This week has been a real fucking mess in the Rose City hasn't it?
First we find out that Mayor Sam "That Depends On What Your Definition Of Is Is" Adams pulled a Lewinsky with an underage dude and didn't even have the common ribaldry to use impromptu, tobacco-themed "props."
Then, only yesterday, some asshole decides to gun down a bunch of twentysomethings waiting outside The Zone to shake whichever parts of their bodies might be most enflamed by the surging rhythms and any obligatory Italian Lotharios who might be casually sipping espresso nearby.
Feeling it was my duty to write something in the electronic pages of The Merc that wouldn't leave you wanting to move to Austin or curl up in the fetal position, I slit open the latest box from Electronic Arts to land on my doorstep: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest!
Everything I'd seen of the game up 'til then had led me to believe it was a gorgeous, chaotic reimagining of the epic battles made famous in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, so I was happy to be able to tell you all that things weren't quite that bad as long as we had big, dumb, cacophonous entertainment pieces to keep us distracted from our collapsing society!
Too bad Conquest sucks harder than ...
(C'mon, you all know exactly where I was going with that one.)
First, I will share the only real bit of good news I could come up with: I just landed a huge, gorgeous 1 bedroom apartment in the Pearl about 100 feet from the Trader Joe's off of 21st. I don't imagine it does anything for you, but would it kill you to be happy for me for a change?
Anyway, onto the game: The Lord of the Rings: Conquest is a team-based multiplayer action game reminiscent of the Star Wars: Battlefront series. In fact, Conquest was created by the same team who made the majority of the Battlefront titles.
They didn't quite seem to understand that the Battlefront games worked so well because most of the people in Star Wars are firing fucking laser blasters and explosive tauntaun dolls. In the Lord of the Rings universe you have a bunch of more or less dark age era people wandering around with swords and knives, turning half of the gameplay experience into a long wait while you run across the map to find whoever it is that you're supposed to kill.
Graphically and aurally, Conquest falls apart pretty quickly too. Prior to release we were promised thousands of enemies on screen at once, but in all of my time forcing myself to complete the title, I never saw more than 10-20. As a result you spend a lot of time in noticeably silent battlefields. Then, once enemy ranks do get up that high not only does the game noticeably slow down, the graphics automatically downgrade themselves.
The video clip up above these words would have you believe otherwise, but once you've played through those sections, you'll immediately understand where the creators of those clips positioned the cameras to make the game seem more intense. Knowing what I do now, I'm almost a bit concerned that developer Pandemic Studios knowingly released a game that didn't live up to the company's promises. I'm sure it's not the first time such a thing has happened in the world of game development, but it's still abhorrent.
I admit, Conquest's overall concept is still novel though. The whole "replay every major battle of the LOTR trilogy as either the good or bad guys" idea is a damn cool one, but even those die hard Tolkein fans who would have cut off important body parts ten years ago for a glimpse at a game with that concept will be pissed that Pandemic turned such a great idea into such lame results.
Normally I would have put this piece in my weekly mini-review column, but I felt that those of you who might already be en route to a store to buy this one needed a stronger warning than the typical single paragraph. Maybe rent it if you really loved P.J.'s films, but if you've never spent a summer learning Tolkien's Elvish language, save your $60 for something better.
(Like an awesome housewarming present for my new apartment.)
Post Script: If you're a Tolkien fan who is scratching his head wondering what Lord of the Rings games are actually worth your time, I've got even more good/bad news for you: The bad news is that almost every game based on either the books or the films over the years has been fucking horrid.
The good news is that there is one really great Lord of the Rings game release recently and I'm working on a piece for this very website that will highlight that game and explain why you all should play it, regardless of whether you get a boner from Orlando Bloom as an elf or from Orlando Bloom in general. Keep your eyes peeled.