According to popular legend, in 1969 Lord of the Rings creator, JRR Tolkien sold the merchandising rights to The Lord of The Rings to United Artists for the measly sum of £10,000. Tolkien was privately reported to have said that he felt he had the better of the deal as, in his opinion at least, it would be impossible to create a movie around the sprawling Middle Earth saga.
Four decades later and The Lord of the Rings trilogy has won a place as one of the most successful movies of all time, grossing nearly £2 billion worldwide and spawning a host of video game sequels paying homage to Tolkien’s fantastic creation.
Now, in November 2010, Headstrong Games , a studio more famous for its blood splattering House of the Dead series, has thrown its hat into the fray with The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest.
Set some 15 years after the Lord of the Rings epic, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest re-tells the story of the fall of Mordor and Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring by hurling it into the mouth of Mount Doom.
As some time has passed since the original story, Aragon is now king, and Sam Gamgee is mayor of Hobbiton.
You pick up the reins as Sam’s son – whom he has called ‘Frodo’ for obvious sentimental reasons.
The game begins during a period of peace and prosperity for the shires. News arrives that King Aragon is to visit the shire which prompts a nostalgic Sam Gamgee to recount to his wide-eyed son the story of his adventure with the Fellowship of the Ring. As the game more or less follows the progression of the movies, there are very few surprises to be had for anyone who has seen the trilogy or read the books. In fact, most of the time, you will find yourself smiling and nodding quietly as you recognise scenes and set pieces taken from the stories.
Headstrong Games has pitched this offering squarely at the younger end of the gaming market, hence the graphics lean more towards cartoon creations rather than photo accurate realism. In fact, the game is somewhat reminiscent of the Zelda series on the N64 in both look and feel. The colours are, for the most part, vibrant and in keeping with the lavish feel of Headstrong’s recreation of Middle Earth. But it has to be said that the frame rate does suffer somewhat when the screen is filled with characters and you will notice a hint of pop up as you traverse the eight levels.
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest is essentially a combat game with elements of go- fetch, escort and coin collecting thrown into the mix.
There are bucket loads of side quests which, although they don’t add a great deal to the game, do provide you with an opportunity to earn extra money to equip your character with weapons and clothing. But, for most of the time, you will find yourself doing a lot of fighting. Each level ends with a boss battle that signifies the end of a chapter. Although most seasoned gamers will see off these bosses without breaking a sweat, the younger players will take ten to eleven hours to finish all of the missions. At the end of each level you’re able to check how many hidden items you’ve picked up (and missed) which should give you some incentive to revisit the levels. As an aside, its worth noting that although John Rhys-Davies and Sean Astin were conscripted to reprise their roles as Gimli and Sam, most of the NPC’s have text only scripts which is slightly disappointing. A minor point perhaps but one that detracts from the game and keeps it from reaching the stellar heights of previous Lord of the Ring outings, in particular, The Battle For Middle Earth.
Control-wise, Lord of the Rings: Aragons Quest, makes good use of both the Wii controller and the nunchuck. Held in the right hand, the Wii controller acts as your sword with pretty impressive motion detection. The game manages to capture your slashing and hacking movements well enough to immerse you in the action. In the left hand your nunchuck acts as your shield which you can use to ram enemies and break their defense. Sweet. The game also offers you the opportunity to play with a mate who can jump in and take on the role of Frodo’s sister when you’re in the Shire or Gandolf when you’re on a mission.
Although by no means a classic, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest is a pretty decent game that will appeal more to younger players than those raised on Modern Warfare and Halo. The co-op option, side quests and the hidden items provides some replay value, although the meat and potatoes of the game itself is pretty basic and predictable. Definitely worth playing at least until the new Zelda hits the shelves.
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