The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

December 17, 2003

[floatleft][/floatleft]As a fan of the Lord of the Rings films, I thought it would be suitable for me to do a review on the games’ third installment of the trilogy, “Return of the King”. Especially, since today is the opening of the long awaited finale of the trilogy. I would like to say that I really enjoyed the first two films, Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the first game, Fellowship of the Ring. Honestly, I did not bother playing Fellowship of the Ring, because it did not look intriguing by any means. But I did have the opportunity to play Two Towers, which I really enjoyed. Now I have never been a big fan of hack and slash games, but I love LoTR.

Just like Two Towers, Return of the King begins where the last game/movie ended. You begin as Gandalf as he arrives just in time at Helms Deep. From there you are set on the journey that will lead up to the greatest battle of Middle Earth. Now, I really prefer not go into detail about the different levels, since the game follows the movie pretty accurately. Therefore, I don’t want to spoil anything for the folks who have not seen the movie. Now for the most part I will just talk about the usual, graphics, gameplay, sound, and AI.

EA made some improvements to the third installment, which made Return of the King a very satisfying title. From the beginning of the game I was hooked on the new story, graphics and sound. I was very pleased to see that you are able to play as Frodo, Sam, Gandalf, and three other unlockable characters. This is a change from its predecessor where you were only given the option of playing as Aragon, Legolas, or Gemli. Another new addition to Return of the King was the all new coop mode. This is always fun if you want someone else in the action too besides the computers AI. Speaking of the computers AI, depending on your difficulty settings the enemy AI is magnificent. If you are attacking, they will block and fight you with various moves. If you run, they will chase you and hack you up, and vice versa. But it’s rare that you will chase after your enemies considering that you will be in the middle of huge battles.

[floatright][/floatright]What I really enjoyed about playing RotK was that each character can be leveled up with experience points. After each level, you are given a certain amount of experience points depending on your performance in battle. These points are helpful in purchasing combo moves, special attacks, and increased health and power. Combos are best used during bosses and one on one combat. It seems that special moves are sometimes impossible to execute during huge battles. When executed properly, the combo moves are flawless. The controls are also quite simple, and very easy to learn within minutes. In addition to your melee attack, you are given ranged attacks to pick off far off foes. Depending on the character, the ranged weapons vary. You should also remember that depending on the character, each path is very different from the others. But all will obviously end up at the same place, The Black Gate.

Graphically, Return of the King is magnificent given it’s improvements from The Two Towers. The different locations are all very smooth, colorful, and detailed with very minimal pixelation. What really amazed me about the games graphics was the elaborate detail of the characters appearances. EA did a great job in designing the characters facial detail identically to the movies. This was not the only aspect that was improved on since The Two Towers. I believe that the sound was improved with a more intricate detail to sound effects. In every level that I was battling in, I could hear everything that was going on from close to long distance. All the sounds were very well recorded and the voice overs of all the actors were uniquely written for the game. I should also mention that the music used in Return of the King is the from the movie’s original score. Using the original score really added to the intensity of the game. An aspect that was used in The Two Towers was to see how the movie sequences transitioned into the games. That effect really engulfs you into the story and the game. EA does not stop there with the improvements. As you continue to new levels you unlock special features to the movie and the production of the game.

As the final game of the series, I was really impressed with the improvements of the game since The Two Towers. Every character had its unique moves and weapons which were all upgradeable and made it very fun to play every level of the game. The story makes the game what it is by a large margin. Yes the game has its flaws here and there, but it’s not something that would make this game lame. Being able to play as the ring bearer and the great wizard is cool enough. At the end of the day, Return of the King finishes the trilogy of the games with a big bang. I would have to say that LoTR: Return of the King, is one of the top hack and slash games I have ever played. This is most certainly a game that I recommend all to play. This is especially true if you’re a big fan of the movies.