Vaguely agreeable. Not horrible. These are the two phrases that spring to mind after play Lord of the Rings: Conquest
. That feels like the best I can say.
Background: I quite like Lord of the Rings
. I read the books and I enjoyed them (and let's face it, who'd finish a trilogy that - lined up - could stop a bullet if they didn't enjoy it?). I watched the films and mostly liked them. I like heroic chaps with swords smashing less heroic chaps with swords in the face and Ian McKellan is my second favourite venerable elder English actor (after Patrick Stewart). I'm not a hardcore fan and I don't read Elven, but I like it a lot. I was pre-disposed to like this game, too. There was no uphill battle to be fought on the developers' part to win me over.
End of background.
Lord of the Rings: Conquest
is, in essence, Star Wars: Battlefront
with swords instead of lightsabres, developed by Pandemic, the studio behind the first two games in that series. The concept is simple – play how you like through the major battles that featured in Tolkien's epic, then play again as the baddies.
First thing you're greeted with upon firing up the single-player campaign is a cutscene of sorts. Cutscenes in Conquest
use footage from the film slightly obscured by some sort of arty camera effect. That's fine. It moves things along at a reasonable pace and the lack of clarity means you don't feel weird as you transition from cutscene to gameplay. I'll take that.
As you enter the fray (after training) at the first major battle, Helm's Deep, you're asked to select a class. These will be familiar to players used to RPGs – Warrior (big, hard, tank), Scout (quick, stealthy, a bit ninja), Archer (fairly self-explanatory), Mage (healing, shields, ranged attacks). Once that's done, you get thrown into battle, assigned a mission and have tonnes of enemies chucked at you. This is the essence of how the single-player campaign works.
And so we get to our first grumble! In the single-player campaign, you're not going to feel all that inclined to chop and change too much between classes. The bulk of the combat in Conquest
is melee-based, which your archer and your mage aren't much use for. It's all well and good when you're playing with your mates – having someone to cover you from afar with a hail of arrows or heal you when you're feeling poorly, but you're not likely to feel all that inclined to cover or heal your AI buddies when a) they don't seem that inclined to return the favour and b) you're not convinced they're being much help on the battlefield in general.
First grumble over. The missions largely involve capturing or defending certain points, escorting folk places, destroying some things and killing other things that are a bit harder than your standard soldiers. These are reasonably well interspersed, but it does get a bit tiresome doing largely the same tasks over and over again. I have not yet ascertained how many times I can stand in a circle, stopping enemies from getting into that circle, before I get bored. I'm pretty sure, however, I exceeded it while playing Conquest