Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
System: X-Box
Publisher: Black Label Games
Developer: WXP
Released: 2002
Genre: Action/Adventure
Capabilities: None Applicable

Review Written: November 25, 2002

The Game

When I first saw this game I expected it to be bases on the blockbuster movie that was released last year. I mildly enjoyed the first movie, but have never read any of the books. Unfortunately for me, that is what The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for X-Box is based on. I wonít have any idea on how to compare this to the book released so many years ago, but Iíll do my best from the perspective I got of the first movie. So if you have to assume this review as anything, assume it as a perspective from the casual fan of the movie.

Story

The main star of the Lord of the Rings is Frodo Baggins. His quest is to destroy the One Ring so he can strip away the abilities of the evil Lord Sauron. Frodo has eight characters join him on his adventure to Mount Doom, which is the only place this ring can be destroyed. Most of these characters are from the movie such as Pippin and Gandalf the wizard.

Graphics

From the first few minutes I played this game, it automatically reminded me of my experiences of the pair of Legend of Zelda games on the Nintendo 64. The character and level design, and especially the atmosphere gave me first impressions of an X-Box version of Zelda. These impressions ended quickly. Fellowship does have a few things going for it such as the stellar character models. Since the publishers didnít snag the rights of the movie to put characterís likeness in the game, they had to do their best to make good look-alikes. Youíll be glad to know that the developers hit the nail on the coffin for getting the most accurate models they could do without getting sued by Electronic Arts.

There are some issues that plague the graphics. For starters, the camera doesnít follow the action the greatest as it tends to focus on other less important things. Also, the collision detection is a bit off. Attacks that look like they shouldíve gone right through your opponentís body yield no damage, and vice versa. The last major gripe is the loading times. They are unbearably long. Upon entering a new area, youíll experience loading times that last anywhere from 30 seconds to a whole minute. I was getting extremely frustrated after experiencing each loading time that I had to find some reading material to occupy me during them. I suggest that you do the same.

Sound

Remember that episode of The Simpsons where Bart writes a play and reads it to Lisa with his English accent that is so bad that Lisa runs away in disgust? Thatís kind of what the voice acting is like in Fellowship of the Ring. Some characters like Gandolf have some good voice acting, but for main characters like Frodo and Pippins, their voices arenít enthusiastic and uninspired. The background music fits the atmosphere for this game as good as bread and butter. If the soundtrack is comparable to any other game out there, itíd be surprisingly similar to the stellar score for Age of Empires II.

Game play

I easily adapted to the control scheme in Fellowship of the Ring. The simple configuration should be a blast for anybody looking for something as easy to pick up and play. In familiar fashion to the first Zelda game on the NES, you have two items for your inventory, and the items can be replaced by either sub-screens or hotkeys on the controller.

The fighting system in Fellowship isnít something I was to keen about. I wish they couldíve started us off with some better weapons than a stick and some rocks. ďWhatcha gonna do big orc dudes when the Frodester and my poking stick run wild on you?Ē What the hell is the fun in that? Granted, youíll run across some pretty powerful weapons later on, but they couldíve at least started us off with a tiny dagger or something. I was in a rage during combat because of the cheap AI where the monsters block most of my attacks, and their puny attacks yield more damage than my strongest ones.

During game play youíll find yourself switching off between the characters in your party. This is due to each character possessing specific traits that can maneuver them past certain areas. For example, the tiny hobbits can squeeze by narrow passageways, and Gandolf can take advantage of his powerful magic attacks. This is the strongest part of the game engine because this variation help keeps the game fresh.

The weakest area in game play is the many errands youíll have to do. Youíll find yourself doing so many chores, especially in the beginning of the game, that youíll find this game a chore to play through. Címon, I want to slay Orcs and Goblins, not grabbing sticks out of chimneys and helping a farmer find his ladder. When you finally do encounter battles, the sloppy fighting system will force you to think youíre out cherry picking again.

Replay Value

Lord of the Rings didnít keep me as hooked as the movie did, and it kept on seeming like more of a chore to play my way through this game. Thankfully for me, and unfortunate for everyone else, this game is only ten hours long! Thatís about the same length of the movie! There arenít too many hidden items to be found and secret areas to explore. So everything that is shoved in your face the first time you complete Fellowship of the Ring is what you get.

In Brief

+: Fans of the book will enjoy this, good background music, distinct character variation

-: Fans of the movie will hate this, sluggish fighting engine, too much errand running, and only a total of ten hours worth of game play

RATINGS

Graphics: 7.8
Sound: 7.2
Game play: 3.5
Replay Value: 1.2

Overall: 4.9

Iím not too fond of this game. It ends up being a lousy Zelda 64 rip off instead of a gripping adventure game. Fans of the book and movie may find some interest in Fellowship of the Ring. For the few of those who want to give this game a shot, I highly recommend renting it first, and completing it in half of the period you have the game. However, if you just got to own a Lord of the Rings game, I suggest you wait until Two Towers comes out from Electronic Arts in a few months for the X-Box.
 

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