Just think about it for a moment: the company that made the Star Wars: Battlefront series has just announced that they would be making a Lord of the Rings game with the same gameplay that you already know and love. What could go wrong? Oh my young
Padawan Wizard … there is so much you have yet to learn.
It’s tough to even begin writing this. It’s been over a half-decade now, even more if I were to count the now embarrassing amount of time that I spent salivating over the title on the official Pandemic forums, (RIP). I was so behind this game that before Conquest’s release I was a fairly prominent member in the community, and during that time I helped construct a fairly comprehensive "encyclopedia" of what had been announced of the title. Yeah.
A Gamespot preview helps fill in the tragic picture. The Ringbearer mode had Frodo trying to escape the ringwraiths as he tried to deliver the One Ring. When a ringwraith captured Frodo they took his place, while the other ringwraiths fought each other as they tried to become Frodo. The other mode was Stronghold, which was essentially Risk in Middle Earth “… in which teams fight one another on various maps to take over the various territories of Middle-Earth.” Sounds awesome, huh?
Even now I would still play it, despite the flaws that perpetuate throughout the rest of the game. It is actually impressive that Conquest was such a downgrade over Battlefront: far less AI bots on the map, smaller maps, less compelling combat … the list just went on and on. Not even the fairly decent graphics and amazing soundtrack could fully redeem this game. Sorry, Howard Shore.
Taking off the nostalgia goggles, it is clear that the Battlefront games had many of the same flaws that Conquest did, although what pulled everything together was its relative polish and impeccable devotion to its license. So what happened to the oh-so-promising title?
While it is easy to point fingers, one must also remember to at least share them blame, as there was a time limit on this game that wasn’t set by EA. If memory serves, Pandemic Studios had until December 31st 2008 in order to finish developing the title, as EA’s rights to actually publish said LOTR titles were due to lapse by the new year. Pandemic actually asked (and received) just a little more time in order to frantically finish developing the title for its launch date of January 13th 2009 … despite the company itself being in the process of being dissolved by EA.
The sad thing is, is that all the pieces were there. Pandemic Studios had proven themselves previously to be able to take a license and make a great game, but the game just feels rushed. It’s really hard to describe, but to take a stab at it: it’s like an itch you can’t scratch. It didn’t feel that there was any actual actual progression from Battlefront 2 to Conquest in terms of combat—it just felt rigid and boring. However, it’s not all bad news, as it’s great to run around the pitch-perfect locations from Peter Jackson’s films, and even with mediocre combat … it’s still LOTR; there is an innate "epic" feeling that lingers despite the game’s best efforts.
Despite the EA servers being shut down literally a year after release, you can still play the game online. If you have the program Tunngle and a PC copy of the game, you see what it is like to play online before the servers were shut down. You will get obliterated by the veterans that have been somehow playing for six years, but it is still a decent time. The campaign is there too I guess, but I really don’t recommend it. The campaign somehow manages to make Lord of the Rings feel both contrite and dull, a combination that only reinforces the mediocrity that permeates through the title. A sad state of affairs, but overall it only reinforces my opinion as to the most disappointing game of Generation 7: Lord of the Rings: Conquest.