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DS  header logo

Lord of the Rings: Conquest

For: DS

Mount Doomed

Product: Lord of the Rings: Conquest | Developer: Behaviour Interactive | Publisher: Electronic Arts | Format: DS | Genre: Action, Adventure, Film/ TV tie- in | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: Europe
Lord of the Rings: Conquest DS, thumbnail 1
He may have spent a lifetime inventing weird languages and creating fantasy worlds but you would have thought J.R.R. Tolkien could have taken some time to explain exactly how the Dark Lord Sauron and his vast ranks of bloodthirsty Uruk-hai spent hundreds of years losing to a bunch of pointy-eared elves with girly hair? Orlando Bloom versus a Balrog? We think not.

If this query has run through your head during repeated viewings of The Lord of the Rings, you'll no doubt be hoping that EA's latest romp around Middle Earth is just what the wizard ordered.

While Lord of the Rings: Conquest allows you to re-create the epic struggle of good against evil, it also lets you step into the socket of the flaming, lidless eye and turn the tide in favour of the forces of wickedness.

Quite how much you'll actually learn about the battling qualities of the different races is open to question, though. Conquest looks and plays like your average topdown hack-and-slash, but conceptually there's slightly more to it than running your enchanted blade through enemy troops in a whirlwind of immaculately-preened blonde hair.

As the Conquest part of the title suggest, it's about wresting tactical control of the battlefield from your opponent. So, as with the Capture the Flag mode in any shooter, your basic goal in each mission is to capture the various flags that are scattered around, turning them blue in the process by standing beneath them.

Taking a flag brings several benefits: not only does it boost your troop numbers, but it also means you can switch unit type and respawn from that point if you happen to find yourself on the wrong end of a rusty axe.

There are three main units to choose from, but despite the options inherent in The Lord of the Rings universe, they're completely generic - warrior, archer and mage.

Predictably each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The Warrior is sturdy but lacks a ranged attack. The Archer is the opposite: he excels at long-distance attacks but is hopeless in close-quarters. The Mage possesses close combat and ranged spells, and can also heal friendly units, but in terms of physical strength he'd have trouble fighting his way out of a wet paper bag. Gandalf the geriatric perhaps?

At certain points you also gain control of unique troops, such as the tree-like Ents, but for all their knockabout quality these moments are few and far between, sadly.

Where the game really falls down, however, is the sheer dumbness of the artificial intelligence of the troops who are supposed to be helping you conquer the battlefield. Friendly units will essentially head towards the next objective (usually a control point) and mindlessly engage the enemy without any consideration of strategy, let alone which unit type you've chosen.

For example, you might select a Mage, thinking that providing much-needed backup from a distance is the best course of action, but your fellow warriors will leave you totally unprotected should you stray within distance of the melee.

Likewise, as a warrior you won't get much support from your archers or mages. They'll just shamble along in their own little world, oblivious to your plight.

Of course, if Conquest was all about being the lone hero - Aragorn son of Arathorn - it might be possible to excuse such faults. Indeed, it's only because the game isn't challenging that your allies' incompetence isn't an obstacle to completing it.

Nonetheless, their muddled movement means you can expect to respawn several times each mission.

You can't even enjoy the pleasure of the hack-and-slash either. The characters animate well enough, but their attacks are disappointingly limp and lack any kind of visceral impact, while the 3D visuals tends towards dull colours and blocky designs. And with each character taking seemingly ineffectual swipes at each other, the play area is soon awash with fighters, making it incredibly difficult to differentiate one side from the other.

The glowing circular symbols beneath the feet of each unit - red for enemy, blue for ally - help to clear up some of the confusion but these can also become obscured when things get particularly hectic.

The only real positive experience comes if you get to play with some friends - the game supports up to four players using the DS local wireless connection in either co-op or versus mode.

So while, at the design document stage, Lord of the Rings: Conquest had a vast amount of potential in terms of the history, martial races and battle locations contained in the licence, instead it turned out to be little more than a blunt version of that ageing topdown classic Gauntlet.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 23 January 2009
The licence promises much but Lord of the Rings: Conquest is a cheap cash-in that should be avoided. Even Grima Wormtongue would have to agree
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