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Review: Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King

Posted Mar-11 2007 by ron
For PS2, runs fine on PS3

Some pathologic positive-thinkers might believe that EA's bad reputation for hollow shovelware can be explained away by insinuating envy for their corporate girth. Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King is the perfect game to prove such people wrong.

The Lord Of The Rings is canonical western culture and shouldn't need any introduction here. When in doubt, try Wikipedia.
For a story involving so much war and struggle, the choice of making the game a third-person mass brawler comes naturally. For backdrops EA set forth to let you go through the grander events and battles, leaning heavily on the movies, but in other places they just made stuff up, to provide bigger and better excuses for pummeling hordes of baddies with your favourite character.

Gandalf helping the ents in their assault on Saruman's domain (Return Of The King screenshot, PS2)

We're pretty sure that Gandalf was supposed to be en route to Rohan when the ents base-raped Orthanc. *shrug*
Anyway, here we're trying to protect the ent doing the real hard work from archers. The smoldering pile on the far ledge is one such archer who has already tasted our projectile attacks. At the same time we must defend ourselves against melee harassment. The enemies on both sides keep on respawning, which is a common theme in Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King.

Mission structure

Following the customary tutorial mission, the game lets you play many different characters through a dozen more or less notable battles divided between three concurrent story threads: the path of Gandalf, the path of Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas ("the AGL"), and the path of Frodo and Sam.
For the tutorial you are thrust into the shoes of Gandalf mopping up at Helm's deep.

Let's do as the tutorial and introduce the basic moves: there's the default light attack, a heavy attack that can break shields, and a ranged attack. For dispatching enemies you are awarded experience points that will cause your character to eventually level up and grow stronger. The game implements what we will for lack of a better term call a frenzy-o-meter, that fills up when you make many hits in quick succession, but drops back down when you're getting hit, or just not fighting at all. Being above certain thresholds at the time of a dispatch will multiply the experience points you gain, or temporarily boost your strength when the meter is filled.

The mission selection, branched out into three paths (Return Of The King screenshot, PS2)

After the tutorial you can advance the three main story threads in your desired order. We heavily recommend left-to-right though, as this allows you to "pre-pay" a few essential health and strength upgrades for the weaker characters. This fully unlocked mission tree should also be suitable proof that we did spend enough time with the game to judge it.

White hobbitsYour characters can't jump, which means aerial combat is out of the equation. The closest you can get is dodging, which allows you to hop backwards (and only backwards) a small distance.
In good genre tradition, the camera takes care of itself. While it can't be adjusted at all it does a generally adequate job at following you around.

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