Review by WishingTikal
"A good attempt at trying to recreate the same atmosphere as the book, but it's missing that little touch of magic the book has"
There have been several attempts at making games based on Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings in the last 20 years, but none of them came close to be as grandiose as the novel. This new attempt at re creating The Lord of the Rings universe, Black Label's The Fellowship of the Ring, falls in the category of poorly designed LOTR games. It only covers the first book of the trilogy, and to make things even worst, it's very short. I enjoyed playing through it as a LOTR fan, but as a gamer, this game is ultimately disappointing.
If you have played the Lord of the Rings game on SNES, then imagine the same game but in 3D, and you get Black Label's Fellowship of the Ring. You start off in Hobbiton, as Frodo, and after some nice cutscenes introducing you the story, the quest begins. You will be left wandering around Hobbiton, talking to the villagers to receive some quests that will be listed in the quest screen. Some are optional, but you can do them to get items. When you're tired of doing all those pointless sidequests, you can leave Hobbiton and really start the adventure. You will then travel through the same locations as the book, like the Old Forest, Bree Village, WeatherTop, Rivendell, Moria Mines, Lothlorien and all the others. We can give some credit to the game for following the book very closely. Everything's there, even Tom Bombadill. The game has a pretty dark atmosphere though, and scary at times.
Even though the adventure that awaits you sounds exciting, it is not. In all "levels", if we can them that, all you'll be doing is start from point A and walk to point B, while killing the enemies along the way. The combat system is pretty standard, you have a weapon to hit the enemy and you press the right button to hit it until it dies. Usually, you will have a sidekick helping you with the enemies, since sometimes there are a lot and it would be impossible to take them down alone. The AI worked fine for me, my sidekick was killing everything for me most of the time.
At the beginning of the game, you will be playing as Frodo, armed with a walking stick, some rocks and later a dagger (replaced by Sting at the end), but as you advance further into the game, you will also play as Aragorn, with a sword and a bow, and later on with Gandalf, who can use spells and his sword. While playing as Gandalf is pretty cool, he is probably the most annoying character to use. I always had to go in the menu to switch from one spell to the other, or to heal him, etc. Controlling the characters is also pretty hard, as the game doesn't play with gamepads so you'll have to play with the keyboard and mouse. At first it feels a bit awkward and frustrating, but after a while, it plays okay.
So, to sum up things, the game follows the first book very well and tries to re create the same atmosphere, but the levels are too bland and empty, the gameplay is too focused on boring combat and you can't explore the areas because of the linear path. If you like adventure games where all you do is wander around killing enemies, then you'll probably like the game. The landscapes you explore are pretty interesting in design, but just too bland and empty as there's just nothing to do while you wander around. The game can last a few days, but it's very short.
The graphics aren't very good for a PC game, but it's a port from the PS2 version, so with that in mind, they are all right. Nothing spectacular, but the landscapes and sceneries are nice. The character models in the cutscenes are pretty bad, but the FMVs look great. The animations lack effects like lighting sparkles, especially when using Gandalf's spells. Very so-so graphics.
Most of the key moments of the game like important cutscenes and places feature very nice orchestrated music that fit Tolkien's universe perfectly. However, the rest of the game is played while listening to very bland music that breaks the atmosphere a bit. Sounds are good, voice-acting is decent.
This game is far from being an epic. LOTR fans like me should enjoy it for what it offers, but if you haven't read the book, I would suggest you not even trying this game as it's nothing like the movie, qualitywise. Good effort, Black Label, but it wasn't enough. It's just not as immersive as the book is.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 03/02/05, Updated 07/27/05
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