reviews\ Nov 3, 2002 at 7:00 pm

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - PC - Review

OK … I will admit it … I never read the Lord of the Rings series by Tolkien until AFTER I saw the Fellowship of the Ring in the theater. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I just never did, and after seeing the masterpiece that Peter Jackson produced for the big screen, I just had to not only read the first part for the story over again, but also had to keep reading because now I HAD to find out what happened next. Lord of the Rings for PC was a neat game to play through, and it separates itself from the recent EA Lord of the Rings release by staying true to the novel rather than the big screen adaptation.


The LOTR title for PC is similar to the recent release on Xbox, with some little changes here and there. Overall, it adds in a lot of things that weren’t seen on the big screen … such as the meeting with Tom Bombadil and some other characters like Old Man Willow and the dreaded and loud mouthed Lobelia Sackville – Baggins, and portrays the characters in looks and actions to the novel rather than using the actual movie talent … all of this makes a little more complete story in some places, and allows those of us who didn’t read the books first to get a little more story and adventure here and there than what we got to see.


LOTR plays out in typical third person adventure form, where you take the role of Frodo, Gandalf, or Aragorn to get through the game. You don’t get to choose which one to use, but instead the game has already selected who needs to go through and where. Frodo starts off in Hobbiton, goes through the first couple of areas, then it switches off … and you get the idea. Each character has their own unique little personality and style, and some parts of the game are a little more puzzle or combat based … depending on which character you are playing at the time.


Now, making a game based around a #1 movie and a well loved, classic novel masterpiece is going to be a hard thing to do, and get it all 100% correct. Black Label did an OK job of it for the most part, but there were a number of things that could have been done a little better as well. The game overall feels a bit linear, for example, and there’s not a whole lot of room to explore or look for extra things or places as you go. On the plus side, it helps the story flow a little smoother, but it also get a little repetitive and may cause a lot of gamers to go through it pretty quickly as well. Some areas, like the mines of Moria and the battle with the dreaded cave troll in the tomb were pretty neat, but others … like the dark forest … got a bit tedious and seemed somewhat pointless to go through. 


Secondly, there was a lot of the book that didn’t make it to the game itself after the opening part, which I can understand to an extent. The point past Rivendell up to the entering of the mines seemed to just have dropped off the face of the earth altogether … for example … and while it was probably left out due to “not a lot going on”, it would have been neat to get a little improvisation and added some side quests or battles in to prolong the experience. There are some things as well which weren’t in the book or the movie at all, like Tom telling the Hobbits about the Prancing Pony rather than Gandalf, which don’t make the game bad … but don’t really stay true to the whole “literary” part of the game either.


Graphically, the game is pretty solid and not too bad, and I personally thought that some of the lighting effects that were used were better than the Xbox version was. Little things like shadow auras being cast by the Dark Riders during Frodo’s flight from Hobbiton were creepy as heck, and the hollow look to the environment when Gandalf had his staff illuminated looked really good and made the area look somewhat intimidating as well. The sky is filled with clouds or stars, depending on the time of day, and animals or other NPC’s will be running around, going about their business as you run around trying to save the world from Sauron. The characters looked a little flat or robotic at times, however, and there were moments of collision detection issues … like magically appearing on a ledge under the one you just jumped on 5 times already, or getting stuck behind a stick and being unable to move, which gets REALLY frustrating if you are trying to sneak around and be quiet.


The sound to the game is good, and the orchestrated music sets the tone and environment for the scene really well … not to mention it was well written and produced and is enjoyable to have going in the background. The noises from animals or monsters ranged from lifelike to creepy, depending on what they were, and the voice acting … while a little lame at times … was overall not too bad and didn’t get too aggravating or silly as you played along.


Overall, LOTR for PC provides a pretty neat game that allows you to play the roles of some of the Fellowship of the Ring. For those of you who are big fans of not only the movie, but the novel as well, this may be a good purchase to see some characters and areas that you didn’t see in the movie … and play through them also. For those of you like me … who just started reading or just read the books after seeing the film … this could be a good buy as well to give you a little more story behind the first part of the literary masterpiece. Unfortunately, if you strip the name off of it, it becomes an OK third person RPG title, which has been done before a few times. Regardless of who you are or what kind of fan you may be, hang onto the receipt with this one … just in case.  


Gameplay: 6.9
A neat presentation of the first part of Tolkien’s finest work, and a good representation of the book itself, rather than the movie. Unfortunately, the controls get a little clumsy at times … which can be a problem … and some parts of the game are way too linear. It also won’t take long to get through this for some gamers, since there are not a whole lot of areas to explore off the beaten path or new things to find.


Graphics: 7.1
Great lighting effects, and some moments … like the Dark Riders … were done well enough to produce some edge of the seat moments. On the downside, some areas were a little too dark to see where you were going, and some characters looked a little flat and squared off during cutscenes. Collision detection or glitching issues can be found here and there as well, which don’t make up a large part of the game but can be frustrating when they happen.


Sound: 7.7
The music was well written and well orchestrated, and provided a good backdrop for the scenario at hand. It never got too repetitive or annoying either. The environmental sounds were done well also, but the voice acting could have been a little better in some places.


Difficulty: Medium
There’s a bit of a learning curve at first to the controls, but they can fortunately be adjusted or assigned however needed. There are some parts of the game that may require some do overs, but overall it’s not too difficult.  


Concept: 7.0
It was neat to get a game based on the Tolkien novels rather than the big screen movie, but it is nothing more than a third person RPG if you take the name away … and one that is pretty so so overall at that.


Overall: 6.9
It’s a neat title to have if you really want a LOTR title that brings a little more to the game than just what you saw at your local theater, but missing parts, changes to the story, and some technical and gameplay issues cannot be overlooked while playing it. I applaud Black Label for doing something different to make a game that stands on it’s own, and hopefully issues will be addressed in the next installment. If you are going to purchase, make sure that you can bring it back if necessary.  

Above Average

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