Archive for October, 2012

Lord Of The Rings – Return of the King

Lord of the Rings, Return of the King is a good film. However, LoTR, RotK is a bad, bad, bad game. You may asked what I expected from a movie tie-in game, long known for being mostly abysmal, the answer is that I expected the game to be functional at the very least. The box for the game goes further than my expectations in hyping the game up by claiming that you can ‘Be the Hero.’ which is nowhere near as fun as you might expect.

The game doesn’t start off well when it makes you watch a long clip from the film before you get to gameplay. If I’m playing the game, I’ve probably seen the film right? This is a movie tie-in isn’t it? Why would you show a clip from the film? Presumably because it means you don’t have to bother making cutscenes, you already don’t have to bother writing a story because it’s a tie-in, so why bother making cutscenes as well? Rather amusingly, the tutorial jumps straight from a clip of Gandalf riding down the hill towards Helms Deep into the game’s version of Gandalf, highlighting the poor graphics and character models (also Helms Deep was in the Two Towers so why is it in the game for Return of the King?). The tutorial then continues its descent into farce by telling you the the A button (I was playing this on GameCube) is ‘Speed’. It doesn’t give you a sentence. That’s all it is. Top right of the screen. A = Speed. What? It turns out that this means a fast attack, but why couldn’t they put that instead of ‘Speed’?. Also B= Parry, Z= Action, Y=Fierce, L+A = Ranged and R=Finisher, no mention is made of X which is an attack that doesn’t use the character’s weapon and yet is slower than a ‘Speed’ attack, so it has no use.The tutorial is pretty short and simple, like a tutorial should be, but it also serves to highlight some glaring issues that will only become more apparent and more obstructive later on. The first is a that it is often extremely hard to tell what you’re targeting with your ranged attack, a small green dot is above who or what you’re targeting but when this is combined with the muddied visuals then it is often very hard to tell what exactly you are shooting at. Another complaint is that it becomes very clear very quickly that the game throws a lot of enemies at you and this makes it very obvious that the combat is terrible. Not just bad, terrible. I found the easiest way to win was to mash the fast attack button because it’s quick and you can easily stun-lock enemies into a combo and an easy kill. The fierce attack is needed to take down enemies with armour or shields but this is the only time it needs to used because it’s slow and cumbersome. On top of this when you’re facing multiple enemies parrying is pointless because groups of enemies always seems to attack one after the other, leaving no window of time in which you can counter. Talking of enemies, they very obviously telegraph their attacks, which makes them easy to parry, but they also have a lot of unnecessary animations which look like they’re about attack but them don’t, which is simply annoying. So combat basically boils down to how fast you can hit A and whether you can hit the enemy before they can hit you.
Getting back to the muddied visuals, it’s sometimes not really obvious where the hell you are supposed to go and that’s really saying something for a game as linear as this. The level in the Path of the Dead is especially guilty of being dark and confusing to navigate. Another visual problem is the camera, it’s immovable but that’s not a bad thing in a game that isn’t a platformer, the main problem is that every time you enter a new ‘room’ or ‘screen’ or whatever you call it, the camera snaps to a different angle to the previous screen. Sometimes to the complete opposite position than before often meaning you walk back the way you came without realising it. Which gets annoying very quickly. In general really the graphics are just bad, particularly the character models which are just lacklustre, there’s not really a lot more to say overall.
However, there are a lot of other complaints I have about the game, particularly about the co-op aspect of the game. I often feel that bad games are more fun when you play them with friends because you can laugh about them with your buddy but not this game. LoTR, RotK actively punishes players for having friends and playing co-op adds several unbearable aspects to an already frustrating game. For a start, you can only play the ‘Path of the Fellowship’ (one of three paths, Path of the Hobbits, Path of the Wizard and Path of the Fellowship) which denies access to 2/3 of the game. This is even more ridiculous when you consider that the Path of the Hobbits has TWO PLAYABLE CHARACTERS IN IT. WHY CAN’T I PLAY AS FRODO AND A FRIEND AS SAM, WHY IS IT THAT ONLY AVAILABLE IN SINGLE PLAYER AND WHY CAN I ONLY BE THE FAT ONE INSTEAD OF THE WHINY ONE? Who thought that was a good idea? Who designed this game? Apparently it was done by a squad of brain dead, leprous monkeys because on top of this there is a lives system in co-op when there isn’t one in single player and you get one life between the two of you. This means that if one person dies it’s fine, they respawn, but if the second person then dies then it’s game over, start from the last checkpoint. What? How does that make any sense at all? Also the experience system is completely retarded, you gain experience individually but when you buy upgrades at the end of the level it pools it so that one person can spend all the experience on themselves? What? Why? How does THAT make any sense either? Whoever designed this game clearly put no thought into the co-op aspect and completely butchered.

I also mentioned checkpoints earlier, another aspect of the game that appears to have no rhyme or reason. I swear that there are about 4 more checkpoints in the first level for Paths of both Hobbit and Wizard (Osgiliath and Isengard respectively) then in the Path of the Dead one, which is frankly just strange. Also, Gandalf never stormed Isengard with the Ents? Why put that in the game at all if it didn’t happen in book or film? Another bamboozling design choice on top of many others. As well as all this appalling design, this game is incredibly frustrating and I am ashamed to say I only beat one level that wasn’t the tutorial (The Path of the Dead). This is because of clunky, unclear combat and several individual problems. In Gandalf’s level I kept getting trampled repeatedly by friendly Ents and then being continuously stun-locked and dealt massive damage over and over again until death. In Frodo and Sam’s level, there was a part where you had to get past a load of orcs on a roof whilst not setting off the Nazgul meter that the level introduced that seemed to work completely at random and instantly killed you if it was set off. As for the King of the Dead, the second level for the Fellowship, well that was just an insultingly simple boss fight followed by a back track through the first level but now with falling debris which meant if you weren’t standing in the right place when you went from screen to screen you would be instantly killed and it would be back to the last checkpoint, so I gave up.

I doubt I’ll ever beat this game, I’ll keep trying but I can’t promise I’ll be trying for much longer. This game is bad, plain and simple. There are a number of simply baffling design choices that make this game not only not fun to play, but also frustrating and unpleasant to look at. If you enjoyed the film or book of Return of the King I urge you to read or watch it again instead of playing this game. It would be a far more enjoyable experience as well as take you significantly less time.

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