brings the feel of the Star Wars: Battlefront to the Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Arriving next year to the Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and PC and with a ERSB rating of T for Teen, the game takes the look and appeal of the Peter Jackson films and applies itself to competitive spirit of prior Battlefront games. There is also a Nintendo DS version of the game arriving day and date as the PC and console versions, but is being developed by another studio.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest campaign offers single player, two player co-op split screen, and network online co-op play. Co-op campaign players will not be tethered to one another as in the Pandemic game, Mercenaries 2; and are free to explore the maps apart from one another. When starting the campaign the player is dropped into a tutorial mode that teaches the player the differences between four classes: Warrior, Scout, Archer and Mage. The Warrior and Scout classes are melee classes good for close attacks. The Archer and Mage offer ranged attacks, with the Mage also able to act as a support character much like a medic or shield-bearer.
The campaign starts off following along the lines of the movie trilogy with some creative flourishes thrown in. In the three and a half hours I had to play through parts of the game, I got to see instances in which the Pandemic team is given license to expand upon things that may have only been mentioned in the film. During the campaign the single player and the online co-op felt very good without any slow downs. The campaign was a lot of fun but very challenging. There are three different skill levels in the campaign, at the start players can choose Casual or Heroic and at the completion of the campaign players unlock a much hard Legendary mode. At this stage in the game’s development I felt that there wasn’t too much difference in the Casual and the Heroic modes, both offering a challenging, sometime frustrating experience in the campaign. I did find, however, that as I became more familiar with the game mechanics of Lord of the Rings: Conquest I was able to fare better during those frustrating periods. It’s very important to take advantage of the chances to change your classes at various parts of the campaign’s objectives. Knowing when to use a ranged classes versus a melee class will often make the difference between a satisfying experience or a frustrating expletive-filled “do over” done repeatedly ad nausea.
One of the major selling points to Lord of the Rings: Conquest is the players can embrace evil and play as the forces of Mordor. This is not fulfilled until the end of the good campaign and the player gets to play a little wish-fulfillment supposing that Frodo never gets a chance to destroy the One Ring. At this juncture the armies of Mordor now take over as they try to conquer the lands of Middle Earth. The evil sides of things are exactly mirrored in class types and abilities. Again, like the good campaign some levels expand on what is hinted or merely mentioned in the Peter Jackson films but given new life in the video game.
Like the other Battlefront games, players are given chances to play as the Heroes and Villains of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I took particular delight in playing as a Balrog bent on poor Gimli’s destruction. Each level in the campaign, either good or bad has objectives and players are helped along from objective to objective with huge arrows pinpointing the location of the objectives. This was very useful in the Mines of Moria where it can become very easy to get lost. In addition to the Heroes and Villains, players also can get a chance to ride steeds or Oliphaunts or play as Cave Trolls or Ents; all of which is a tremendous amount of fun and in co-op play there was some level of competition as two who could get to these characters first. In the campaign players can attack said special characters in a series of button-press mini-games, but I had no chance to check this out.
Overall the campaign for Lord of the Rings: Conquest was a lot of fun. It does requires some amount of patience and the player becomes accustomed to the controller layout and game mechanics, but having done this the game becomes a very rewarding experience. In this build of the game I did find there were a few problems. At various instances in the campaign I found it was much too easy to accidently fall off ledges or into pits and holes. Also in this build of the game I found that it was also easy and often fatal to be caught up against walls and get trapped by the enemies. Lastly if you happened to get knocked down by the enemy AI, sometimes you would get swarmed with AI intent on making paste out of your character. Whether or not these problems are addressed in the final build will remain to be seen. Regardless I had a lot of fun playing the campaign and felt disappointed when our team had to move to multi-player…until I saw how awesome the multiplayer aspect of the game was.
Check back here tomorrow for our exclusive hands-on on the Lord of the Rings: Conquest multi-player experience.