Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Game Info
Platform(s)
Xbox, PS2
Publisher
Universal Interactive
Developer
WXP
Genre
Adventure
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Tolkien world realized in fine graphics
• Wonderful music
• You get to play the Old Forest sequence

The Bad

• Combat is shallow
• Lengthy loading
• Not enough chance to regain Purity
• Short and leaves out a lot of the story

 
Grade
B-

On the heels of the successful movie based on the classic Tolkien trilogy, two games were in development - one based on the movie, the other based on the original books. WXP's Fellowship of the Ring is patterned after the first novel and tells the story of Frodo, a hobbit who inherits an all-powerful ring that he must see destroyed. He begins his travel with three friends and Sauron's Ringwraiths on his tail. Their trek is joined by the wizard Gandalf, the dwarf Gimli, the ranger Aragorn, the elf Legolas and the human Boromir.

Visually, Fellowship of the Ring looks wonderfully. The game's levels are large with a fine amount of detail that really draws the player in. It's obvious that the developers have spent some time in the Tolkien lore as the locations look and feel as though they're torn straight from the pages of the novels. Bump-mapped textures have a great amount of detail that really fools the eyes into making the area look more intricate than they might be. One of the nicer parts is the stone roads in the town of Bree, which glisten in the light as the rain comes down around the player. On top of the nice look of the levels are some fine lighting effects that really accent and give an fine ambiance. Also, there are little touches that give life to the game, like leaves blowing in the wind and bats flying about in the caverns. The only real aspect of the graphical package that seems to be unpolished are the character models, which look good in detail, but the facial models leave a bit to be desired and the animations aren't that great. Lip synch is very poor and you'll find a bit of repeated animations in cutscenes (especially Tom Bombadil, who seems to use the same animation no matter what he's doing).

When you start the game in Hobbiton, it feels like the whole world is open to you. You have things to do, but you can talk to other hobbits to gain optional quests. When you complete these quests, Frodo gains Purity, which is essential as using the Ring will drain Frodo's Purity meter. When the meter runs out, Frodo is corrupted and dies. But, once you leave Hobbiton, the game leaves the more open-ended adventure and becomes a more action oriented linear title. Unfortunately, though, the combat system is fairly mundane. You can attack with the A button and block with the B button and the player does have the option to use ranged or melee attack, but that's basically the whole of the combat system. And since you gain no experience and very little reward for battle, most of the time, you'll be hacking your way to the end of the level just to finish it. Once you get to Bree, you do get to use Aragorn. While he does seem more powerful and agile, his combat is still the same engine as Frodo. Once near Moria, you'll be able to use Gandalf, whose magic is useful as a ranged attack.

While using Frodo, you'll be able to use the Ring, which turns Frodo invisible. The screen is surrounded by a ring of fire and Frodo becomes a white outline of himself. Once invisible, you can attack enemies or even just sneak past them. From time to time, the Ring icon will start spinning, informing the player that they're near somewhere with a hidden passage, which will often net extra items. As stated before, the Ring does take it's toll. But, the problem is that after leaving Hobbiton, you never really get the chance to do more to increase your Purity, so you'll have to be extremely careful to pick and choose when you want to use the Ring.

The musical score is fine and plays up dramatic portions of the game. Both sound effects and voice acting work fine. My only complaint about the voice acting is that it's obvious that the same actors and actresses have done multiple roles. A few of the female voices are noticeably done by the same actress.

There are only a few technical aspects that really stand out in this game that should have been addressed. Expect a lot of loading between areas. While this is usually relegated to Loading screens, once you reach Moria, you'll have to kill time while new areas load by pacing around in the doorway for as much as 10-15 seconds. There is minor pop-up of objects in certain levels, but it's nothing that's a major issue.

For a game that's supposed to include things that the movie left out, like the whole Tom Bombadil and Old Forest sequence, there seems to be as much left out. Both Bilbo's departure from Hobbiton and Gandalf's betrayal by Saruman are barely even mentioned. Much like the rest of the story's conversation, the Council of Elrond scene is edited down to the bare bones just to get the game moving along. Fans of the Tolkien series will find a lot missing from the game.

I really wish Fellowship of the Rings had stuck with the more open-ended adventure it started with. While the game is good at capturing the world of the book, the combat system makes most of the following levels fairly straightforward and mundane. If you can get past the hack and slash aspect of the game, you'll enjoy a nice looking tribute to Tolkien's first chapter in the trilogy.

- - Vane

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