Star Wars Battlefront and its sequel are two of the finest games available for the Xbox. The Lord of the Rings seems like a great franchise to apply the battlefront formula to. It has large-scale battles, numerous warrior types (archers, warriors, wizards, and rogues), and great set pieces where those battles take place. Sadly, Pandemic managed to make Lord of the Rings: Conquest boring instead of epic and its combat awkward instead of precise.
Regardless of where the action is happening, there are four combat classes to choose from. Two are worthless all the time, one is worthless most of the time, and the other is the wizard – which is all you will play if you enjoy winning. The mage has a potent fireball attack, a shockwave that controls crowds well, a lightning bolt projectile default attack, and the ability to heal mid-battle which the other three classes lack.
In addition to offering an unbalanced selection of characters, LotR Conquest’s combat is imprecise. Attack animations often push characters through their intended target, lightning bolts will randomly hit their target and inflict no damage, and if you happen to be knocked down in the middle of a crowd of enemies then it is pretty much game over. Your opponents will not let you back up again – just wait to respawn and try again. During key battles you will have the chance to branch out from nondescript warrior/archer/scout/mage and try your hand at playing a recognizable variant from the films. These segments could have been great, but Gandalf is just another mage, and Aragorn is just another warrior. Where is the air of importance? Where is the greater master of magic or bow? Where is anything other than look that differentiates these heroes from the red-shirt scout I was just controlling? These characters are supposed to be larger than life, and it is a huge letdown to finally control them and see that they are just as the nameless guy you were just controlling.
After pushing through the main campaign, Conquest takes a page from LotR: The Third Age’s book and offers players the chance to be evil. Third Age does a great job at making you feel like you are actually playing on Sauron’s team because the forces you control have different abilities than the non-heroes you controlled throughout the campaign. Sadly, Conquest stopped copying after the idea “evil campaign” came to them. Sauron’s forces are composed of forgettable archers, scouts, warriors, and mages (still the only class worth playing). The only difference between the two campaigns is that when playing as good you beat up bad guys and when playing as bad you beat up bad guys with good guy skins.
There are plenty of LotR games out there that you should pick up before this one. Conquest just isn’t fun, and even die hard fans of the franchise should stay away.
Pros: It is fairly short
Cons: It is boring
Plays Like: Star Wars Battlefront with all the fun sucked out
ESRB: Teen for typical sword-based violence