Frodo, no!

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Boy is it fun to slaughter hobbits. I never thought I'd revel in an opportunity to massacre the wee-folk of Tolkien's timeless tales, but after years of reading and watching their misadventures, it was cathartic to finally be the hand that scoured the Shire of Middle-Earth.

This option in EA/Pandemics' latest movie-license cash-in is what attracted me to it, and if that were all the game offered, I would be happy with it. But Lord of the Rings: Conquest also offers the ability to become the mighty Balrog, reborn upon the betrayal of the forces of good by Frodo Baggins in the fiery forge of Mount Doom.

What's that? Frodo didn't succumb to the power of the One Ring and deliver it to the dark lord Sauron? Well, that may have been true in the book and film, but thanks to a little creative license, Conquest lets dastardly gamers play a what-if scenario to its grizzly end - in addition to the traditional tale of goodness overcoming evil.

Conquest is an action title built from the foundations of EA/Pandemics' Star Wars: Battlefront games. Players assume the role of one of four troopers in the War of the Ring: warrior, archer, scout or wizard.

Each role exists in nearly identical form on both good and evil sides. After choosing your role, your trooper runs from point to point in limited, scenario-based maps, killing foes and capturing points, until the game declares the position taken.

Some fun comes from the excellent Howard Shore soundtrack and the chance for fans to relive scenes from the films (EA's access to Peter Jackson's original production art adds authenticity). At its core, however, the game play is repetitive and uninspired.

The best bet is an option allowing players to journey co-operatively through both campaigns. Up to four players online can team up to complete missions; there's also a free-for-all mode on Xbox Live.

Overall, what really disappoints about Conquest is its length. Despite a huge amount of detailed settings, the selection of maps and scenarios is surprisingly anemic. Together, both good and evil campaigns can be waged in as few as four hours by a single player.

Replay value is high, since the game is basically a series of long, frenzied melees, but it can bore quickly without a few friends to liven things up. EA would be well-served to announce some additional downloadable content - and fast - if they want this to keep gamers playing.

"Lord of the Rings: Conquest"

System: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3

Price: $60

Players: 1 (up to 4 co-op)

Rated: T for Teen

Who Should Buy It?: Battlefront fans

GameOn! Grade: C+

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