The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest review
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest is an oddity, and not just because the limelight for Tolkien's adventure has faded. It's a bizarre feeling to watch the movie likenesses of your favorite characters bouncing around with flapping jaws and jelly arms like muppets. Are the comically deformed creatures supposed to inspire endearment, or revulsion?
Aragorn's Quest and its cartoonish appearance, undoubtedly inspired by World of Warcraft, is a family-friendly rendition of the LOTR universe. Even the orcs and uruk-hai have traded in their loincloths for more conservative layers of armor, lest your children be exposed to the horrors of seeing thighs. The irony of making a happy superfriends version of LOTR is that any youth with an inkling to play Aragorn's Quest has probably seen the movies, and thus, far more violence and darkness.
The story is technically set after the books, as Samwise Gamgee tells his son about the quest to save Middle-earth, but from Aragorn's perspective. Samwise was always my favorite member of the Fellowship, but I suppose the story of an emotionally supportive sidekick doesn't make for an exciting game. Between stories, you will have the opportunity to run around the village as Samwise's son, interacting with villagers and re-enacting historic moments with a wooden sword and imaginary foes.
Aragorn journeys to the filmic locations of Rivendell, Rohan, Helm's Deep, and so forth, but the movies were summarized versions of the books, which makes this the cliff notes. Many major elements of the plot are glossed over or excised completely, including Boromir's betrayal and Frodo's subsequent departure from the Fellowship - a pivotal point that sets future events in motion. The only way to understand the game is to have prior knowledge of the movies/books.
Aragorn's Quest takes minor liberties with the original story, but the events fit seamlessly, as though Tolkien chose not to dictate some occurences. It might help if the quests were more entertaining though, and not prime examples of fetch-questing. They will repeatedly send you back and forth across maps to speak with meaningless characters, seemingly for the sole purpose of killing as much time as possible.
Aragorn's Quest offers the illusion of combative depth with motion-controlled horizontal, vertical, and thrusting strikes, and simple combos and charge-attacks. In truth, Aragorn is perfectly capable of recklessly wading into almost any crowd. Foes will occasionally require additional tools, such as a torch for spiders or a shield to protect against archers, but most of the game can be spent with your hand shaking aimlessly at your side, and it only gets easier as Aragorn gets stronger.
There are tokens hidden throughout the world that make Aragorn stronger, and money for purchasing artifacts, which bestow numerous powers, such as multi-attacks with arrows and increased damage against beasts. The irony is that combat is largely optional. With the exception of some pivotal encounters, Aragorn can usually run past his enemies and straight to the end of the stage. It isn't a bad tactic either, since enemies offer no experience points nor items to loot. It's worth mentioning that a second player can join in as Gandalf, but why anyone would choose to make the game easier, and thus more mundane, is beyond me.
The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn's Quest doesn't have any glaring issues that could be considered problematic. Rather, the breezy story, irrelevant quests, and carefree combat fail to inspire any sense of wonder or excitement. Surely, Tolkien deserves better.