Based directly on J.R.R. Tolkien's first book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring has players controlling young Frodo Baggins through eight regions as the hobbit journeys from his home in The Shire to his eventual crossing of the River Anuin. Played from a third-person perspective behind the lead character, the game involves exploring three levels in a region before advancing to the next. Each of the 24 levels can span up to one half-mile in length.
As players make their way through the forests, mines, and mountains, they may switch to Gandalf or Aragorn to fight creatures or to solve puzzles. Gandalf wields the mighty Glamdring, Aragorn slays beasts with his bow, while Frodo uses Sting, which glows blue whenever orcs are near. Other enemies include spiders, cave trolls, goblins, wolves, and the Black Riders. In addition to both a ranged and melee weapon, each character has spirit points needed to cast spells, use items, and to save games. Players can also visit with the hobbit's other friends as the game progresses for advice or to embark on various side quests.
Despite the seemingly limitless success of the films, making a descent Lord of the Rings game seems to be proving a task more difficult than merely of the financial. Given the immense influence Tolkien has had upon many an RPG since the genre began, it would seem that an official game would be the ideal vehicle for fans to truly relish the unique world of the original novels. Vivendi's take on 'The Fellowship of the Ring' is certainly a game that hardcore fans of the novels will enjoy, even if fans of RPG games may be more than a little disappointed. Not that the success of the movies should have had much to do with this game, the official license being used coming from Tolkien Enterprises, based on the rights to the novels. EA have the official film rights, you see. So The Fellowship of the Ring is a fairly faithful transition of the novels to an interactive medium, its just sadly not quite as good as it deserves to be. Does that make sense?
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring The fellowship of the Ring is played from a third-person perspective, with controls very similar to those of a standard PC first-person shooter, and in fact you can switch to this perspective to aim at enemies. Throughout the game, you can choose to play as one of three players - the hobbit Frodo Baggins, the wizard Gandalf, or Aragorn. You'll be aided on your dramatic quest by the likes of Gimli, Legolas, Boromir, Sam Gamgee, Merry Brandybuck, and Pippin Took. All of these characters from the story will play a role in delivering the Ring to Mordor for its destruction. However, epic this experience is not - smacking of something reminiscent of an 'RPG-lite', which, whilst making the game pretty friendly to pick up and play does tend to result in rather linear and uninvolving game play. One problem symptomatic of this simplistic game play is the speed of the game - the Quests are too easy, and basic, while the combat is made very difficult by slow and decidedly static characters, a constant barrage of baddies, and the occasionally irritating camera angles. However, some puzzle-solving is included, as are magic spells and potions, which can heal or curse upon your whims. These are accessible through the useful inventory system, which pauses the game and allows you to cycle through an active character's possessions.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Story-wise, fans of the Tolkien world should feel fairly at home with this reasonably faithful recreation. They may however be a tad disappointed with the length of the plot, which is all over fairly quickly aside from some average side Quests and diversions. Its all something of an anti-climax, though one which fans may still appreciate if only for the interactive recreations of the world, which at times is superb. If nothing else, The Fellowship of the Ring is certainly an attractive game. The environments are vast, and beautifully realized, from lush green hills to the murky mines of Moria, the architecture of which is quite stunning at times. However, all is not entirely perfect on the visual front either, the character models suffering from occasional clipping problems, and overall a little more time having been needed to correct the camera angle problems, which can at times leave your view more than a little obstructed. Onto the game's audio now, and surprisingly, the voice-acting is actually of a reasonable standard - despite the occasionally over-dramatic British accents (we're not talking Olivier here, folks), all is generally fairly convincing. The soundtrack also does its job well, if not spectacularly, immersing the player into the game world, and changing to reflect the pace of on-screen action.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring All in all, The Fellowship of the Ring just isn't quite the jaw-dropping RPG masterpiece we hoped it might be. The story is over too quickly, and the game play isn't as involving as it deserves to be. Whilst the production values are generally high, the camera problems are also an annoyance. This said, however, fans of the novel will relish the opportunity and freedom of exploring the nicely realized worlds of Tolkien's unique vision, and may even enjoy the adventuring of the characters - providing the missed opportunities and occasional flaws can be over-looked.
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