This will be the first Lord of the Rings game since Warner Bros. Interactive obtained the license from EA. Warner are using this game to rekindle interest in the Tolkien franchise before the new Hobbit films and their inevitable film tie-ins in 2011.
We’ve already had EA’s high quality, if a little repetitive, two LOTR films hack ‘n’ slash tie-ins, a very linear RPG and then Pandemic’s lacklustre LOTR: Conquest on consoles so where can they really go from here?
Thankfully it’s not a cart-racer or puzzle game. Instead it’s more of a reimagining. Aragorn is on his way to visit Sam at the Shire after the quest has ended, but rather than some horrific legacy-raping sequel, you play through the original trilogy as Aragorn in Sam’s fireside recollection of the journey to destroy the One Ring that he’s telling to his own children.
This is where we’ll see a little variation as Samwise, like any good storyteller, adds extra detail for extra excitement, or perhaps remembers things that never really happened anyway! So that’s why there are spiders and multiple Balrogs galore in the Mines of Moria for example.
This should work well and is a smoother way for the developers to add in extras to the films experiences while admitting at the same time they’re being a little ‘creative’ with some of the plot points.
The visual style is much more bright and cartoonish than the previous games to try and attract the more casual players. It’s very much a Lord of the Rings game on the Wii. What it might lack in detail, it makes up for with its smooth simplicity and soft colour palette.
While the characters’ appearances don’t seem to match that of the actors, there are lines of dialogue from Sean Astin (Sam) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) taken from the film, with some new lines recorded recently too. You can probably expect a few more cast members confirmed soon; hopefully Aragorn himself, Viggo Mortensen, will be on-board.
Gameplay looks to be very familiar to previous games but simplified for the Wii’s crowd. The game will be released on the PS2 and handhelds too but from a different development team. The Wii version is the original platform and has the more interesting control options, using the remote to swing your sword and the nunchuk as a shield. Hopefully the shield will be activated by moving the nunchuk rather than a dull button press or roll of the analogue stick. The nunchuk will also control a firebrand that you can fend off attackers with and possibly give them a good burning.
Multiple successful hits results in the player being able to enter a ‘rage’ mode of sorts, dealing extra damage. You can also fight on horseback to really mow down some orc on the Pelennor fields. Depending on where you are in the story, members of the Fellowship will fight alongside you as AI characters. Hopefully levels where you have to protect hobbits will be left out.
Players can expect to earn new moves along the way, but any levelling up will be strictly ‘under the hood’ and done with minimum fuss for the casual player. The amount of new moves to look forward to might be enough to keep the more seasoned players interested too.
If somebody in the Fellowship waved a sword at anything in the films, you can bet Aragorn’s going to have a stab at it them for this game. Orcs, Uruk-hai, Cave Trolls, Armoured Trolls, Balrogs, giant spiders, Nazgul, Mumakil and all manner of siege towers and ballistas will all need to be taken on. You’re going to be knackered playing this on the Wii!
All the classic locations from the films seem to be included. The latest trailer has shown the Shire, the mines of Moria, Helm’s Deep, Minas Tirith, the Pelennor fields, the plains of Rohan and the Black Gate at the mouth of Mordor.
Two players can tear across Middle Earth in Sam’s fib-ridden retelling, with Gandalf getting stuck-in alongside Aragorn with drop-in/drop-out co-op options. Thanks to Sam’s ‘creative’ storytelling we can expect to see Gandalf using lots of magic lightning and fire ball attacks as well as standard melee attacks probably with a sword rather than his staff. I’d be surprised if Legolas or Gimli aren’t involved, but we can probably live without any more hobbit levels.
The game is said to be around 12 hours in length which sounds very reasonable and the decision to do all three films in the one game is better than milking it over multiple releases. You have to wonder though, what are else they’re going to be able to come up with if the first Hobbit movie isn’t out till Christmas 2011. A Gollum version of Manhunt?
*I also had a version of this article posted at Hooked Gamers.