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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
hile fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” patiently await the release of Guillermo del Toro’s big-screen adaptation of the beloved fantasy novel, Pandemic Studios has stepped in to save the day with “Lord of the Rings: Conquest.” At least, that’s what they think. Following the success of the developer’s “Star Wars: Battlefront” games, Pandemic’s latest team-up with Electronic Arts is designed to replicate the experience by giving fans the chance to play through some of Middle-earth’s most memorable battles. Unfortunately, as cool as that may sound, “Conquest” is but a shell of that experience – a “Dynasty Warriors”-styled hack and slash that is only marginally better because of the movie license that it so proudly boasts.
Though there are two different story modes to choose from (War of the Ring, which follows the events of the film trilogy, and Rise of Sauron, an alternate adventure that tells what would have happened if Frodo had failed to destroy the One Ring), you can only play the first one from the get-go. Once you successfully fight your way from Helm’s Deep to the Black Gate, however, you’ll get the chance to join the Dark Side as you travel from Mount Doom to The Shire, wreaking havoc along the way. Sadly, each campaign only takes a few hours to complete, and though you do get to play as "heroes" from both sides (like Aragorn and Gandalf, or Sauron and the Witch-king) during key moments of each battle, most of your time will be spent as one of four generic grunt classes instead.
Of the different classes available, the Archer is undoubtedly the best of the bunch, because he has the ability to take out enemies with a single shot to the head. He also has three special attacks (poison arrows, fire arrows and multi-arrows) that help make the gameplay feel less monotonous, but because you have to wait for them to refresh after each use, it really isn’t much of an advantage. In fact, you’ll find that all four classes are pretty well balanced, no matter what your preference. The Warrior uses combos and special attacks to slice his way through the competition; the Scout can enter stealth mode and backstab enemies; and the Mage has a nice selection of spells to choose from (including electric shock, firewalls and healing), as well as the ability to create a force field that protects your fellow soldiers.
The classes aren’t quite as even in multiplayer. The Mage can attack opponents from long distance, protect against enemy Archers with the aforementioned force field, and even heal himself and fellow teammates with the push of a button. It’s a pretty unfair advantage that has forced a lot of people into playing as the Mage, and as a result, it has made online play even duller than the single-player campaign. Of course, for it to be a major issue, it would have to affect a wide range of players, and “Lord of the Rings: Conquest” will never be popular enough for that to happen. While there are a few different modes to choose from (like Team Deathmatch, Capture the Ring, and the territories game Conquest), there’s not a single thing that makes the game stand out from the other, better multiplayer titles on the market. Pandemic should be ashamed for developing such a half-assed product, because Tolkien himself would have never approved of a cash grab as uninspired as this.